Following a court order, the Delhi Police on November 29th registered a case of sedition against writer Arundhati Roy, hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, revolutionary poet Varavara Rao and others on charges of giving “anti-India” speeches at a convention on Kashmir, “Azadi: The Only Way”, held in Delhi on Oct. 21.
The case has been registered under Sections 124 A (sedition), 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony), 153 B (imputations, assertions, prejudicial to national integration), 504 (insult intended to provoke breach of peace) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the IPC and Section 13 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
What was Arundhati Roy’s crime? What had she said? I reproduce below the transcript of the speech taken from The Outlook website
SAR GEELANI: now I request Arundhati Roy to come and speak.
AR: If anybody has any shoes to throw, please throw them now ..
Some people in the audience: we’re cultured…etc..etc
AR: Good, I’m glad. I’m glad to hear that. Though being cultured is not necessarily a good thing. But anyway..
[interruption from some people in the audience (inaudible in the video)]
SAR GEELANI: please will you talk afterwards. Now prove that you are cultured.
AR: About a week or 10 days ago, I was in Ranchi where there was a Peoples’ Tribunal against Operation Green Hunt— which is the Indian state’s war against the poorest people in this country—and at that tribunal, just as I was leaving, a TV journalist stuck a mic in my face and very aggressively said “Madam, is Kashmir an integral part of India or not? Is Kashmir an integral part of India or not?” about five times.
So I said, look, Kashmir has never been an integral part of India. However aggressively and however often you want to ask me that. Even the Indian government has accepted, in the UN that it’s not an integral part of India. So why are we trying to change that narrative now? See, in 1947, we were told that India became a sovereign nation and a sovereign democracy, but if you look at what the Indian state did from midnight of 1947 onwards, that colonized country, that country that became a country because of the imagination of its colonizer—the British drew the map of India in 1899— so that country became a colonizing power the moment it became independent, and the Indian state has militarily intervened in Manipur, in Nagaland, in Mizoram.. (Someone’s phone rings here).. in Mizoram, in Kashmir, in Telangana, during the Naxalbari uprising, in Punjab, in Hyderabad, in Goa, in Junagarh. So often the Indian government, the Indian state, the Indian elite, they accuse the Naxalites of believing in protracted war, but actually you see a State—the Indian State—that has waged protracted war against its own people or what it calls its own people relentlessly since 1947, and when you look at who are those people that it has waged war against— the Nagas, the Mizos, the Manipuris, people in Assam, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Punjab—it’s always a minority, the Muslims, the Tribals, the Christians, the Dalits, the Adivasis, endless war by an upper caste Hindu state, this is what is the modern history of our country.
Now, in 2007, at the time of the uprising in Kashmir against that whole acquisition of land for the Amarnath Yatra, I was in Srinagar and I was walking down the road and I met a young journalist, I think he was from Times of India, and he said to me—he couldn’t believe that he saw some Indian person—walking alone on the road— and he said, “can I have a quote?”, so I said, “yes, do you have a pen? Because I don’t want to be misquoted” and I said, “write down—India needs azaadi from Kashmir just as much as Kashmir needs azaadi from India”, and when I said India, I did not mean the Indian state, I meant the Indian people because I think that the occupation of Kashmir— today there are 700,000 security personnel manning that valley of 12 million people— it is the most militarized zone in the world— and for us, the people of India, to tolerate that occupation is like allowing a kind of moral corrosion to drip into our blood stream.
So for me it’s an intolerable situation to try and pretend that it isn’t happening even if the media blanks it out, all of us know…..or maybe all of us don’t know….but any of us who’ve visited Kashmir know— that Kashmiris cannot inhale and exhale without their breath going through the barrel of an AK-47. So, so many things have been done there, every time there’s an election and people come out to vote, the Indian government goes and says—“Why do you want a referendum? There was a vote and the people have voted for India.”
Now, I actually think that we need to deepen our thinking a little bit because I too am very proud of this meeting today, I think it’s a historic meeting in some ways, it’s a historic meeting taking place in the capital of this very hollow superpower, a superpower where 830 million people live on less than 20 rupees a day. Now, sometimes it’s very difficult to know from what place one stands on as formally a citizen of India, what can one say, what is one allowed to say, because when India was fighting for independence from British colonization— every argument that people now use to problematize the problems of azaadi in Kashmir were certainly used against Indians. Crudely put, “the natives are not ready for freedom, the natives are not ready for democracy”, but every kind of complication was also true, I mean the great debates between Ambedkar and Gandhi and Nehru – they were also real debates and over these last 60 years whatever the Indian State has done, people in this country have argued and debated and deepened the meaning of freedom.
We have also lost a lot of ground because we’ve come to a stage today where India a country that once called itself Non Aligned , that once held its head up in pride has today totally lain down prostrate on the floor at the feet of the USA. So we are a slave nation today, our economy is completely—however much the Sensex may be growing, the fact is the reason that the Indian police, the paramilitary and soon perhaps the army will be deployed in the whole of central India is because it’s an extractive colonial economy that’s being foisted on us.
But the reason that I said what we need to do is to deepen this conversation is because it’s also very easy for us to continue to pat ourselves on the backs as great fighters for resistance for anything whether it’s the Maoists in the forests or whether it’s the stone pelters on the streets— but actually we must understand that we are up against something very serious and I’m afraid that the bows and arrows of the Adivasis and the stones in the hands of the young people are absolutely essential but they are not the only thing that’s going to win us freedom, and for that we need to be tactical, we need to question ourselves, we need to make alliances, serious alliances…. Because… I often say that in 1986 when capitalism won its jihad against soviet communism in the mountains of Afghanistan, the whole world changed and India realigned itself in the unipolar world and in that realignment it did two things, it opened two locks , one was the lock of the Babri Masjid and one was the lock of the Indian markets and it ushered in two kinds of totalitarianism- Hindu fascism, Hindutva fascism and economic totalitarianism and both these manufactured their own kinds of terrorism —so you have Islamist “terrorists” and the Maoist “terrorists”— and this process has made 80% of this country live on 20 rupees a day but it has divided us all up and we spend all our time fighting with each other when in fact there should be deep solidarity.
There should be deep solidarity between the struggles in Manipur, the struggles in Nagaland, the struggle in Kashmir, the struggle in central India and in all the poor, squatters, the vendors , all the slum dwellers and so on. But what is it that should link these struggles? It’s the idea of Justice because there can be struggles which are not struggles for justice, there are peoples movements like the VHP is a peoples movement—but it’s a struggle for fascism, it’s a struggle for injustice, we don’t align ourselves with that. So every movement, every person on the street, every slogan is not a slogan for justice.
So when I was in Kashmir on the streets during the Amarnath Yatra time, and even today— I haven’t been to Kashmir recently— but I’ve seen and my heart is filled with appreciation for the struggle that people are waging, the fight that young people are fighting and I don’t want them to be let down. I don’t want them to be let down even by their own leaders because I want to believe that this fight is a fight for justice. Not a fight in which you pick and choose your justices—“we want justice but it’s ok if the other chap is squashed”. That’s not right.
So I remember when I wrote in 2007, I said the one thing that broke my heart on the streets of Srinagar, was when I heard people say “Nanga Bhooka Hindustan, jaan se pyaara Pakistan”. I said “No. Because the Nanga Bhooka Hindustan is with you. And if you’re fighting for a just society then you must align yourselves with the powerless”, the Indian people here today are people who have spent their lives opposing the Indian state. I have, as many of you may know, been associated for a long time with the struggle in the Narmada valley against big dams and I always say that I think so much about these two valleys – the Kashmir valley and the Narmada valley. In the Narmada valley, they speak of repression, but perhaps the people don’t really know what repression is because they’ve not experienced the kind of repression that there is in the Kashmir valley. But they have a very very very sophisticated understanding of the economic structures of the world of imperialism and of the earth and what it does and how those big dams create an inequality that you cannot get away from.
And in the Kashmir valley you have such a sophisticated understanding of repression, 60 years of repression of secret operations, of spying, of intelligence operations, of death, of killing. But have you insulated yourself from that other understanding, of what the world is today? What these economic structures are? What kind of Kashmir are you going to fight for? Because we are with you in that fight, we are with you. But we want, we hope that it’ll be a fight for justice. We know today that this word ‘secularism’ that the Indian state flings at us is a hollow word because you can’t kill 68,000 Kashmiri Muslims and then call yourself a secular state. You cannot allow the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat and call yourself a secular state and yet you can’t then turn around and say that “we are allowed to treat our minorities badly “—so what kind of justice are you fighting for? I hope that the young people will deepen their idea of Azaadi, it is something that the State and your enemies that you’re fighting uses to divide you. That’s true.
[Some ppl in theAudience: “Do you know what happened to the pandits? (not very audible)..etc ..etc..]
AR: I know the story of the Kashmiri pandits. I also know that the story that these Panun Kashmir pandits put out is false. However, this does not mean that injustice was not done.
[Ppl in Audience: interrupting and inaudible, all taking at the same time… “do you know how many Hindus were killed?”… commotion.. no one can hear anyone].
AR: I think…ok let me continue.. [part of the crowd arguing loudly]..
SAR GEELANI: I request everyone to please sit.
AR: Alright, I want to say that, I think this disturbance is based on a misunderstanding, because I was beginning to talk about justice and in that conversation about justice, I was just about to say that what happened with the Kashmiri pandits is a tragedy, so I don’t know why you all started shouting, I think it’s a tragedy because when we stand here and talk about justice, it is justice for everybody, and those of us who stand here and talk about their being a place for everybody whether there’s a minority whether it’s an ethnic minority or a religious minority or minority in terms of caste, we don’t believe in majoritarianism so that’s why I was talking about the fact that everybody in Kashmir should have a very deep discussion about what kind of society you’re fighting for because Kashmir is a very diverse community and that discussion does not have to come from critics or people who are against azaadi trying to divide this struggle , it has to come from within you so it is not the place of people outside to say “they don’t know what they mean by azaadi, do they mean Gilgit and Baltistan, what about Jammu? What about Laddakh?” These are debates that people within the state of J&K are quite capable of having by themselves and I think they understand that.
So, to just try and derail things by shouting at people is completely pointless because I think that people, the pandits in Kashmir, all the time I’ve spent in Kashmir, have only heard people say they are welcome back and I know people who live there, who believe that too, so all I want to say is that when we are having these political debates, I feel I have watched and have been listening to and following the recent uprising in Kashmir, the fact that unarmed people, young people armed with stones, women, even children are out on the streets facing down this massive army with guns is something that nobody in the world cannot help but salute.
However it is up to the people who are leading this struggle, it is up to the people who are thinking to take it further, because you cannot just leave it there— because the Indian state, you know what its greatest art is— it’s not killing people – that’s its second greatest art, the first greatest art is to wait, to wait and wait and wait and hope that everybody’s energies will just go down. Crisis management, sometimes it’s an election, sometimes it’s something else, but the point is that people have to look at more than a direct confrontation on the streets. You have to ask yourselves why—the people of Nagaland must ask themselves why there’s a Naga battalion committing the most unbelievable atrocities in Chhatisgarh. After spending so much time in Kashmir watching the CRPF and the BSF and the Rashtriya Rifles lock down that valley, the firat time I went to Chhattisgarh, on the way I saw Kashmiri BSF, Kashmiri CRPF on the way to kill people in Chhatisgarh. You’ve got to ask yourself— there’s more to resistance than throwing stones— these things can’t be allowed to happen— “how is the state using people?”
The colonial state whether it was the British State in India or whether it’s the Indian State in Kashmir or Nagaland or in Chattisgarh, they are in the business of creating elites to manage their occupations, so you have to know your enemy and you have to be able to respond in ways where you’re tactical, where you’re intelligent, where you’re political— internationally, locally and in every other way— you have to make your alliances, because otherwise you’ll be like fish swimming furiously around a fish tank bombing the walls and getting tired in the end because those walls are very very strong. So I’ll just leave with this: Think about justice and don’t pick and choose your injustices, don’t say that “I want justice but it’s ok if the next guy doesn’t have it, or the next woman doesn’t have it”. Because justice is the keystone to integrity and integrity is the key stone to real resistance.
Arundhati Roy’s reaction to court order
My reaction to today’s court order directing the Delhi Police to file an FIR against me for waging war against the state: Perhaps they should posthumously file a charge against Jawaharlal Nehru too. Here is what he said about Kashmir:
1. In his telegram to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru said, “I should like to make it clear that the question of aiding Kashmir in this emergency is not designed in any way to influence the state to accede to India. Our view which we have repeatedly made public is that the question of accession in any disputed territory or state must be decided in accordance with wishes of people and we adhere to this view.” (Telegram 402 Primin-2227 dated 27th October, 1947 to PM of Pakistan repeating telegram addressed to PM of UK).
2. In other telegram to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir’s accession to India was accepted by us at the request of the Maharaja’s government and the most numerously representative popular organization in the state which is predominantly Muslim. Even then it was accepted on condition that as soon as law and order had been restored, the people of Kashmir would decide the question of accession. It is open to them to accede to either Dominion then.” (Telegram No. 255 dated 31 October, 1947).
3. In his broadcast to the nation over All India Radio on 2nd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We are anxious not to finalise anything in a moment of crisis and without the fullest opportunity to be given to the people of Kashmir to have their say. It is for them ultimately to decide —— And let me make it clear that it has been our policy that where there is a dispute about the accession of a state to either Dominion, the accession must be made by the people of that state. It is in accordance with this policy that we have added a proviso to the Instrument of Accession of Kashmir.”
4. In another broadcast to the nation on 3rd November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “We have declared that the fate of Kashmir is ultimately to be decided by the people. That pledge we have given not only to the people of Kashmir and to the world. We will not and cannot back out of it.”
5. In his letter No. 368 Primin dated 21 November, 1947 addressed to the PM of Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “I have repeatedly stated that as soon as peace and order have been established, Kashmir should decide of accession by Plebiscite or referendum under international auspices such as those of United Nations.”
6.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 25th November, 1947, Pandit Nehru said, “In order to establish our bona fide, we have suggested that when the people are given the chance to decide their future, this should be done under the supervision of an impartial tribunal such as the United Nations Organisation. The issue in Kashmir is whether violence and naked force should decide the future or the will of the people.”
7.In his statement in the Indian Constituent Assembly on 5th March, 1948, Pandit Nehru said, “Even at the moment of accession, we went out of our way to make a unilateral declaration that we would abide by the will of the people of Kashmir as declared in a plebiscite or referendum. We insisted further that the Government of Kashmir must immediately become a popular government. We have adhered to that position throughout and we are prepared to have a Plebiscite with every protection of fair voting and to abide by the decision of the people of Kashmir.”
Referendum or plebiscite
8.In his press-conference in London on 16th January, 1951, as reported by the daily ‘Statesman’ on 18th January, 1951, Pandit Nehru stated, “India has repeatedly offered to work with the United Nations reasonable safeguards to enable the people of Kashmir to express their will and is always ready to do so. We have always right from the beginning accepted the idea of the Kashmir people deciding their fate by referendum or plebiscite. In fact, this was our proposal long before the United Nations came into the picture. Ultimately the final decision of the settlement, which must come, has first of all to be made basically by the people of Kashmir and secondly, as between Pakistan and India directly. Of course it must be remembered that we (India and Pakistan) have reached a great deal of agreement already. What I mean is that many basic features have been thrashed out. We all agreed that it is the people of Kashmir who must decide for themselves about their future externally or internally. It is an obvious fact that even without our agreement no country is going to hold on to Kashmir against the will of the Kashmiris.”
9.In his report to All Indian Congress Committee on 6th July, 1951 as published in the Statesman, New Delhi on 9th July, 1951, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir has been wrongly looked upon as a prize for India or Pakistan. People seem to forget that Kashmir is not a commodity for sale or to be bartered. It has an individual existence and its people must be the final arbiters of their future. It is here today that a struggle is bearing fruit, not in the battlefield but in the minds of men.”
10.In a letter dated 11th September, 1951, to the U.N. representative, Pandit Nehru wrote, “The Government of India not only reaffirms its acceptance of the principle that the question of the continuing accession of the state of Jammu and Kashmir to India shall be decided through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite under the auspices of the United Nations but is anxious that the conditions necessary for such a plebiscite should be created as quickly as possible.”
Word of honour
11.As reported by Amrita Bazar Patrika, Calcutta, on 2nd January, 1952, while replying to Dr. Mookerji’s question in the Indian Legislature as to what the Congress Government going to do about one third of territory still held by Pakistan, Pandit Nehru said, “is not the property of either India or Pakistan. It belongs to the Kashmiri people. When Kashmir acceded to India, we made it clear to the leaders of the Kashmiri people that we would ultimately abide by the verdict of their Plebiscite. If they tell us to walk out, I would have no hesitation in quitting. We have taken the issue to United Nations and given our word of honour for a peaceful solution. As a great nation we cannot go back on it. We have left the question for final solution to the people of Kashmir and we are determined to abide by their decision.”
12.In his statement in the Indian Parliament on 7th August, 1952, Pandit Nehru said, “Let me say clearly that we accept the basic proposition that the future of Kashmir is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of her people. The goodwill and pleasure of this Parliament is of no importance in this matter, not because this Parliament does not have the strength to decide the question of Kashmir but because any kind of imposition would be against the principles that this Parliament holds. Kashmir is very close to our minds and hearts and if by some decree or adverse fortune, ceases to be a part of India, it will be a wrench and a pain and torment for us. If, however, the people of Kashmir do not wish to remain with us, let them go by all means. We will not keep them against their will, however painful it may be to us. I want to stress that it is only the people of Kashmir who can decide the future of Kashmir. It is not that we have merely said that to the United Nations and to the people of Kashmir, it is our conviction and one that is borne out by the policy that we have pursued, not only in Kashmir but everywhere. Though these five years have meant a lot of trouble and expense and in spite of all we have done, we would willingly leave if it was made clear to us that the people of Kashmir wanted us to go. However sad we may feel about leaving we are not going to stay against the wishes of the people. We are not going to impose ourselves on them on the point of the bayonet.”
13.In his statement in the Lok Sabha on 31st March, 1955 as published in Hindustan Times New Delhi on Ist April, 1955, Pandit Nehru said, “Kashmir is perhaps the most difficult of all these problems between India and Pakistan. We should also remember that Kashmir is not a thing to be bandied between India and Pakistan but it has a soul of its own and an individuality of its own. Nothing can be done without the goodwill and consent of the people of Kashmir.”
14.In his statement in the Security Council while taking part in debate on Kashmir in the 765th meeting of the Security Council on 24th January, 1957, the Indian representative Mr. Krishna Menon said, “So far as we are concerned, there is not one word in the statements that I have made in this council which can be interpreted to mean that we will not honour international obligations. I want to say for the purpose of the record that there is nothing that has been said on behalf of the Government of India which in the slightest degree indicates that the Government of India or the Union of India will dishonour any international obligations it has undertaken.”
I cannot help but to admire both Jawaharlal Nehru and Arundhati Roy