Vara Vara Rao on ‘sedition’
Sedition isn’t all Roy said
Having been one of the speakers at the seminar in New Delhi last week on “Is Azadi the only way for Kashmir?” I am not surprised by the hue and cry over Arundhati Roy’s observation that the people of Kashmir have a right to self-determination and even Azadi. I’m not surprised by the call to book her for sedition either.
She is not the first person who has said such a thing nor is she going to be the last. In fact, all those who participated in the meeting – Prof. Sujata Badro, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and myself – echoed a similar feeling. The reason is simple: this is what the people of Kashmir want and there is no wishing that away.
Consciously or otherwise, quite a few aspects raised by Roy are not being discussed by the media and politicians. It is important to mention them.
While endorsing the right to self-determination, Roy also emphasised that freedom alone does not give everything: she wanted to know what kind of justice would be done to the people of Kashmir if and when they are given the freedom to rule themselves. She also referred to slogans she had heard during a visit to Kashmir: “Bhookha nanga Hindustan, nahi rahenge is desh mein” and took serious objection to such an attitude. Roy pointed out that support for the struggle of Kashmiris was coming exactly from the same classes – the poor and the oppressed in other parts of the country apart from a miniscule section of intellectuals. It is the Indian establishment which is opposed to their fight.
I am also surprised at the changed stance of Geelani who, ten years ago, spoke of nothing short of Islam as bringing an end to the problems of Kashmir. But today he reminded us that Mahatma Gandhi wanted the people of Kashmir to decide where to live, how Jawaharlal Nehru favoured a plebiscite and how BJP prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee made attempts to find a political solution by talking to Pakistan. What none of us should forget is that Hyderabad and Kashmir were among the three princely states that were not part of the Indian Union at the time of Independence. The people of Telangana, of which Hyderabad is a part, are now demanding a separate state within the country but the people of Kashmir, even to this day, strongly prefer freedom. Not recognising the demand will not lead to any solution.
(Vara Vara Rao is a revolutionary writer who has faced several cases of sedition and conspiracy. He has been acquitted in most of them.)
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