– Binayak Sen
I am a trained medical doctor with a specialization in child health. I completed my MBBS from the Christian Medical College, Vellore in 1972, and completed studies leading to the award of the degree of MD (Paediatrics) of the Madras University, from the same institution in 1976. After this, I joined the faculty of the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi and worked there for two years, before leaving to join a field based health programme at the Friends Rural Centre, Rasulia in Hoshangabad, MP. During the two years I worked there, I worked intensively in the diagnosis and treatment of Tuberculosis and understood many of the social and economic causes of disease. I was also strongly influenced by the work of Marjorie Sykes, the biographer of Mahatma Gandhi, who lived at the Rasulia centre at that time.
I came to Chhattisgarh in 1981 and worked upto 1987 at Dalli Rajhara (district Durg), where, along with the late Shri Shankar Guha Niyogi and the workers of the Chhattisgarh Mines Shramik Sangh, I helped to establish the Shaheed Hospital, that continues to practice low cost and rational medicine for the adivasis and working people of the surrounding areas upto the present. After leaving Dalli Rajhara, I worked to develop a health programme among the Adivasi population in and around village Bagrumnala, which today is in Dhamtari district. This work depended on a large group of village based health workers who were trained and guided by me. When the new state of Chhattisgarh was formed, I was appointed a member of the advisory group on Health Care Sector reforms, and helped to develop the Mitanin programme, which in turn, became the role model for the ASHA of the National Rural Health Mission. A copy of the Order of the Department of Health and Family Welfare of the Govt. of Chhattisgarh regarding my nomination to the advisory group mentioned above is attached. (Annexure 1.) Continue reading
COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-25
CONDEMN UNEQUIVOCALLY THE MURDER OF JUSTICE BY THE SESSIONS COURT IN RAIPUR IN THE BINAYAK SEN CASE!
LET US UNITEDLY FIGHT TO REPEAL ALL FASCIST DRACONIAN LAWS INCLUDING UAPA AND THE CHHATTISGARH SPECIAL PUBLIC SECURITY ACT!
The Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP) condemns unequivocally the murder of justice in the case of Dr. Binayak Sen, a people’s doctor and one of the first civil libertarians to expose the state sponsored Salwa Judum that was undertaken by the BJP government on the tribal people in Chhattisgarh and ably supported by the Congress which is the opposition party in the state. In fact Dr. Sen while also exposing one of the worst cases in post-47 India of malnutrition and total neglect of the everyday life of the tribal people in the region showed the world the shocking story that was slowly unfolding—a slow genocide of the people in this region. And along with this slow genocide was the barbaric onslaught of the state sponsored Salwa Judum. Yes it was the voice of conviction of Dr. Binayak Sen against this murder, rape and loot of the tribal people that arouse the conscience of the people of the subcontinent as well as all democratic and freedom loving people of the world. To condemn such a person to life imprisonment u/s of 120(B), 124(A) of the IPC and 1,2,3,5, Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act and Sec 39 (2) of the UAPA (2004 amended) without even an iota of evidence brings once again forth the real face of Indian democracy with the judiciary reflecting the abysmal nadir to which the system has convoluted iself to.
All supposed pillars of democracy of the Indian state are increasingly proving to be hollow for the common people fighting for their livelihoods and those who raise the issues of the most exploited, and oppressed being the target of ire of a state that is day by day churning out more and more anti-people policies and supplementing it with a penal system teethed with the worst draconian laws. The case of Dr. Binayak Sen is a reminder to every democratic and freedom loving people of the subcontinent to once again raise their voice unitedly against such a penal state that is assuming fascist proportions. Notwithstanding the fact that about 22 noble prize winners from all over the world had sought his immediate freedom and lauded the exemplary work Dr. Sen had in the medical sciences, in popularising it among the poorest of the poor, and in providing the best of treatment to the impoverished adivasis in Central India, what the state could give him in return was life imprisonment for a case that hardly has any evidence!
This is the same state that has given blanket protection for all the scamsters and looters, be it the politician, bureaucrat, coporate honchos, and last but not the least judges right from the sessions court to the highest seat of justice in India.
And naturally what can a doctor who is stubborn enough to go to the most impoverished regions of ‘Shining India’ and work among the poorest of the poor for their betterment, let alone survival expect from a system which was always living in a world of denial about the existence of such a world! And his only crime—that he had dared the criminal negligence of a state which had blood in its hands of a slow, but cold and calculated genocide of a people through systematically denying any opportunity to live a life of dignity!
It is high time that all democratic and freedom loving people should join hands to raise their voice against the mockery of justice and once again fight to put an end to all such draconian laws of colonial vinatage. Today it is Dr. Binayak Sen. Tomorrow it can be anyone of us.
Secretary, Public Relations
Twenty nine organizations and many individuals in West Bengal have organized a citizens’ campaign against Operation Green Hunt “Operation Green Hunt-virodhi Nagarik Andolan” to raise the popular voice against the war being waged by the state against people and the rampant violation of democratic and human rights, all in order to facilitate to taking over of natural resources by corporate interests.
The Operation Green Hunt-virodhi Nagarik Andolan plans to conduct a sustained campaign against all aspects of Operation Green Hunt and expose the larger economic designs behind it to the general public. As the first among the series of campaign actions, a day long public cultural protest action, “The Voice of My Protest” is planned in the heart of Kolkata on 18th December, 2010, from 10 am onwards. Cultural activists from all over Bengal and beyond will participate in this programme to express their protests against state repression and the corporate looting of resources in the name of Operation Green Hunt.
A World to Win News Service.
On 9 December Parliament Square in London became the scene of an intense struggle. On one side were energetic university and secondary school students fighting for their right to an education and for the education of future generations. On the other were around 650 Members of Parliament hiding behind a brutal police force as they prepared to dictate a tripling of tuition fees to as much as £9,000 ($14,000) per year.
Tens of thousands of London students and pupils had walked out of class that morning to join a mass march through central London to Parliament Square. They assembled at Malet Street in front of the Union of London University (ULU). As they marched, passers-by expressed warm support. The provocative intentions of the police were clear from the beginning. As the march moved through Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, the main route to Parliament Square, was blocked by a police line so that the students could not pass by the Prime Minister’s residence in Downing Street. Protesters were forced to go through St James Park where they were again blocked
But the police could not resist the enormous mass of protesters and were forced to retreat inch by inch. Finally demonstrators managed to break through into Parliament Square. As groups of students started fighting the police, the police did not hesitate to respond as brutally as they could. While the police were beating some students with their batons other youth joined hands and danced in the square without fear. The protesters’ spirits were high and lively.
By just past 3 pm the police had been humiliated. A police van and all the police and their riot shields in front of the van were covered with paint.
Despite police promises not to stop the demonstration they started to close all the roads coming into Parliament Square to prevent more people from joining it. They also surrounded and “kettled” (trapped) those already in the square. While anxious parents and others watching live TV coverage were told that the youth were free to leave, that was a lie. By 5 pm no protesters were allowed out and the ring around them was getting tighter and tighter. The students were frustrated and angered by this “kettling” that was first used at the 2009 anti-G20 demos and has become a favourite police tactic in the UK.
At 5:40 the vote of the Parliament was announced. Many students felt that Parliament had shamefully ignored the people’s will and the struggle with the police intensified. As the police raised their sticks higher and hit harder, angry demonstrators fought back and attacked the Treasury Office and the Royal Court of Justice. They tried to bring down the Union Jack (British flag). The statue of that great man of empire Winston Churchill and the War Memorial were also targeted.
The fight between protesters and the police got even fiercer and both sides threw crowd-control barriers at one another. The police kept beating students indiscriminately and attacking them on horseback.
To give a taste of what it feels like to be kettled, we quote the following: “Gabriel Lukes, 14, left Dunraven school in south London on his own to join in the march. He was kettled in Parliament Square before being moved to Westminster Bridge just after 9 pm. He stood alone for two hours before being allowed off at 11 pm. His father Peter was waiting for him. ‘It was cold, cramped, you had like half a metre to yourself,’ he said. ‘It was just terrible.'” (Guardian, 10 December 2010)
Many people injured by the police were refused medical treatment and not allowed out of the temporary prison.
People attempted to break out, and some succeeded. A few protesters attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife.
According to eyewitnesses, when one of the officers chasing people on horseback fell to the ground and was trampled by his own horse, the police became even more aggressive in hitting and swearing at people.
A 20-year old philosophy student, Aflie Meadow, was left unconscious after a police officer hit him on the head with a truncheon while he was trying to leave Parliament Square. He underwent a three-hour operation for bleeding on the brain. The pavement designated a casualty area was littered with injured protesters. The majority were under 18. There have been reports in the media that around 40 protesters were taken to hospital, but these figures seem too low. There were certainly a great many walking wounded. It has been confirmed that police tried to stop hospital staff from treating the civilian wounded, including Meadow, who had to be taken from hospital to hospital. He is expected to recover.
Video footage posted on the Net since that night shows police dragging a disabled youth across the road after they tipped him out of his wheelchair. Another video shows at least one officer who removed her identification tag. This is considered a grave infraction of police regulations since officers without tags killed a bystander they mistook for a protester at last year’s anti-G20 demonstration.
The kettling continued into the night as a form of punishment. Then after 9 pm the police pushed all of the several thousand demonstrators onto the Westminster Bridge. They were kept trapped there until 11.30 pm, when they were allowed to leave one by one after being forced to show their faces to be filmed.
Many young people were beaten and/or arrested. Scotland Yard confirmed 26 arrests that night. Another nine have been been arrested since then and the police are circulating pictures of more than a dozen more wanted youth.
Thousands of demonstrators also marched through the city of Leeds, the constituency of Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal-Democrat party that is part of a Conservative party-lead governing coalition. There were reports of student protest marches and other actions in many other cities that day.
Building to a fever pitch
Opposition to the proposed fee hikes had been building up to a fever pitch for a month.
The first demonstration on 10 November saw more than 50,000 students march through central London to Millbank Tower, the headquarters of the Conservative Party. Angry students attacked the building, broke the police line and forced their way inside. They occupied the building, its roof and the court yard. At the end of day 35 students were arrested and 14 hospitalised.
On 24 and 30 November, the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) organised more demonstrations and days of action across the UK. The biggest demonstration took place in central London, but according to BBC, tens of thousands of university students and now secondary school pupils also staged marches, occupations and other actions in Manchester, Birmingham, Cambridge, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield, Leeds, Brighton and other cities.
After the debacle at Millbank, the police prevented the 30 November march in London from reaching its destination, even though it had been authorised. Avoiding a frontal confrontation that seemed to be what the authorities wanted, protesters split up into small groups. Eventually they converged on Trafalgar Square, where police contained them. By the end of the day, more than 150 were arrested.
Universities and colleges in London and all over England are still occupied. Many students believe that the parliamentary vote in favour of the tuition hikes has not settled the issue and want to continue this struggle.
Why the fees increase
The new coalition cabinet of Tories (Conservatives) and Liberal-Democrats introduced a plan to save over 9 billion pounds annually through huge cuts in public spending. Budgets were cut for universities and education as a whole. This was followed by the plan to raise the cap on university fees to £9,000 a year. The government seemed confident that it could carry out this plan with no serious opposition but the student protests put an end to this dream.
Although the Labour party voted against the plan on 9 December, they were actually the first to introduce big tuition increases when they were in power, and they were the ones to commission the review that led to the current fee hikes. But the new coalition cabinet under Conservative leadership accelerated that trend with a speed that shocked everyone. Lib-Dem leader Clegg had put his signature on a pledge not to increase tuition when his party was campaigning for election. Then, after he became Deputy PM, he turned around and said that the pledge had been a “mistake” and that the proposed increases were “a fair and progressive solution to a very difficult problem.”
This arrogant dishonesty enraged many people, who tend to believe that the Lib-Dems sold out just to share power with the Tories. This is not quite correct. In fact, while all three parties had promised to reject even smaller tuition increases than the ones that were eventually adopted, none of them have now stated any opposition to them in principle. Even the opposition Labour Party’s disagreement is with the speed with which the increases are to be implemented, which they feel risks too much social discontent, and not with the overall approach.
The agreement among the ruling class parties is related to the financial crisis affecting all the imperialist countries, including the UK. Since the crisis broke out, billions of pounds have been allocated to bail out the big banks and companies and help them become more efficient and successful in their competition with the financial institutions of rival imperialist countries. The cost of these efforts is to be borne by the people. For many, this amounts to snatching away the promise of the kind of life they thought they were entitled to and guaranteed.
Education budgets in the UK have been reduced by billions of pounds over the last few years. This has already damaged the educational system and dramatically lowered its quality level. The UK has already gone from a third place ranking on a world scale to tenth. Previous fee increases and cuts in grants have made it much more difficult for people from the lower sections of society to acquire an advanced education. The availability of education to all, which was once proclaimed a right, has disappeared as an official goal for some time now.
The government defended the tuition increases by saying that students can get loans. Even if and when this is so, they must begin paying back the loans at the end of their study or when they find a job. That means students may start their post-university lives with a debt of 30,000-40,000 pounds that must be completely paid off within 25 years. Buying an education is the logic of capitalism. Education is to be privatised and any investment made conditional on its immediate profitability.
The idea behind this plan, or at least the excuse, is that by buying an education – as they might buy a suit – students can advance their earning power. But even if this “works” for some people, it can only increase social inequalities. Such an approach means a further step in reducing people to soulless, competing personifications of money. It robs individuals of their human potential and impoverishes society intellectually and culturally. No wonder so many youth reject this vision of the future.
Who are the hooligans?
The radical protest actions indicate the anger and frustration of students, teachers, lecturers and parents. They are fighting not only for themselves but for the education of future generations that is now under attack by the thugs who are trying to vandalise the whole educational system. Yet the government and some media have waged a campaign to depict the students as hooligans. They have launched a witch-hunt to criminalise these youth who are actually the hope of the future.
These huge and determined protests have signalled that the British ruling class and their guard dogs may have a very difficult time in carrying on with their planned “austerity” measures. Many people have compared these actions to the protests against the poll tax that broke the back of Margaret Thatcher’s government two decades ago. While it is impossible to predict where the student movement will go next, it can certainly be said that British imperialism is in a much weaker and more volatile situation and deeper in crisis than 20 years ago.
Stand with Daniel Ellsberg, Barbara Ehrenreich, Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky and others–sign FAIR’s petition in support of Wikileaks today.
December 14, 2010
As journalists, activists, artists, scholars and citizens, we condemn the array of threats and attacks on the journalist organization WikiLeaks. After the website’s decision, in collaboration with several international media organizations, to publish hundreds of classified State Department diplomatic cables, many pundits, commentators and prominent U.S. politicians have called for harsh actions to be taken to shut down WikiLeaks’ operations.
Major corporations like Amazon.com, PayPal, MasterCard and Visa have acted to disrupt the group’s ability to publish. U.S. legal authorities and others have repeatedly suggested, without providing any evidence, that WikiLeaks’ posting of government secrets is a form of criminal behavior–or that at the very least, such activity should be made illegal. “To the extent there are gaps in our laws,” Attorney General Eric Holder proclaimed (11/29/10), “we will move to close those gaps.”
Throughout this episode, journalists and prominent media outlets have largely refrained from defending WikiLeaks’ rights to publish material of considerable news value and obvious public interest. It appears that these media organizations are hesitant to stand up for this particular media outlet’s free speech rights because they find the supposed political motivations behind WikiLeaks’ revelations objectionable.
But the test for one’s commitment to freedom of the press is not whether one agrees with what a media outlet publishes or the manner in which it is published. WikiLeaks is certainly not beyond criticism. But the overarching consideration should be the freedom to publish in a democratic society–including the freedom to publish material that a particular government would prefer be kept secret. When government officials and media outlets declare that attacks on a particular media organization are justified, it sends an unmistakably chilling message about the rights of anyone to publish material that might rattle or offend established powers.
We hereby stand in support of the WikiLeaks media organization, and condemn the attacks on their freedom as an attack on journalistic freedoms for all.
Glenn Greenwald (Salon)
Arundhati Roy (author)
Medea Benjamin (Code Pink)
Tom Morello (musician)
John Nichols (The Nation)
Craig Brown (CommonDreams)
Glen Ford (Black Agenda Report)
DeeDee Halleck (Waves of Change, Deep Dish Network)
Norman Solomon (author, War Made Easy)
Fatima Bhutto (author)
Viggo Mortensen (actor)
Don Rojas (Free Speech TV)
Edward S. Herman (Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania)
Jeff Cohen (Park Center for Independent Media)
Joel Bleifuss (In These Times)
Maya Schenwar (Truthout)
Greg Ruggerio (City Lights)
Robin Andersen (Fordham University)
Anthony Arnove (author, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal)
Robert Naiman (Just Foreign Policy)
Dan Gillmor (Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship)
Michael Albert (Z Magazine)
Kate Murphy (The Nation)
Michelangelo Signorile (Sirius XM)
Lisa Lynch (Concordia University)
Rory O’Connor (Media Is a Plural)
Peter Rothberg (The Nation)
Doug Henwood (Left Business Observer)
Bill Fletcher, Jr (Blackcommentator.com)
Bob Harris (writer)
Jonathan Schwartz (A Tiny Revolution)
Jamie McClelland (May First/People Link)
Alfredo Lopez (May First/People Link)
Antonia Zerbisias (Toronto Star)
Mark Crispin Miller (NYU)
(Organizations/institutions listed for identification purposes only)
The following article, originally entitled “The Liquidation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE): Lessons Paid In Blood”, was written by Comrade Surendra of the Ceylon Communist Party – Maoist. It was slightly edited for this publication.
The killing of the leader of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Velupillai Pirapaharan, has brought an end to a stage in the development of the Tamil national liberation struggle. There are many crucial lessons to be learned from this experience, lessons paid in blood. It is imperative that we learn from them with a deep scientific perspective, if we are to charter the path of liberation for the people of Lanka.
Origins of the demand for a separate Tamil state
The demand for a separate state of Tamil Eelam arose in response to the Soulbury Constitution drafted by the British as a basis to transfer state power to its local lackey comprador capitalist ruling class before independence in 1948. This constitution was established upon the foundations of the Westminster system of parliamentary government, tried and tested in Britain for centuries as the most effective form of deceiving, dividing and ruling over the workers and oppressed masses and nationalities, while entrenching the state power of the capitalist ruling class. Parliamentary democracy functions as a way of deceiving the people to believe that they are sovereign in deciding their true political representatives, and thereby their life and future.
The truth is that this system deprives them of the political power to rule over their life and future. In effect, throughout the world, this system of government is designed to hide the dictatorship of the capitalist ruling classes. Under this system, the exploited and oppressed masses are compelled to choose between capitalist parties, who take turns in wielding state power in order to perpetuate the capitalist system and the exploitation and oppression upon which it is based.
With this intention, the British introduced the system of parliamentary representation based on universal adult franchise, on the principle of “one man-one vote”. This principle ensured that the majority population composed of Sinhalese (74 percent) and the Sinhala-Buddhist nation (64 percent) would exercise majoritarian hegemony over all other nations, nationalities and ethnic-religious communities, while entrenching the dictatorship of its lackey Sinhala-dominant comprador capitalist ruling class. Article 29 was included in the constitution to guarantee the rights of Tamil and other “minorities”. However, this article had no juridical power. The jurisdiction of this article was denied by the very same Privy Council of the British colonial power when it was called upon to adjudicate on the Indian and Pakistani Citizenship Act which had been adopted by a two-thirds Sinhala majority in the bourgeois parliament, in 1948. This act abolished the voting rights of the Hill Country Tamil nationality – descendants of plantation workers who had been conscripted by the British Raj in India and brought to Ceylon to serve as indentured labourers on the tea plantations – and denied them citizenship and declared them “stateless”.
Tamils had made very significant contributions to the independence struggle. The Jaffna (Tamil) Youth Congress led by eminent people such as Handy Perimpanayagam was the first to issue the call for national unity based on the slogan of SWARAJ – that is, the complete independence of Ceylon from the British. The Congress led the first boycott of the general elections called under the new Constitution. This was when D.S. Senanayake and his fellow comprador travellers were cringing for limited autonomy under continued British colonial control. However, the comprador ruling class managed to marginalize this genuine anti-imperialist struggle. It should be recalled that Arunachalam Ponnambalam, founding President of the Ceylon National Congress, campaigned for the rights of the Hill Country Malayaga Tamil nationality. It is patently clear that this generation of Tamil leadership was at the forefront of seeking to build a democratic nation-state.
It was in response to national betrayal and discrimination amounting to subjugation that the Federal Party advanced the demand for a separate state of Tamil Eelam, within a federal form of government, under the leadership of S.J.V. Chelvanayagam. This demand was raised on behalf of the “Ceylon Tamils” cohabiting in the North-East. This demand was effectively sabotaged from within by the Tamil comprador bourgeoisie led by the All-Ceylon Tamil Congress, who preferred to share state power with the dominant Sinhala comprador ruling class.
Politics of the Sinhala compradors
The Sinhala comprador ruling class, which came to be represented as the United National Party (UNP) and the Mahajana Eksath Peramune, later transformed into the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), took turns in earnestly undertaking the task of erecting a Sinhala-Buddhist, hegemonic comprador-bureaucrat capitalist state. This ruling class introduced an openly Sinhala chauvinist policy of discriminating and subjugating all other nationalities and communities. A “Sinhala Only” policy was introduced to entrench the Sinhala language as the sole official language in 1956. Tens of thousand of Tamil people lost their jobs in the state sector due to this language policy Continue reading
A court in India’s capital of Dehli ordered the investigation after a complaint was filed against Roy, a leader of the Kasmiri struggle, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Delhi University professor S.A.R. Geelani, in particular for their part in a conference on the question of Kashmiri liberation where Roy spoke. Here, we publish a full transcription of the speech, which was punctuated by interruptions from Roy’s opponents, beginning with S.A.R. Geelani’s introduction of her.
S.A.R. Geelani: Now I request Arundhati Roy to come and speak.
Arundhati Roy: If anybody has any shoes to throw, please throw them now…
[Some people in the audience: “We’re cultured.”]
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.]
SG: 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–that country became a colonizing power the moment it became independent, and the Indian state has militarily intervened in Manipur, in Nagaland, 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 bloodstream.
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 percent 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 okay 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 will 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 people in the audience: “Do you know what happened to the pundits?”]
AR: I know the story of the Kashmiri pundits. I also know that the story that these Panun Kashmir pundits put out is false. However, this does not mean that injustice was not done.
[People in audience: “Do you know how many Hindus were killed?”]
AR: I think–okay, let me continue
[Part of the crowd is arguing loudly]
SG: 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 Continue reading
The Campaign Against War on People (CAWP) strongly condemns the registering of a FIR by the Delhi Police on 29 November 2010, under orders from a Metropolitan Magistrate, charging writer Arundhati Roy, Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, poet Varavara Rao, Delhi University professor SAR Geelani and others with sedition and with delivering “anti-India” speeches.
The speeches in question were delivered at a convention on the Kashmir issue, where, expectedly and inevitably, the possibility and ramifications of ‘Azadi’ or freedom, were repeatedly raised and addressed. It is ridiculous to propose that the Kashmir issue must or even can be discussed without engaging with this very serious question. Yet, by attempting to label such discussion ‘seditious’, ‘anti-national’ and ‘inflammatory’, the Indian state, through its arms of the judiciary and the police, is proposing to take precisely this ridiculous stand. It is seeking to enforce silence on the question of ‘Azadi’ through such drastic measures, as if by doing so it can erase the possibility of ‘Azadi’. This version of the ostrich syndrome is both dangerous and ill-conceived.
It is deeply disturbing that, from a convention reportedly attended by hundreds of people, who all participated actively in the discussion on ‘Azadi’, a few individuals have been selectively targeted for penalisation. The cry for ‘Azadi’ is being raised by lakhs of people across the Kashmir valley: does this mean that the government proposes to charge them all with sedition, as a means to arrive at a resolution? Or are these individuals being chosen for punishment because they are also well-known critics of various other questionable policies and actions by the Indian state?
This step is yet another in a series of attempts at various levels to quell the voices of dissent and difference that are inevitable in any heterogeneously constituted society such as ours. The presence and audibility of such voices is fundamental to any true democratic polity. The fact that the case has also been registered under, among others, Section 13 of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act is particularly troubling, and is an indication of the increasing intolerance of the state towards criticism. The sedition laws are an antiquated legacy of the British Raj, and ironically, were repealed decades ago in their country of origin. They are completely out of synch with the realities of today’s India, and evidently remain in place only as a tool to repress any questioning of the government.
We therefore demand the immediate quashing of the FIR against the said individuals, and call for the repeal of Section 124, dealing with sedition.
Campaign Against War on People