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<nettime> Kashmir Comes to Jantar Mantar - Delhi
yasir ~ÙØ ØØ on Sun, 8 Aug 2010 22:33:22 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Kashmir Comes to Jantar Mantar - Delhi

Shuddha of (Raqs & Sarai) from the protest for Kashimiri people held in Delhi. y

From: shuddha {AT} sarai.net <shuddha {AT} sarai.net>
Date: Sun, Aug 8, 2010 at 2:32 PM

** Kashmir Comes to Jantar Mantar

Last evening I went to Jantar Mantar after many years. It is a road I pass
often, looking at the sad and melancholic little protests that line the kerb,
whispering to an indifferent Capital the million mutinies of our banana
plantation republic.

Last evening was different. There were perhaps four to five hundred people,
many, but not all Kashmiri, men and women, who had gathered to protest against
the wanton destruction of life in the Kashmir valley by the security apparatus
of the Indian state in the last few weeks and months. 45 civilian deaths in 8
weeks signals a state losing its head. Especially when the deaths occur when
the police and paramilitaries fire live bullets on unarmed or stone pelting
mobs. When stones, or unarmed bodies are met with ammunition, you know that the
state has no respect whatsoever for bare life. That this should happen in a
state that calls itself a democracy should make all of us who are its citizens
reflect on how hollow 'democracy' feels to the mother or friend of a young boy
or girl who is felled by a 'democratic' bullet.

Protests in Delhi often have a routine, scripted quality. But this one was
different. Professor S.A.R Geelani was level headed and dignified, as he spoke
to the assembled, visibly upset young men and women, introduced each speaker in
turn and appealed to people to stay calm, and not get provoked.

I don't think that there has been a public gathering of young people from
Kashmir in such numbers in Delhi, and the occasion had a cathartic, almost
therapeutic character, as if the acknowledgment of each others presence could
also make it possible for many amongst those gathered to say what needed to be
said, loud and clear, in public, what they had only kept as a secret in their

As a citizen of the Indian republic, I can only hang my head in shame at the
venality of the state, and at how it openly sanctions the murder of Kashmiri
men, women and children on the streets of the valley. Even a leading member of
the Israeli military establishment (not known for their kindness towards
occupied Palestinians) has recently admonished India's hard-line militarist
mandarins in Kashmir on the appalling conditions that they administer in

I stood in silence at the meeting. Listened to the slogans, the chanting, the
statements, some made by friends like Sanjay Kak, others by people I do not
know personally, but whose work and politics I have an interest in, even if I
do not agree with, such as the poet and ex-political prisoner Varavara Rao. I
met some old friends, talked quietly to strangers, and felt a momentary twinge
of pride in Delhi, at least about the fact that so many of us were reclaiming a
space on Jantar Mantar, for once to break the enormously deafening silence about
Kashmir in a public and peaceful manner.

There were different kinds of slogans that were heard. Some stressed the unity
of all Kashmiris - be they Pandit, Muslim or Sikh. Occasionally, the air did
reverberate with slogans that some might interpret as having a more secterian
tinge - the 'Nara e Taqbeer - Allah o Akbar'.

Many speakers, including Professor Geelani, and men and women people from the
crowd, repeatedly made appeals not to 'communalize' the issue, and the same
people who said, 'Allah o Akbar' also immediately switched to slogans
emphasizing Kashmir's secular fabric, and called for Pandit-Muslim-Sikh unity
in Kashmir.

 I did not feel perturbed by the airing of the 'Allah o Akbar' slogan, as I am
not when I hear people say 'Vande Mataram' or indeed, 'Jai Shree Ram'. I am not
a believer, and the fervent expression of belief on the part of those who do
believe, neither enthuses, nor disturbs me. In each case, I am more interested
in what lies behind the passion. And I believed that what lay behind the
passion last evening, despite the anxiety on some of the faces in the crowd,
was an appeal to the divine as the final arbiter of justice and peace  in a
deeply violent and unjust world. I can understand what motivates people to make
that claim, even if I cannot make it myself, especially in a situation, where
all appeals to mundane, worldly power, seem to have exhausted themselves. A
situation where stones are met with bullets and grenades can make even the most
sceptical of us lose faith in the grace of the mortals who rule, ultimately,
only with the force of arms.

Perhaps, not airing such slogans would have been tactically more intelligent.
But I did not get the sense that those who had gathered in Jantar Mantar last
evening had come to score intelligent and sophisticated political points. They
had come to express their anger and their sadness, they had come to cease, for
a brief moment, to be the anonymous, anxious Kashmiri in Delhi who is always
worried about being labelled a 'terrorist' by a prejudiced neighbour, a callous
policeman or a random stranger. They had come to be themselves, to mourn, and to
tell the world of their mourning. I can only feel grateful that they could
gather the courage to do this. There is an urgency, as Sanjay Kak reminded the
gathering for forging an intelligent politics in response to what is going on
in Kashmir, and that politics must not only rest on the engine of pain and
anger. I totally agree with this, at the same time, I also know, that without
an occasion like what we witnessed yesterday, when Kashmiris can openly express
their anguish in the heart of India, it will not happen. I remain hopeful that
it will.

Some speakers, including Varavara Rao, Mohan Jha  (from Delhi University, I
hope I got his name right), Sanjay Kak, and a sikh gentleman from Amritsar
whose name escapes me, spoke of the fact that there was a great deal of
solidarity in India for the just demands of the Kashmiri people. The occasion
did not, at any instance, degenerate into a vulgar clash of competing

Outside the perimter of this protest, stood another - a small group of people
associated with organizations that claim to represent the  Kashmiri Pandit
Diaspora, who were 'protesting' against the protest. I recognized a face in
this crowd, I follow his self-righteous online outpourings quite regularly.
Some of the speakers, including Mr. Geelani, alluded to them, saying that they
shared in their pain, and even invited them to come and address the gathering.
They however, remained aloof. Holding their placards, with their claim to
monopoly of the pain and anguish of Kashmir. Ther stirred to life, when Sanjay
Kak, spoke, heckling him, in a now familiar and churlish manner. I felt sad to
see them, because they could make claim to suffering only as a means to divide
people, not bring people together in solidarity.

Just before I left, a young woman who had recently come to Delhi to study,
spoke eloquently about what it means to have lost a childhood in Kashmir, to
have seen brothers and friends shot. I do not know who she is, and I could not
catch her name, perhaps it was 'Arshi', but I wished I could apologize to her
personally, because I know that her childhood has been robbed by people
speaking in the name of the state that claims my fealty.

The occupation of Kashmir by India and Pakistan is an immoral and evil fact of
our times. The sooner it ends, the better will it be for all of us in South
Asia. True 'Azaadi' in Kashmir, for all its inhabitants, and for all those who
have been displaced by more than twenty years of violence, can only help us
all, in Srinagar, in Delhi, and elsewhere, to breathe more freely.

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