– af Shuddhabrata Sengupta

Fra kafila.org, en god beskrivelse af en nylig demonstration og dens baggrund. Denne baggrund er blodig alvor: “The occupation of Kashmir by India and Pakistan is an immoral and evil fact of our times“. Men læs nu selv:

Kashmir Jantar MantarLast 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 hearts.

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 Kashmir.

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. Most resonant of all was the slogan that has now become the signature of all protests in Kashmir, ‘Hum Kya Chahtey – Azaadi’ (‘What do we want – Freedom’) which speaks to the wide spectrum of sometimes disparate political currents and opinions which is together only because of one common objective – rightful anger at the continued occupation of Kashmir by the armed might of the Indian state. Some slogans 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’. But the vast majority of slogans had simply one motif – ‘Azaadi’. Sometimes spoken with joy, sometimes with anger, sometimes as a lament, sometimes with hope – with the vowels elongated to mean a myriad complexities that are rendered unspoken by the simplifying violence of the occupation.

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 rest only 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 desire for liberation and their anguish in the heart of India, in the vocabulary and language that has sustained their struggles over the past decades, 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 nationalisms.

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 Delhi, and elsewhere, to breathe more freely.

Læs også: Kashmir på vej mod kanten

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