– 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

Indisk delstat åbner genopdragelsesskole for aber

Macaque monkeysI den indiske delstat Punjab har de problemer med vilde aber, der i mange tilfælde angriber mennesker, stjæler mad og begår hærværk. Men nu har man fundet løsningen – aberne skal på genopdragelse i en særlig lukket institution, hvor de kan lære gode manerer, så de kan begå sig i samfundet på hæderlig vis, når de bliver lukket ud:

As more and more forests disappear, they are increasingly encroaching into human settlements, say experts.

The problem of rogue monkeys is particularly severe in towns close to India’s north-western border with Pakistan.

Officials accuse them of a variety of bad behaviour from terrorising children, snatching food from people and destroying property.

Macaque monkeys routinely destroy TV antennae, tear down clothes-lines and damage parked scooters and motorcycles.

“Besides people landing in hospitals after encounters with monkeys, the animals also often get hurt when house owners try to chase them away or keep them out by using live electric wires and other means,” chief wildlife warden RK Luna told the BBC.

The proposed new monkey school will take in the “worst offenders” and put them through a crash course in good manners.

“We have proposed a composite facility where scientific methods will be employed to change and alter the social habits of the monkeys,” Mr Luna said.

Wildlife officials hope to reduce aggression and train the monkeys to be more like the wild animals they originally were.

Genopdragelsesskolen er en mere human erstatning for et “fængsel”, der hidtil er blevet brugt til at holde de værste forbrydere blandt aberne fængslet. Meget human og usædvanlig idé, må man sige – og spændende at se, hvilke resultater dette dyrepsykologiske eksperiment kan give.

Link: Indian school for rogue monkeys

Kashmir på vej mod kanten

Mens nyhedsmedierne er optaget af de tåbelige børnelege i Beijing og dansk sejlsports ligegyldige guldmedaljeskærmydsler, er den indiske provins Kashmir stille og roligt ved at eksplodere.

Eller rettere sagt, det er selvfølgelig ikke sikkert, det går så galt. Indtil videre er området splittet mellem muslimske Kashmirier i Kashmir-dalen og hinduer i Jammu (se evt. Wikipedias artikel om området for en kort introduktion), lammet af civil ulydighed og under militær besættelse af en halv million soldater, der de sidste mange år har stået for omfattende undertrykkelse og menneskeretskrænkelser.

Det hele begyndte, da en lokal guvernør besluttede at overfø re ca. 40 hektar land til ledelsen af Amarnath-templet, et helligsted, der i de senere år er begyndt at tiltrække mange hinduistiske pilgrimme – 500.000 i 2008 mod mindre end 20.000 i 1989. Overførslen vakte bekymring hos den muslimske del af befolkningen, der satte den i forbindelse med det stadigt større antal pilgrimme og den voksende hindu-fundamentalisme i selve Indien, og der begyndte at gå rygter om, at tempelområdet ville blive et brohoved for hinduistiske bosættelser á la Israel og Vestbredden.

Utilfredsheden udløste store protestdemonstrationer, hvor kravet om tilbageførsel af jorden omkring templet hurtigt måtte vige for kravet om azadi, frihed eller uafhængighed af Indien, kulminerende i indisk politis nedskydning 11. august af separatistlederen Sheikh Abdul Aziz.

Lokalregeringen besluttede nu at tilbageføre jorden fra templet, kun for at opdage, at man havde sat en bevægelse i gang, der ikke længere kunne standses, og at spørgsmålet om jord til templet i mellemtiden var blevet komplet ligegyldigt i den store sammenhæng.

Bortset fra, at Jammus hinduer følte sig overset og trådt på og i øvrigt havde set frem til at kunne bygge nogle ordentlige faciliteter ved templet i Amarnath, og derfor lancerede deres egen protest mod tilbageførslen. Som led i protesterne blev landevejen mellem Srinagar og Jammu, Kashmirs eneste vej til resten af Indien og reelt områdets livsnerve, blokeret. Kashmir var nu afskåret fra omverdenen, reelt belejret og afskåret fra livsvigtige forsyninger.

Områdets militante grupper holder sig i baggrunden, og hovedstaden Srinagar domineres i stedet af fredelig civil ulydighed med krav om omgående uafhængighed af Indien. Men bag den fredelige protest gemmer sig en kolossal vrede, båret oppe af årtiers undertrykkelse og militær besættelse.

Den indiske forfatter Arundhati Roy beskriver situationen således:

The voice that the government of India has tried so hard to silence in Kashmir has massed into a deafening roar. Raised in a playground of army camps, checkpoints, and bunkers, with screams from torture chambers for a soundtrack, the young generation has suddenly discovered the power of mass protest, and above all, the dignity of being able to straighten their shoulders and speak for themselves, represent themselves. For them it is nothing short of an epiphany. Not even the fear of death seems to hold them back. And once that fear has gone, of what use is the largest or second largest army in the world? There have been mass rallies in the past, but none in recent memory that have been so sustained and widespread. The mainstream political parties of Kashmir – National Conference and People’s Democratic party – appear dutifully for debates in New Delhi’s TV studios, but can’t muster the courage to appear on the streets of Kashmir.

Day after day, hundreds of thousands of people swarm around places that hold terrible memories for them. They demolish bunkers, break through cordons of concertina wire and stare straight down the barrels of soldiers’ machine guns, saying what very few in India want to hear. Hum Kya Chahtey? Azadi! (We want freedom.) And, it has to be said, in equal numbers and with equal intensity: Jeevey jeevey Pakistan. (Long live Pakistan.)

Råbene om “længe leve Pakistan” skal ikke nødvendigvis opfattes som et ønske om tilslutning til Pakistan, forklarer den unge separatistleder Mirwaiz Umer Farooq til Outlook India:

Please look at the mood of the people. When someone on the street here says Pakistan or Nizam-e-Mustafa, what are they trying to convey? What he (the Kashmiri) is saying is that he rejects the present system. This does not necessarily mean he would choose Pakistan. People here know what has been happening within Pakistan. They are disappointed in what has become of the political system there.

Påkaldelsen af Pakistan er altså snarere beregnet på at afvise og provokere Indien og de indiske tropper så meget som muligt, end det er udtryk for noget egentligt ønske om, at Kashmir skulle blive en del af Pakistan. I det hele taget er det fredelige oprør præget af en nærmest dødsforagtende konfrontation med Indien og den indiske besættelsesmagt, som vi læser i Tehelka:

In 1990, militants openly displayed arms; today, students are walking up to the security bunkers, stones in hand, taunting the men in uniform, saying, “Kill us, we want to become martyrs.” Bravado? Maybe, but factor this in — if in the early 1990s there was romanticism about a movement that was just beginning; today, the protestors are only too aware of the might of the state. They did not know what counterinsurgency measures entailed then, today’s generation has grown up with them.

Hovedindtrykket af oprøret er fredeligt, men overvældende og potentielt farligt.

Arundhati Roy:

On the morning of August 18, people began pouring into Srinagar from villages and towns across the valley. In trucks, tempos, jeeps, buses and on foot. Once again, barriers were broken and people reclaimed their city. The police were faced with a choice of either stepping aside or executing a massacre. They stepped aside. Not a single bullet was fired.

The city floated on a sea of smiles. There was ecstasy in the air. Everyone had a banner; houseboat owners, traders, students, lawyers, doctors. One said: “We are all prisoners, set us free.” Another said: “Democracy without freedom is demon-crazy.” Demon-crazy. That was a good one. Perhaps he was referring to the insanity that permits the world’s largest democracy to administer the world’s largest military occupation and continue to call itself a democracy.

Everywhere there were Pakistani flags, everywhere the cry Pakistan se rishta kya? La illaha illallah. (What is our bond with Pakistan? There is no god but Allah.) Azadi ka matlab kya? La illaha illallah. (What does freedom mean? There is no god but Allah.)

For somebody like myself, who is not Muslim, that interpretation of freedom is hard – if not impossible – to understand. I asked a young woman whether freedom for Kashmir would not mean less freedom for her, as a woman. She shrugged and said “What kind of freedom do we have now? The freedom to be raped by Indian soldiers?” Her reply silenced me.

Også Roy understreger dog, at de mange råb om tilhørsforhold til Pakistan ikke skal forstås som et bogstaveligt ønske om tilslutning:

It would be a mistake to assume that the public expression of affection for Pakistan automatically translates into a desire to accede to Pakistan. Some of it has to do with gratitude for the support – cynical or otherwise – for what Kashmiris see as their freedom struggle, and the Indian state sees as a terrorist campaign. It also has to do with mischief. With saying and doing what galls India most of all.

Bevægelsen er primært en bevægelse for et selvstændigt Kashmir, selvom man ikke må tage fejl af, at det også er en bevægelse for et islamisk selvstændigt Kashmir; ganske vist, skal man tro dets ledere, for at islamisk Kashmir med fulde garantier for alle mindretal.

Og den årlige pilgrimsfærd til Amarnath forløb da også gnidningsløst; midt i oprøret og tumulten blev de 500.000 fremmede hinduers sikkerhed og komfort til en æressag for Kashmirs muslimske indbyggere. Men faren for communal violence, som de siger i Indien, for en voldelig konflikt mellem muslimer og hinduerne i Jammu, ligger alligevel hele tiden og lurer, næret af Jammus følelse af at blive glemt og Kashmiriernes frygt for et stadigt mere nationalistisk og hindu-fundamentalistisk Indien.

Arundhati Roy fortsætter:

The slogan that cut through me like a knife and clean broke my heart was this one: Nanga bhookha Hindustan, jaan se pyaara Pakistan. (Naked, starving India, More precious than life itself – Pakistan.)

Why was it so galling, so painful to listen to this? I tried to work it out and settled on three reasons. First, because we all know that the first part of the slogan is the embarrassing and unadorned truth about India, the emerging superpower. Second, because all Indians who are not nanga or bhooka are and have been complicit in complex and historical ways with the elaborate cultural and economic systems that make Indian society so cruel, so vulgarly unequal. And third, because it was painful to listen to people who have suffered so much themselves mock others who suffer, in different ways, but no less intensely, under the same oppressor. In that slogan I saw the seeds of how easily victims can become perpetrators.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani began his address with a recitation from the Qur’an. He then said what he has said before, on hundreds of occasions. The only way for the struggle to succeed, he said, was to turn to the Qur’an for guidance. He said Islam would guide the struggle and that it was a complete social and moral code that would govern the people of a free Kashmir. He said Pakistan had been created as the home of Islam, and that that goal should never be subverted. He said just as Pakistan belonged to Kashmir, Kashmir belonged to Pakistan. He said minority communities would have full rights and their places of worship would be safe. Each point he made was applauded.

I imagined myself standing in the heart of a Hindu nationalist rally being addressed by the Bharatiya Janata party’s (BJP) LK Advani. Replace the word Islam with the word Hindutva, replace the word Pakistan with Hindustan, replace the green flags with saffron ones and we would have the BJP’s nightmare vision of an ideal India.

Is that what we should accept as our future? Monolithic religious states handing down a complete social and moral code, “a complete way of life”? Millions of us in India reject the Hindutva project. Our rejection springs from love, from passion, from a kind of idealism, from having enormous emotional stakes in the society in which we live. What our neighbours do, how they choose to handle their affairs does not affect our argument, it only strengthens it.

Og håbet for fremtiden ligger selvfølgelig også i, at millioner af liberale i Pakistan afviser det islamistiske projekt, ligesom mange Kashmirier reelt også afviser den selvbestaltede men ikke reelle oprørsleder Syed Ali Shah Geelanis islamisme. Kashmir er måske nok islamisk, men har traditionelt ikke bekendt sig til strenge, wahhabi-lignende varianter af islam.

Lige nu er det bare kravet om azadi, frihed, der er det centrale krav fra folk, for hvem denne frihed også er frihed fra en årelang militær besættelse; det er en ånd, som ikke bliver let at få ned i flasken igen.

Og løsningen? Ikke nødvendigvis selvstændighed her og nu. Men selvstyre. Magasinet Tehelka interviewer ni forskellige parter i sagen, og de peger alle, trods meget stor uenighed, på nødvendigheden af mere selvstyre. Løsningen er selvstyre,  ophævelse af besættelsen, garantier, garantier til mindretallene.

Men hvis løsningen ikke kommer snart, risikerer det som antydet at gå helt galt; situationen er sprængfarlig.

Selv håber jeg ikke, det kommer så vidt – jeg boede selv i Kashmir i ca. to år af min barndom, og det er et usædvanligt smukt sted, som godt snart kunne fortjene at få fred.