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Can Pakistan Produce One Arundhati Roy To Speak Truth?

By Dr Shabir Choudhry

29 October, 2010

Arundhati Roy, a famous Indian writer and human rights activist has, once again, made headlines and won minds and hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. She said what she believed – Kashmir is not legally part of India. Kashmir is not part of Pakistan either, although both countries control State of Jammu and Kashmir and have no desire to relinquish their control over these areas.

There is demand in some parts of India that Arundhati Roy should be charged for ‘sedition’. But there are many rational people who support her. Alok Tiwari, a prominent Indian journalist wrote in her defence that what she said was ‘definitely against the government line on Kashmir. It was also against the popular opinion. Mercifully, there is no law that obligates us to toe the government or popular line. Going against it is dissent, not sedition; and democracies thrive on dissent. They do not shun it.’

India claims to be the biggest democracy on earth, and that democracy is alive and kicking, at least, in India, if not in Jammu and Kashmir. Demand of a genuine democracy is that people must be allowed to express their views without fear or intimidation; and Arundhati Roy is an Indian citizen, and at least, she should be entitled to enjoy fruits of democracy. Alok Tiwari further writes:

‘Freedom in a society is tested by its tolerance of what most of its members consider offensive. Freedom to say goody-goody thing is actually no freedom. If we assert before the world that Kashmiris in India are living in freedom, it means even those Kashmiris who would rather not be part of India. They have as much right to air their opinion as the rest of us have to assert Kashmir is an integral part of India. If we find Geelani’s ideas offensive then let us come up with better ideas to counter them.’

It is best for government of India to resolve the Kashmir dispute rather than charge all those who express their disagreement on Kashmir policy of government of India. The Kashmir dispute is real. It will not go away by closing eyes; or by using force.

In Kashmir there is a strong resentment against what Indian government do there; and that anger and sense of alienation will not go away by continuation of the present policies. The government of India has to come out with a new policy and new approach and satisfy demands of the people, as policy of gun and bullet cannot win minds and hearts of the people.

Arundhati Roy is brave and honest in her assertions on Kashmir. She had courage to say that India’s claim on Kashmir is not correct; and is against popular will of the people of Kashmir. She said all that even though Jammu and Kashmir ‘provisionally’ acceded to India; and India’s claim on Kashmir rests on that ‘accession’.

That ‘provisional accession’ had to be ratified by the people of Jammu and Kashmir; and due to Pakistan’s refusal to withdraw troops from Kashmiri territory, as demanded by the UN Resolutions, conditions for a plebiscite could not be created to hold a referendum to test will of the people, hence the present forced division and suffering of the people on both sides of the LOC.

Despite India’s claim on Kashmir and its claim to democratic ideals, people like Arundhati Roy speak against India’s Kashmir policy. They tell government of India that hearts and minds of people could not be won with use of force. They tell the government that you cannot make people Indian by pulling their finger nails.

On the other hand Pakistan also occupies two parts of State of Jammu and Kashmir, namely Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, from which Pakistan generously gave away around 2200 sq miles to China in 1963 to improve bilateral relations.

Pakistan has military strength to control the Kashmiri territory under its occupation, but has no legal cover to justify this occupation. It has no legal mandate to be in control of the Kashmiri territory, but still has managed to divert attention away from areas under its control and call them ‘azad’ meaning free; and many Kashmiri collaborators happily advance the cause of Pakistan.

Many in Pakistan, especially writers and scholars know shallowness of Pakistan’s stand on Kashmir. They also know that people of so called Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan are not happy with what Pakistan and its secret agencies do to the people of these areas; and yet they decide to remain quiet. Their conscience does not trouble them, and they follow the government policy on issue of Kashmir. They happily promote government’s version on Kashmir, knowing well that it is based on lies.

They know, as it has been confirmed by many impartial surveys that people of Jammu and Kashmir DONOT want to join Pakistan; and yet they broadcast lies that people of Jammu and Kashmir are desperate to join Pakistan. They are reluctant to speak about plight and exploitation of the people living under Pakistani occupation; and will only focus on events taking place on other side of the LOC.

Can Pakistani society produce one prominent writer, scholar and human rights champion who has guts to challenge Pakistan’s Kashmir policy; and tell the world that Pakistan’s control of Kashmiri territory is not legal? Someone who could tell the world people of Jammu and Kashmir State living on this side of the LOC are also deprived of their fundamental human rights. Or is this too much to ask, and Pakistani writers, intellectuals and scholars will continue to follow the out of date policy of Islamabad?

Writer is Head Diplomatic Committee of Kashmir National Party, political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:[email protected] He blogs at www.drshabirchoudhry.blogspot.com