For the first time in 63 years, India is divided over occupied Kashmir thanks to one woman. And it’s time for her to pay for embarrassing the aspiring superpower. The fact that she is a minority Christian is working against her with Hindu extremists.
BY AHMED QURAISHI | Wednesday, 27 October 2010.
NEW DELHI, India—You don’t antagonize a superpower-wannabe, especially one that is so serious it is spending $30 billion on latest weapons. But if you do, get ready to pay the price.
That’s the lesson Arundhati Roy, Booker Prize winner, is learning the hard way. She is India’s most famous international face. And she has embarrassed the entire Indian political, religious and military establishment like no one has done before.
For the first time in the 63-year-old international dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, which India forcibly annexed, Roy sat next to a Kashmiri freedom leader and declared in the heart of the Indian capital that Kashmir “is not an integral part of India”.
If that’s not enough, she also said, “No one should be killed, raped, imprisoned or have their fingernails pulled out in order to force them to say they are Indians.” This was a direct attack on the Indian military, whose half a million soldiers occupy the tiny Kashmir valley near Pakistan’s border despite daily protests by Kashmiris shouting, ‘We’re not Indian.’
This is big. So far no one in India had the courage to speak up against Indian human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, which are otherwise well documented by rights organizations outside India.
For those who don’t understand how big a deal this is, consider this: All mainstream Indian newspapers and television networks strictly adhere to the state policy on Kashmir. It is impossible to find a major Indian news outlet breaking away from this unspoken consensus. [In other words, for India, this is bigger than Commonwealth Games Delhi 2010.]
Now an environment is being created in New Delhi to arrest Roy, or at least terrorize her enough to silence her and any other Indians who might be having similarly dangerous thoughts. Unfortunately for Roy, she is a Christian, coming from a minority group vulnerable to attacks by Hindu fundamentalists. Indian Christians have been burned alive in acts of violence as recently as winter 2008.
There are early signs of a whisper campaign and intimidation against Ms. Roy inside India. Prominent Indian news outlets confirmed a sedition case was being prepared against her. Normally the accused in Indian sedition cases receives harsh treatment even before a trial and conviction.
More worrying is that her opponents – a motley crew of extremist politicians, Hindu fanatics, Hindu terror groups, media affiliates of extremist politicians, and sympathizers inside Indian security agencies – might get to her in other ways without making it look like payback for her Kashmir remarks. Already there are reports suggesting she might be dragged to court in other cases. Funny how these reports suddenly appeared just in time to take her down.
So no one should be surprised if there is a sudden news blackout on her and she slips off the headlines any minute.
The mainstream India media has begun whipping up religious sentiments against Roy. This is dangerous in a religious boiling pot like India where rumors in 2002 resulted in Hindu mobs burning alive 2,000 Indian Muslim men, women and children in the Indian state of Gujarat, in what was 21st century’s first incident of religious genocide.
Ironically, mainstream India media is at the forefront of inflaming passions. For example, the Indian Express has dedicated a page on its internet version of the newspaper to lynching Roy.
“If I were the prime minister I would stripped her citizenship and deport her to Pakistan,” wrote one reader who signed his name as ‘Indian’.
Another Indian, Sunanda, based in Manchester, UK, ironically chides Roy for her Western links. She writes: “looking for some more European awards missy? By selling your nation that too (…) You remain a pointless non productive self serving woman, your life is wasted. Dont pride yourself with a thinkers cap, clearly you are a confused ugly face, pretending to be an angel.”
Karan titled his comment, “Arundhati, a publicity hungry maggot.”
To be fair, there is the occasional supportive comment, like that of Mr. I. Gill, who writes: “How many of you have been to Kashmir (I am talking for last 40 years, since I have been there)? If you have been then you will understand what Kashmere’s think of India. If you want to bring India pride then listen to your people and give them freedom.”
But the worry is from rabble-rousers aiming to activate extremists. An Indian apparently based in the United States wrote this: “In America, we have a way to deal with these crazies. The rest of the media will make them look like clowns incessantly. That will shut them off permanently (…) Wake up [local] scribes go for the kill.”
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