Revoke AFSPA, demilitarise JK: Arundhati,‘People in Kashmir should be given right to self-determination’

New York : Noted Indian writer Arundhati Roy has said revoking the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir and demilitarisation is required to ensure the right of self-determination to the people of the state. She said a country cannot call itself a democracy if people are forced to live under military rule.


“I want to say unambiguously that I do not think any country that calls itself a democracy has the right to force people to remain in it in a militaristic way, the way that India is doing in order to prove that it’s a secular country,” Roy said at a panel discussion on ‘Kashmir: The Case for Freedom’ at the Asia Society here.
“I think that the people of Kashmir have the right to self-determination, they have the right to choose who they want to be and how they want to be. The first step would be to demilitarise, to withdraw this absolutely unbelievable law the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA),” Roy said.
She said Kashmir is one of the most protracted and bloody occupations in the world and one of the most ignored. “While India brutalizes Kashmir in so many ways, that occupation brutalizes the Indians,” she said and called for demilitarization of Kashmir as a step towards peace in the region. “Why the international community doesn’t see that when you have two nuclear-armed states, like Pakistan and India, there couldn’t be a better thing than a buffer state like Kashmir between them, instead of it being a conflict that is going to spark a nuclear war.”
She lamented that so little is known about the “atrocities being committed by more than half a million Indian troops, the continuing repression and indignities let loose on Kashmiri men, women and children.”
“More than 700,000 troops were concentrated in the tiny valley, with check points at every nook and corner of Kashmiri towns and cities. The huge Indian presence is in sharp contrast with 160,000 US troops in Iraq,” she pointed out.
Roy attributed the apathy towards Kashmir, especially in the western world, to their pursuit of commercial interests in India where they were more eager to sell their goods than human rights.
“Even as the world speaks about the Arab spring—three years ago there was massive unarmed uprising in the streets of Kashmir,” she said, adding that the security forces there were not looking away; “they were killing young children.”
“In Kashmir freedom of speech is non-existent and human rights abuses were routine. Elections were rigged and press controlled and the lives of Kashmiris were made miserable by gun-toting security personnel,” Roy said and added that disappearances were almost a daily occurrence in Kashmir as also kidnapping, arrests, fake encounters and torture. “Mass graves have been discovered and the conscience of the world remained unstirred,” she said.
She reminded that before his election, President Barack Obama had pledged to resolve the international dispute of Kashmir between Pakistan and India. But seeing “consternation” in India over the remark, Obama hasn’t said a word about Kashmir since, she said, adding that he was more interested in selling military aircraft and Boeings to India.
Roy said India had also successfully used the argument that if it it gave up Kashmir, another Islamic state would emerge - a prospect the West feared. “That’s why India had made no effort to bring back to the Valley the Kashmiri Pandits who fled at the height of armed uprising in the state. Aren’t 7000,000 troops enough to protect the Pandits?” she asked.

An Indian writer Pankaj Mishra and a PhD student, Muhammad Junaid, from Kashmir - also deplored the fact that the international community gave such little attention to the suffering of the Kashmiri people.  Both Mishra and Junaid read out their respective papers containing moving stories of the Kashmiri victims of brutalities of Indian forces. (PRESS TRUST OF INDIA,with inputs from other agencies)Nov 12, 2011