Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Yet Another Take on Arundhati Roy's Kashmir Controversy

Miss Arundhati Roy has spoken. Again. This time, it's on the Kashmir 'dispute', as it has been phrased by Dilip Padgaonkar. A lot of brouhaha, as it's been called in the intellectual circles, has been raised over her views , both in the electronic and in the print media. A section of the media and the political class has come out in support of her, which has again raised a lot of counter-clashes. At the end of the article is a link that pretty much displays the ideas on the various sides.

In the midst of all this, I have been shaken enough on this occasion to actually crawl out of my hole of laziness and post my views on a matter of current political interest. So, that's a first for me. Enough of the premise. Now I'll get down to the matter.

I do not think Miss Roy needs to be criticized for having a particular take on an issue, on any issue actually. All of Us are entitled to having a certain take on anything. We might disagree with what she might have said, but shouldn't hold a grudge against her just because she subscribes to a certain viewpoint. In a democracy, you need to have various perspectives and as an intellectual, an activist, her function in the democracy is to come up with a view that, to be mildly putting it, might not be subscribed to by a majority of the people. That's how discourse functions in a democracy. Rather, that's how discourse is ideally supposed to function anywhere. I am of the view that the problem here is not just with what she has expressed, but with what she's expressed coupled with when and where she's done it and what immediate repercussions might arise out of her having expressed those views.

Let's be frank here. We know that Kashmir does have problems. Accepting the fact that external elements are responsible for a lot of the trouble there, We cannot deny the fact that the region could have done with a better handling of the problems by the nation. The Indian state has failed on a lot of counts- the law and order situation for one. And, I'm not talking about any one community only- even the Kashmiri Pandits have been given a lot of hell. We must hang Our heads in shame at the failures not only in J&K, but also in Eastern and North-Eastern India, just to name the a few. But, the solution isn't also in simply criticizing and writing about it. It might start there, of course- as a process of analysing the various facets of the issue, which is very important, but then, it has to extend to actually going down there and working out and implementing the plans.

What the problem, according to me, is the fact that where she chose to air her views was in a heated rally in Srinagar (from where it was also being broadcast to other strife-torn regions) and at a time when the interlocutors are on a very important mission (however ill perceived it might be, it still is an effort and one that We still tune in to in hope of happy developments). She, being the person she is- a celebrity, a person of renown (and not a self-proclaimed separatist, too), could have chosen a platform or a time different than what she did. She's been expressing these views for a lot of time, many other intellectuals have been doing the same, but not in this particular fashion that has so angered many.

Maybe, that's what she wanted. After all, these views have been expressed in newspapers and magazines. Going out to a rally of a certain nature in Kashmir, at a certain point of time and raising hell over it- maybe that's what she intended. Out of the respect that I've always had for her, I'm discounting the possibility of it being an attempt at garnering publicity for her own self. However, if that truly is the case it must be deemed as being rather distasteful and disgusting. But, that's another point of view, and I'm not saying nobody should subscribe to it.

Maybe, her doing precisely what she's done might bring out something that's good, or, it might be a lesson to Us to know where to focus Our attention on- a lesson in fine-tuning, if I may put it that way, of tuning in the information, and discarding the noise. Well, I mean, you'll always have a lot of surrounding cacophony, but you can just choose to ignore that part that you think is nonsensical.

Personally, I find her views on India being a colonising power, on having termed Kashmir as not an integral part of India, usage of terms like military occupation to be offensive. As much as I will want to debate that, I'll also accept the truths that she's spoken on this very issue or other issues. I will debate the context of her views, I will hate what she's said, but, I will not hate her for having said that. When it comes to views on such matters, I believe in detaching the individual from the views that he/she holds. I will debate the issue and fight it, but I wont fight with the person who holds it. Otherwise, all that We'll end up doing is fighting, 'coz no two human beings have congruent perspectives on all issues.

So, you may brand her as a terrorist but I won't. I will debate that with you, but I will not fight with you. Because I disagree with the view, not the individual.

The link: