By Varun Sharma:
Why this particular one and a half book old (the half was We Are One: A Celebration of Tribal Peoples in which she was a contributor) writer known as Arundhati Roy, is harvesting so much national attention for some speech delivered in a seminar organized in the capital where such events are too many to take notice? Doesn’t India, from time to time, get a dose of such public speakers who play political gimmicks to get their share of eye balls? Then, what makes this lady stand apart? How such a low profile seminar achieved an impact which large political rallies and gatherings failed to achieve?
But there was something strange about this particular episode named “Whither Kashmir? Freedom or Enslavement” organized by Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civic Society where Arundhati Roy and Syed Ali Shah Geelani addressed a gathering attended by rights activist Gautam Naulakha, society members and some local journalists.
The speech given by the Sydney peace prize receiver, Arundhati Roy, doesn’t qualify as a hate speech. It lacked the luster of Raj Thackeray addressing the not-so-good north Indians and Varun Gandhi referring Muslims as “the circumcised”. It is better to call it a yearning rather than an attack, a wail rather than an assault.
May be, the government isn’t much bothered about hate preachers like Varun Gandhi and Raj Thackeray because somewhere it knows that such gimmicks cannot jolt the chairs in the parliament or the very existence of the political machinery. System can oversee the flight of such speakers and their narrow political goals. The behavior of government towards such public addressers, more or less, resembles the responses of parents to the nuisances of a toddler.
What makes the event pull the wrong strings was the subject under consideration. The topic of Jammu and Kashmir is not new. Most of us have grown old listening to the shrieks of the burning valley. Jammu and Kashmir have been on the boil from the time when the Hindu king of Muslim majority kingdom signed a petition and gave away the ownership rights to India trading the promise of a plebiscite to its people which never saw light of the day. From then on began the tussle between Pakistan and India to lay claim of the otherwise independent land. After so many years of negotiations and agreements, the state is still a battle field in itself with more than five lakh jawans posted to maintain the never occurring peace.
The opposition has demanded a police cases against Arundhati Roy and Mr. Geelani on count of sedition and fanning anti-state sentiments. The government, for now, hasn’t considered the suggestion and has initiated the scrutiny of the script which demanded justice to valley’s people. It would serve the UPA II better if it will consider the seminar as a wakeup call rather than a national threat. The issues which the seminar highlighted can be taken as the first step to an open discussion where ideas can be exchanged to improve the lives of people in J&K who have seen so much blood.