Because at the end of the day all colonial occupations are facilitated by the creation of a native elite. It is not that the Indian army is occupying Kashmir. There is an elite that is allowing that is allowing that occupation, you know.
And in India too it isn’t that when the British colonised India that there were thousands of British troops that were holding India down. It was a co-optation of the elite. So when we talk about how do you resist an occupation, I think there are two tiers. One is a set of goals or a set of demands that you might place on the occupying power. That, we want you to withdraw the AFSPA, we want you to demilitarise, we want you to release prisoners, you know a set of demands. But that occupying power is essentially what it is an occupying power, power concedes nothing unless it is forced to. So by merely asking, it’s not going to happen.
So then how do you actually take the resistance forward? Because I think that’s what the next session is going to be. How do you take this forward? Because either you see the last 20 years of resistance as a linear progression, in which you have fought, you have paid a price, you have won something you have lost something. You have moved forward and consolidated. And then occupation has put an end to that. Then something else happens and you move forward a little more. Or you look it as if you are you short-circuiting yourself? Have you created a socket: to which something happens and it keeps getting short-circuited? And you cannot consolidate the gains you’ve made. I am not saying that this or that has happened. This is a question that the resistance has to ask itself. Is it progressing or is it a series of short circuits? You gain something then you lose that ground again. Or is there a steady progression, however slow forward? Is there a clear idea of what’s going to happen next? That doesn’t mean you are going to control it. You have to face loses. But are you moving ahead?
Because sometimes when you hear talk about the fact that Kashmiris have been ruled or repressed or occupied for centuries. Then you must worry that occupation is not a part of your cellular structure, you know. It doesn’t have to be apart of your cellular structure. Is there anything that you can do? Are there any goals you can set, not the Indian State but yourselves? For example, is there any possibility of saying that the goal of the resistance is that we don’t want our people to join the police, we don’t want our people to join the CRPF?
The first time I ever went to Chhattisgarh after many years of travelling to Kashmir it nearly broke my heart it. The journey from Raipur to Dantewada stopped at this dhaba and it was full of Kashmiri BSF who were going to oppress the Chhattisgarhi, you know. Can we stop this colonial power from using us in these ways? The Nagas actually called back the Naga battalion at one point from Chhattisgarh. Can we set ourselves some real goals we are not going to let this happen?
I think, to understand that meeting place between the occupation and those who are facilitating it. I don’t mean this is an ugly way. But can people see what they are doing is actually undoing the work of the stone pelters or undoing the work of the militants? Because you gained a tremendous amount of ground in these last 4 months. Are you going to concede that? Or are you going to build on it? How to understand what the occupation is? What it does to your mind? Otherwise what happens, however terrible the price that is paid, however many people have been killed, the real risk is that it turns into a temper tantrum by children against their parents. And then the parents say OK you know calm down we give you something. You don’t want to have a temper tantrum; you want to be part of the resistance. You don’t want people to say I agree with Gautam when he talked about elections.
You can’t allow someone else to paint your portrait
However, it is important to understand how that election was used against you. I remember that I was in Kashmir when that Yatra uprising happened and I wrote that piece. And after that when the elections happened. I was at the Srinigar airport and someone came to me and said you know Arundhati you must never trust us Kashmiris because we will let you down! I said it’s nothing to do with me it’s a battle you’re fighting. That’s also part of the psychological operation that you mustn’t trust yourself. But you must understand what is the message that’s going out.
You can’t allow someone else to paint your portrait. Let you paint that portrait. There has to be a deepening of the understanding of politics. I have written extensively about the Narmada valley, where there is a huge movement against the dams and the cultural price that this new world order is paying. Sometimes I wish that the intelligence of the Kashmir valley could be fused with the Namada valley. There are two different kinds of intelligence. In the Namada valley they talk about repression but they don’t know the beginning of what repression can be. They have a very sophisticated understanding of the economical and cultural price. In Kashmir you have such a sophisticated understanding of repression but a very rudimentary understanding of the big picture, you know. Of how economics, of how the corporate world is working. We want to control our own resources. What does that mean? We want to build our own dams: does that mean you want to displace your own people? There are these repositories of understanding in the world that need to merge and fuse with each other. When we say that we want to control our own resources what does that mean? There is so much to be gained by this.
I read about the reports of what happened in Delhi a few days ago when the meeting happened. I was kind of curious why nobody even seemed to wonder how did that meeting happen? Who organised it? It was a historic thing. There were people from all over India who spoke up in solidarity who today are being accused of sedition who might run the risk of being in prison. Why is nobody curious? Who are those people? Why did they risk it? Somebody sent out those invitations. Somebody expressed solidarity. Who are they and why did they do it? These are questions...I am not saying that because you need to express solidarity with suffering people. I am saying it because I think it will deepen this resistance to understand that politics and it will deepen their resistance. It will make you stronger and it will make them stronger too.