Tomorrow will mark one year since the Indian government abrogated Articles 370 and 35A of the constitution, which had provided a loose form of legal autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir. Democratically elected Kashmiri leaders were arrested, 30,000 additional troops deployed, and a total communications shutdown imposed, cutting residents of the valley off from one another and the outside world. Jammu and Kashmir were divided into separate union territories. Months passed without any internet or telephone access. A weak 2G connection has now been made available, but it is unstable and often suspended.
The news came like a declaration of war: Article 370 of the Indian Constitution is gone. It gave the people of Jammu and Kashmir a measure of autonomy: a separate assembly, a separate flag, the exclusive right to residency and property-ownership in the state. On the morning of 5 August, the Indian home minister, Amit Shah, scrapped it. No Kashmiris had been consulted; none of them were informed in advance. No debate or deliberation took place. The next day the Indian Express, a supposedly anti-establishment newspaper, published a giant picture of Narendra Modi congratulating Shah under the headline: ‘History, in one stroke.’
Adil Ahmad Dar, the 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide terrorist who killed himself along with forty Indian soldiers at Pulwama on 14 February, will be regarded as a hero and martyr by many Kashmiris of his generation, alienated, desperate and angered by the atrocities that have been rained down on them by the Indian military on the orders of successive governments (the Congress record is appalling) for many decades. Blinding young men in Kashmir with pellet guns is an Indian innovation. Had Dar acted alone, a few might even have dared call him a hero in public. Instead an oppressive silence reigns throughout Kashmir.
This time last year, Indian-administered Kashmir was welcoming tourists to its lakes, Mughal gardens and mountain meadows. The state tourism board reported 300,000 visitors between July and September 2015, numbers helped by various foreign governments lifting travel bans. Today, Kashmir is once more plunged into chaos and violence. Burhan Wani, a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed by Indian security forces on 8 July. Protests broke out across Kashmir the next day. The official crackdown was severe. Dozens of people have been killed and thousands injured. Shops, hospitals and schools have been shut, mobile phone and internet services cut, property destroyed and local newspapers closed.
On 9 February, after ten years on death row, Mohammed Afzal Guru was judicially assassinated in Delhi. The BJP warmly supported and publicly celebrated the event. A veteran Kashmiri activist and a medical student (born in 1969), he had been picked up and accused of being part of a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament in December 2001. The evidence was totally circumstantial, the confession obtained under torture and a threat to kill his family. All this is well known. Had the Chinese regime behaved in this fashion towards a Tibetan, the media and political response in the West would have dominated the news. Kashmir remains invisible to the world. In India all the mainstream parties welcomed the hanging. The media was supportive of the government. In Kashmir a general strike shut down the province and the police opened fire on demonstrators.
Arundhati Roy is both loathed and feared by the Indian elite. Loathed because she speaks her mind. Feared because her voice reaches the world outside India and damages the myths perpetrated by New Delhi regardless of which party holds power. She often annoys the official Indian Left because she writes and speaks of events for which they are either responsible or of which they dare not speak. Roy will not allow her life to be subjugated by lies. She never affects a courage or contempt she does not feel. Her campaigns against injustice are undertaken with no view to either fame or profit. Hence the respect awarded her by the poor, ordinary citizens, who know the truth but are not allowed a voice in the public sphere. The authorities can’t buy her silence. One of the few voices in India who has spoken loudly against the continuing Indian atrocities in Kashmir, she is now being threatened.