Among the many issues plaguing South Asia none is as violent and deeply contested as Kashmir. The major unresolved issue of the disastrous British partition of India in 1947, Kashmir has been the site of wars and the threat of wars, and probably the world's longest and most extensive military occupation. India brooks no international meditation to address the problem. What's the problem? A lot of Kashmiris don't want to be part of India. They didn't in 1947 and they don't, probably in even larger numbers, today. The U.S., champion of human rights elsewhere, is keen to access a major growing market, thus says nothing of what India is doing in Kashmir. Its silence is becoming harder to maintain as now the earth is revealing dark deep secrets of Indian rule in Kashmir. The thousands of dead and missing are making noise.
Kashmir is spectacularly gorgeous but the travel magazine spreads and tourist brochures mask a less than heavenly reality. An ongoing conflict has taken the lives of tens of thousands of Kashmiris. The Himalayan region is divided by India and Pakistan but claimed in its entirety by both. And trapped between these states are the Kashmiri people. What they might desire is of little concern to India and Pakistan who use Kashmir to justify massive military deployments. Cross border shootings and artillery strikes at any time could escalate into a major war. And don’t forget both countries have nuclear weapons. Kashmiri non-violent struggles against Indian rule have barely been covered in the media. It doesn’t fit the narrative India has propagated: These are Islamic terrorists controlled by Pakistan. Except for a few troublemakers, Kashmiris are happy to be part of India.
Interview by David Barsamian.
Angana Chatterji is a convener of the International People’s Tribunal on Kashmir. She has taught social and cultural anthropology for many years and has been working with social movements, local communities, and citizens groups in India and internationally. She is the author of Violent Gods and contributor to Kashmir The Case for Freedom.
Pankaj Mishra writes for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Book Review, and The Guardian. He is the author of Butter Chicken in Ludhiana, An End to Suffering, Temptations of the West and From the Ruins of Empire. He has spent much time in Kashmir and has written about it.
Sanjay Kak is a New Delhi-based, award-winning independent documentary filmmaker. His films include How We Celebrate Freedom, Words on Water and Red Ant Dream. He is editor of Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir and Witness.