We welcome you in joining Arundhati in this discussion. Can you talk about, Arundhati first, the lay of the land, why you have become so interested in this issue, and why you’re traveling to the United States to speak about it?
ARUNDHATI ROY: No, it is—well, I suppose if one were to explain the situation in the simplest possible terms, the struggle for self-determination in Kashmir began in 1947, at the time of India’s independence and the partition of India and Pakistan. And Kashmir, which used to be an independent kingdom, was more or less torn apart during partition, half occupied by Pakistan and the other half occupied by India. And it is a country with a—I mean, it’s a state with a predominantly Muslim population, but had a Hindu ruler, who was supposed to have acceded to India, though there was supposed to be a plebiscite after 1947, which never took place.
And today Kashmir is the most densely militarized zone in the world. India has something like 700,000 security forces there. And in the '90s, early ’90s, the fight became—turned into an armed struggle, and since then, something like 68,000 people have died, maybe 100,000 tortured, 10,000 disappeared, you know? I mean, we all talk a lot about Chile, Pinochet. These numbers are far greater. And this is just the crude end of it, you know? Can you imagine living in a place where there are so many soldiers, you can't—you go out of your door, you come out, come to a barrier. Every aspect of life, whether it’s joyous or otherwise, is sort of diverted through the military.
And it’s become a very ugly—an ugly stain on people who would like to be—have some self-respect. And I’m talking about Indians, you know, I’m talking about somebody like myself, that it makes me feel that it’s such a morally reprehensible thing to be living in a country that is doing this to a people and keeping—everyone is keeping quiet about it. There are very, very few people in India who would say anything about this. I mean, we hear about conscientious objectors in Iraq, in Vietnam, but in India there has never, ever been a conscientious objector in the army. And what they are doing to people is terrible.
Earlier today, an Indian politician from the right-wing BJP party filed a written complaint against Roy after she publicly advocated for Kashmir independence and challenged India’s claim that Kashmir is a, quote, "integral part of India." The area of Kashmir has been at the center of a decades-long dispute between India and Pakistan. Arundhati Roy made the comment at a conference organized to call on India to formally admit that Kashmir is an internationally recognized dispute. If charged and convicted of sedition, Arundhati Roy could face up to life in prison.
On Tuesday, she defended her statements made at the conference. She wrote, quote, "I said what millions of people here say every day...I spoke about justice for the people of Kashmir who live under one of the most brutal military occupations in the world."
Roy went on to write, quote, "Pity the nation that has to silence its writers for speaking their minds. Pity the nation that needs to jail those who ask for justice, while communal killers, mass murderers, corporate scamsters, looters, rapists, and those who prey on the poorest of the poor, roam free."
Well, last month, I had a chance to interview the author of The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy, about Kashmir. We spoke in London. She began by describing how Kashmir is the unfinished business of the partition of India in 1947.
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