Arundhati Roy talks to David Barsamian: Revolts and rebellions
BEYOND THE hoopla of robust growth rates and prattle about the world’s largest democracy, India is beset by major revolts and rebellions over a vast area. Some, like the one in Kashmir, are for independence. Others, like the multiple uprisings in what the media call the “Red Corridor,” are for the overthrow of the government. These various movements are in response to serious economic and social problems and the bigotry of Hindu nationalism. The seizure of land, water, and minerals by corporations chaperoned and sanctioned by the state has caused the poorest of the poor to say: No more. They are pushing back. Washington ignores India’s internal realities. Instead it sees New Delhi as a hot destination for investment, a bazaar for arms sales, and as a strategic linchpin in its planned anti-China alliance.
THE SUMMER of 2010 was one of the bloodiest in Indian-administered Kashmir. It was the summer of the stones and the stone throwers. You’ve been going to Kashmir and writing about it. What are those stones saying and who are the stone throwers?
I GUESS we should qualify “the bloodiest,” because obviously it’s been a very bloody time since the early 1990s for the people of Kashmir. We know that something like 68,000 have been killed. But this summer the difference, I think, was that having somehow strangled the militant uprising of the early 1990s and convinced itself that under the boot of this military occupation what the Indian government likes to call normalcy had returned, and that it had somehow managed to co-opt the groovy young people into coffee shops and radio stations and TV shows. As usual, powerful states and powerful people like to believe their own publicity. And they believed that, that they had somehow managed to break the spine of this movement. Then suddenly, for three summers in a row, there was this kind of street uprising. In a way what happened over the last three summers was similar to Tahrir Square in Egypt over and over again, but without a neutral army, with a security force that was actually not showing restraint and was shooting into the crowds and so on. So what we saw is a sentiment for freedom, which keeps expressing itself in different ways.
This way was difficult, I think, for an establishment that has over the last twenty years entrenched itself and geared itself to deal with militancy and some sort of armed struggle, and was now faced with young people, armed only with stones. And with all this weaponry that the Indian government has poured in there, they didn’t know what to do with those stones.MORE