I posted a photo of a bloody hand holding a large rock the other day as a cover photo for my Facebook page, and my comment about it said, “In honor of those who resist.” It signified the tragic insignia of Kashmir’s stone pelters—those who pick up stones and throw them at their oppressors, the Indians who wear all the trappings of military force who would take aim at such men and women who dare to defy the authority and dignity of the Indian state and blow their heads off or at least blind them with shotgun pellets..
I’m sure that there was some reaction among some of my peace-loving friends, who may have said, “What? Paul Barrow alleges to be an ambassador for the Global Village Forum. Where is the dove? Where is the olive branch? How can you be an ambassador for peace and celebrate violence?”
Certainly, it is a valid question. It is undeniably appropriate to advocate peace at all times wherever there is conflict. But let’s face it: in Kashmir’s normal state of affairs, there really is no conflict. Not most of the time. Normalcy is merely the pain and suffering of those who must endure, and endure, and endure, and have endured 69 years of a hostile and very unfriendly occupation by men who do not, and will not, acknowledge the rights of free men. They endorse, sanction and give lip service only the power of the state; they dedicate their lives and support their families in service to the power of dictatorial rule, the power of sit down and shut up or you will be jailed, or executed,and your wives and daughters raped. Your sons will disappear into the darkness never to be seen again, except at those rare moments when a lonely unmarked grave is discovered in a field, a child lost to the emptiness of an uncelebrated and undignified martyrdom.
Is that our peace? Do I commit my ambassadorship to such a fate? Should I be telling these young men who throw stones, “go home. Please don’t do that. It doesn’t help. Leave such affairs to us grownups, the men in suits who parade on red carpets, sip tea together in ornate halls, acquire fancy titles, and talk, talk, talk, while the oppression continues and gets worse and worse and worse.
Kashmir, they say, is not a disputed territory. It is an integral part of India. What are you going to do about it? Sit down and shut up, or you will be jailed, or executed, and your wives and daughters raped. You will be charged for sedition for even mentioning the notion that Kashmir is an independent state with its own right to sovereignty, its own right to self-determination.
Believe me when I say, I am not an ambassador for that kind of peace. .
The very loud and outspoken fact is that, were it not for the stone pelters, were it not for the massive civil disobedience and all the deaths and blindness that Kashmiris subject themselves to, these men in suits would themselves have to go home and shut up, and entertain their wives with talk of sweet nothings, and pretend to an importance that has no backbone, whose words drift through the air like so much putrid smell of an outhouse.
Don’’t get me wrong. I am not discounting the noble efforts of true diplomats who seek an honest and fair resoluition to the dispute.And I know such men. But their role is not a primary one. It is secondary to the role of the real champions, the men who have dared defy a power that acknowledges only itself for its own sake. If it were not for these champions, there would be no place for them. they could raise no funds for their glamorous institutions. They would have no titles that would mean a goddam thing. Because the real truth is that there must be war before there is a justifiable peace. Millions of men,women and children have invariably died and will continue to die so that you and I can live in dignity and choose how and where we want to live in pursuit of a life that truly has meaning.
India still doesn’t get it. That toothless tiger, the UN, still doesn’t get it. Not enough blood has been shed. Not enough people have starved. Not enough women have been raped. The demand for self-determination still echoes in our head like stones cascading off a brick wall. Kashmir’s voice is only dimly heard as a faint whimper in a world where massive violence and genocide is the order of the day. If Srinagar were Alleppo, do you think the world would pay attention then? Sad to say, but just maybe. Just maybe.
It should not have to come to that. But until there is global acknowledgement, Kashmir’s pain will not go away. The suffering will continue because its cry is a small cry in such a terrible world that only pays attention to the Aleppos, the Mosuls, and other great tragedies our men in suits commit.
I say it is not time for Kashmir to cry. It is time for kashmir to get angry, to get angrier, and to reach a point where the world cannot look upon it without feeling shame that it participates in such horror,and has the guts to really do something about it. All of us must be brave and make those sacrifices if we really want peace. And to that peace I am truly dedicated.