AS she walked down the street, they grabbed her. She struggled but they overpowered her. They smeared her face with a black substance that burnt her skin and her eyes. This was not the first time that she was captured in this manner. She had been abducted and arrested by the police many times and was subjected to forced sexual assaults. Her husband was kept in custody and tortured to the extent that his lower body was permanently paralysed. He died shortly after that.
This is the story of Soni Sori. Her hushed up tale of horror has been downplayed by the Indian state, not unlike the atrocities in Kashmir. What is her crime? This 41 year old tribal activist has been speaking out against the fake encounters that the police carry out in Bastar (her hometown in the Chattisgarh state) against the activists who oppose the Indian state. But the more the state tries to quieten her, the louder she protests the barbarism of the establishment against her own people. She yields utmost respect among the humanitarian sections of the society now.
There are countless others in India which like Soni Sori, have been subjected to unspeakable torture by the Indian state because they stand up for their rights. Kashmir, Assam, Manipur, Punjab, Nagaland, Orissa, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, the list goes on and on. All these states of India are facing unrest due to the scuffles between the government and the masses that have no faith in the policies of the government. They are either demanding freedom from the shackles of the prejudiced state or at least the provision of basic facilities like water, food, shelter, toilets, etc. A rough total of 67 secessionist movements exist in India and their struggles are suppressed so that the world does not discover that the ‘formidable’ state of India is unravelling from within.
It is unnerving to observe the terror that one state is capable of unleashing against its own people. Blinding young people with pellets, burning, paralysing and subjecting people to psychological torture, it is all being done in India where the Kashmiri struggle for freedom is not the only one that needs the attention of the world. In any other country, such dire circumstances would warrant a more serious agenda towards tackling these problems than the current Indian policy. It seems almost as if toddlers and lunatics have been devising both the domestic and foreign policies of India. Let’s have a look. They killed a young and celebrated freedom fighter in Kashmir which obviously infuriated the already exasperated masse of IOK. Then in order to control protests, they committed more brutalities against the people by opening fire at unarmed civilians and they blinded young people with pellet guns.
They orchestrated the Uri attack, resulting in the death of 18 Indian soldiers and blamed it on Pakistan, while conveniently forgetting that the sheer geographical location of Uri is inaccessible to Pakistan or any other country. Then they claimed that the equipment and remnants of the Uri attack had Pakistani markings on them. This claim was refuted by the Indian media and it also brings a question to mind. Even if hypothetically, the Pakistani military were to be behind the Uri attack, why would it use equipment with its own standard markings? It is the most absurd allegation that the Indian government has ever made against Pakistan, perhaps only second to the infamous ‘pigeon’ allegations.
Even before partition, India was home to a plethora of communities that added to its diversified beauty but the prejudiced policies of the Modi government that are targeted at all non-Hindu sections of the society, have torn apart the social fabric in India. Instead of carrying out ‘surgical’ strikes (which are in no way surgical), against Pakistan, India should cultivate unification among its own scattered sections and it needs to ‘surgically’ remove bigoted elements that sow discord. Why not start by overthrowing the most bigoted tea-seller in the world? It is only a suggestion; the rest is up to them.
— The writer is Research Assistant at Institute of Strategic Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.