Friday, 14 April 2017
Tuesday, 11 April 2017
This isn’t really an article; it’s a question I’ve been pondering for a long time, and I’d request some coherent answers.
This is the question:
Can someone please explain to me why the hell we need to hold on to Kashmir?
As you probably know, I wrote a book on the Kashmir insurgency, and long before I even started researching the topic, I was already thinking about this. And to this day I have no answer.
Why are we hanging on to Kashmir?
Why are we spending enormous amounts to garrison the one third of this state that we control, while pretending that all of it belongs to us and that we’ll someday get it back? (Spoiler alert: we won’t.)
Why is it that while we can’t even wipe out a relatively lightly armed guerrilla force (no anti-aircraft missiles, no mortars, no artillery, next to no landmines, let alone armour and air support; this isn’t Syria), we continue with the same tactics that haven’t secured victory in almost thirty years of fighting? How long do we want this bloodshed to continue?
Why have we alienated an entire generation of the state’s youth, and turned tens of thousands of them to violent insurgency? Why are our soldiers under such pressure to eliminate said insurgents that they have been known to snatch innocent men off the street, murder them, and pass them off as “militants”? Why do we have our soldiers posing with the corpses of dead militants/”militants” like hunted animals? Whose dignity does this enhance?
Why do we keep compelling people to vote in elections in which the turnout averages between five and ten per cent, and resort to forcing them to vote at gunpoint to make numbers look better if necessary?
Why are we murdering protestors when not blinding them with buckshot blasts to the face? And not just protestors, innocent onlookers as well? Why are we actually committing the acts the cannibal jihadi propaganda ascribes to Bashar Assad’s government in 2011? He didn’t do it, but we actually are.
Why? Why are we creating a situation which will inevitably lead to the likes of ISIS taking the opportunity to set up base in the country and making a permanent running sore?
Why, if we are genuinely concerned about the welfare of Kashmiris, if we think of them as Indians rather than conquered inhabitants of an occupied and colonised territory, do we not ask them what they want and allow their own wishes to be heard? Why are we so fixated on this state that we are prepared to turn it into a gigantic prison camp just to keep it under some kind of control?
This is not to say that Pakistan is any better; the way it has treated the Kashmiris is arguably as bad or even worse. But the point is, we aren’t Pakistan. What they do shouldn’t be a template for what we do.
Nor is it an apologia for the Kashmiris, who have also committed their share of crimes; most notably the forcible expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Hindus (Pandits). But that came after, not before, the insurgency erupted, and in all the years afterwards, India has done nothing to ensure those Pandits can go back to Kashmir. So is it even interested in that happening, or are the Pandits just an excuse to justify oppressing Kashmiris, a whole generation of whom were born after they left and have not the slightest responsibility for throwing them out at all?
What will happen if we withdraw from Kashmir? Will the heavens fall? Will the other states of India immediately begin breaking away one by one? Is that it?
And if that is it, isn’t that proof that India is an artificial entity kept together only by military force, and such an entity cannot survive indefinitely in any case?
Or is that the real reason is that our overlords need an excuse to justify their oppressive laws, their obscene military expenditure, and also a raison d’être to divert our attention whenever necessary with a nice little war scare?
Is it "strategic"? What, in the nuclear age, is "strategic" about holding on to a mountain state which is difficult to supply, is snowed in for half the year, and in any case is bordered to the south by another state just as mountainous? Do we want to pretend that Pakistani divisions will descend on the North Indian plains and take Delhi through Kashmir? If that is so, what are our vaunted military forces good for?
Why the hell are we hanging on to Kashmir?
I really would like some answers. Logical, coherent answers.
Sunday, 9 April 2017
There were zombies wandering down the street when Sammyboy walked down the stairs from his flat. He walked down the stairs because the lift wasn’t working, and the lift wasn’t working because the electricity was off. And the electricity was off because the majority of the power company employees had become zombies.
Sammyboy hated walking down the stairs, because he was fat. He hated going outside at all, but he needed to find some money, because the rent was due and there was nothing to eat. And because there was no electricity he couldn’t play his video games. So he was coming down the stairs.
This is what happened then.
Sammyboy hesitated slightly when he saw the zombies. Not that he had any fear of them, but because he noticed that they included a few acquaintances. Only one of them came over, though.
“Hi, Sammyboy,” she said. It was Vizzy’s girl, JonaliJonali. Sammyboy had had an enormous crush on her once, but that had been when she was alive. He hadn’t made a move on her, though, because he’d been convinced she was far too beautiful to take the slightest notice of him. Besides, Vizzy was very big and very strong. In any case, he hadn’t seen her for a while, hadn’t known she’d become a zombie.
“Uh, hello,” Sammyboy said. JonaliJonali was still amazingly pretty, even though she was a zombie. Apart from the greenish waxy sheen on her skin and the slight blue tinge on her lips, you’d hardly know she was no longer alive. She even had all her teeth, and they were as white as ever. “I see you’re a zombie now.”
“Yes, of course,” JonaliJonali said. “I thought you knew.”
“Um, no, nobody told me.” Sammyboy tried to edge around JonaliJonali, but she had planted herself right in his path. “Where’s Vizzy?”
“Why are you asking about him? He’s gone, past, finished with.” JonaliJonali waved her hand, trying to snap her fingers. They slipped off each other with a noise like wet rubber. “I don’t care about him anymore. You, on the other hand...” She paused dramatically.
“Me?” Sammyboy said, when the dramatic pause seemed to be set to become a permanent pause. “What about me?”
“You always liked me, didn’t you?” JonaliJonali ran a finger down Sammyboy’s face. He tried not to flinch, and she giggled. “Don’t worry. You won’t become a zombie just because I touch you.”
Sammyboy stood frozen to the spot as she ran her finger down his face again. It felt quite warm, not cold and clammy as he’d expected. In fact, it felt quite good, really. It was the first time she’d ever touched him.
In fact, it was the first time any girl had ever touched him, or any zombie girl, though Sammyboy wasn’t going to admit it. “How did you become a zombie?” he asked, because he suddenly began to feel weak in the knees.
“Kiss me and I’ll tell you,” JonaliJonali said, and laughed at his expression. “No, really, you idiot. Kiss me. It won’t make you into a zombie. I promise.”
Sammyboy pressed his lips briefly to hers. The touch felt like electricity all through his body. It was, after all, the first time he’d ever kissed anyone. Then she nipped his lip with her front teeth, and he jumped back in alarm.
“I’m just tasting you, you little nit. There’s no need to be scared.” She ran her tongue around her lips, frowning, and nodded. “Yes, you’ll make a good zombie.”
“A zombie?” Sammyboy yelped. “I don’t want to be a zombie.”
“Why not? Look at you. You don’t have a job, you don’t have any money, you don’t have any friends. I’ll bet you’ve never even slept with anyone.” She watched Sammyboy flinch, not attempting to hide her satisfaction. “You don’t have a hope in the world. You’re wondering how you’re going to avoid ending up starving. If you become a zombie, you don’t have to worry about any of that.”
“I won’t have to worry about starving? What do I do then, eat people?”
JonaliJonali laughed so hard she’d have wept tears of mirth if she’d not been a zombie and had still had working lacrimal glands. “Eat?” she said when she’d stopped spluttering. “Zombies are dead, you moron. Why should we need to eat?”
“But I don’t know anything about becoming a zombie,” Sammyboy said. “I’ve never been a zombie. Everyone says zombies are awful.”
“Everyone? Awful?” JonaliJonali cocked her head like a terrier, thinking about this. “Well, in that case, you might as well listen to everyone. I was thinking of being your girl, but if everyone told you I’m awful...” She shrugged elaborately and turned away. “Best of luck, then,” she called over her shoulder, striding away.
“Wait, wait.” Sammyboy trotted to catch up with her. “Did you say you’d be my girl?”
“Yes, I did say that. You taste right. But you don’t want to be a zombie, you said.”
“Let me think about it.” Sammyboy looked around wildly. Except for a couple of human beings in the distance, everyone in the street was a zombie. One drove by in a car, eyes shut, leaning back in the seat, headphones clamped over his head. The car hit the pavement, jumped over it, rammed a wall and came to a stop. The zombie took off the headphones, got out and sauntered away. “Look at that,” Sammyboy said.
“Yes,” JonaliJonali agreed, “look at that. As a zombie he can do that if he wants. What can they do to him, kill him? What’s he got to lose? What have you got to lose?”
“I’m thinking,” Sammyboy said. He noticed, but no longer cared, that they were going in the opposite direction from the one that he’d been planning to take. “Why did you become a zombie?”
“Why? I was getting tired of being human. It seemed a good idea. It still seems a good idea.” JonaliJonali was carrying a shoulder bag. She fished a thick book out of it. “Look at that.”
Sammyboy looked. “Advanced integral calculus?” he said incredulously. “You’re reading advanced integral calculus?”
“To tell you the truth, no. But I could if I wanted, and I’d have the time to do it, and nothing to distract me. That’s why I carry it around.” JonaliJonali glanced at him. “Well?”
“All right,” Sammyboy gulped. “Just supposing I agree to become a zombie – just supposing, I said – how do I go about it? Do you have to bite me?”
“Nothing so crude,” JonaliJonali said, grinning. “Those days of biting and clawing are all over. We aren’t savages like you humans. Come along to the Zombie Centre, and I’ll show you.”
“The Zombie Centre?”
“It’s just over there.” JonaliJonali pointed at a tall building, and Sammyboy saw workzombies fixing a signboard over the entrance. “There are so many of us now we decided we needed one. Ah, here’s Dr Necrotica.”
The good doctor was a tall woman zombie in a white coat. She nodded affably to JonaliJonali and looked speculatively at Sammyboy. “He should do,” she said. “He’s got enough body fat to power the conversion, and you say you’ve tasted his blood?”
“Yes, he’s compatible. Can we do it now, Doctor?”
“Of course. We’re always eager to have new zombies.”
“Body fat?” Sammyboy said anxiously. “What about it?”
“Don’t worry,” Dr Necrotica assured him. “If you have a lot of body fat, like you, for example, we can just power the process with it. You don’t just become a zombie, you become a healthy, fit zombie!”
“You’ll be delicious,” JonaliJonali said, squeezing Sammyboy’s arm. “Come on, let’s get it done.”
“It’s wholly painless,” Dr Necrotica said, ushering them into a white room. The walls were white, the floor was white tile, the ceiling was white, the huge machine sitting in the middle of the room was white. It was all so gleaming white that Sammyboy felt dirty just being there. “We have the latest equipment, from Sweden. It feeds Z serum into your blood. So much neater and more zombane than all that biting and stuff. Strip behind that screen, put on the robe you’ll find there.”
The screen was white, of course, and so was the robe. When Sammyboy came out Dr Necrotica had slid a shelf out from the machine. It looked like a morgue drawer. “Lie down there, please.”
Sammyboy lay down. The drawer slid shut. Things clicked and muttered, and violet and green lights began shining in patterns that quickly became hypnotic. He felt a sharp prick on one finger, and as Z-serum flowed into his blood, a warm feeling ran all through him, rather like hot soup on a cold night. The lights shut off.
And then Sammyboy was a zombie.
They’d just left the Zombie Centre, walking hand in hand – as they could now they were both zombies, who was going to stop them, the police? – when who should come up but Vizzy.
He looked from one of them to the other. “Sammyboy, what are you doing with my girl?”
“I’m not your girl anymore, Vizzy,” JonaliJonali said. “I stopped being your girl long ago, when you...”
“I don’t care about that,” Vizzy said, snarling. He stepped forward, cocking a huge fist. “You let go of my girl, Sammyboy, or I’ll smash you in the teeth.”
“Wait,” Sammyboy began to say, but he was too late. Vizzy’s huge fist hurtled towards him and smashed him in the teeth.
Blood flowed. Very little of it was Sammyboy’s own.
“You idiot!” Vizzy yelped, dancing around, holding his fist with his other hand. “You dirty, unhygienic idiot! Look what your teeth have done!”
“I’m sorry,” Sammyboy tried to say, wiping away the few half clotted drops of blood his split lips had exuded. “But I didn’t mean to cut you.”
“You did it, though, didn’t you?” Then a sudden change began to come over Vizzy. His skin paled and his lips went blue. “God,” he whispered. “I’m a zombie!”
“But how?” Sammyboy asked. “You didn’t go into the Centre.”
“It was your blood that did it, getting in mine. You and your stupid blood. I have a good mind to smash you to pulp.”
“Wait,” JonaliJonali said. She had a hungry look in her eyes. “You refused to become a zombie when I did and so I dumped you. But now you’re a zombie too.”
“Yes, I am, aren’t I?” Vizzy looked at her. “Coming?”
JonaliJonali took his arm. “Coming.”
“Wait,” Sammyboy yelped. “What about me?”
“What about you?” JonaliJonali said. She reached into her bag and threw him the calculus book. “You can have that if you want.”
And then Sammyboy was an integral calculus book-reading zombie.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2017
There is a woman called Syria.
A man looked at her one day
With greed and lust in his eyes.
He beat her and battered her
Tore at her clothes, tried to rape her
But she fought back, she fought him back
And made him afraid.
So he stood in the marketplace
And screamed her name
Filled with hate and imprecations
Said she was to blame.
Came a crowd of people
Armed with sticks and with stones
To take hold of this woman
Cut her and break her bones.
But still she stands tall and unafraid
She seeks to stay free
Syria, I bow my head before you
Give a little of your courage to me.
When your enemies retreat again
As in time they must do -
Let me kneel at your feet a moment
In homage to you.
Copyright B Purkayastha 2017