I had an interesting and instructive experience Saturday, on several counts. As I had said before signing off last week on my blogcation, I left not only the blog, but Facebook and Twitter behind. I tried to disconnect a little. In truth, I did make a couple of personal comments on Facebook, and I checked onto Twitter a couple of times so that any friends who had contacted me wouldn’t think I was ignoring them. I couldn’t have someone stopping by for a “visit” and be rude. It appears Julia has Midwesternized me a bit.
On Saturday I received a tweet from someone in Kashmir – not a Twitter friend – who had tweeted me several times before in recent weeks to tell me about the rising death toll from Indian security forces among Kashmiri protesters. I know a bit about the situation in Kashmir, but I’m hardly expert and have no reliable knowledge of the details of the past couple of months of protest and violence. In fact, that was the point for me. You will search almost fruitlessly in the Western media for coverage of recent events. Only today was I able to find this brief AFP account (and now those that follow in links below) of a most recent death. More comprehensive coverage, with photos, is available at Greater Kashmir, according to Wikipedia “the leading Indian English language newspaper printed daily from Srinagar, the summer capital of the state of Jammu and Kashmir in India.” Greater Kashmir is Kashmiri nationalist organ that “criticizes both the Pakistani and Indian Governments as well as the J&K State Government and pro-Pakistan separatists. It has spoken out against atrocities by Indian security forces and Pakistani militants.”
My correspondent alerted me that deaths had now reached 62, while the “world is still sleeping.” Given my own frustration over lack of coverage, I chose to play my small part in spreading awareness and retweet the message from Kashmir. I very quickly received a long series of tweets from an Indian friend, who warned me against being “blinded by extremists calls.” My correspondent, very much an Indian partisan in the matter, became emotional in a quite human and understandable way, for which she apologized. Still, she led me to pause and consider my action. My intent had been only to spread some news. As usual, I edited the tweet only minimally, to enable the retweet to come in under 140 characters; otherwise, however, I retweeted it as written – and as written, it had been critical of India. I recognize that as an error.
I made a similar error a few months back when I repeated – as if it were established fact – the claims that Tea Partiers had spat on Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and called Congressmen John Lewis and Barney Frank “nigger” and “faggot.” As it turned out, there is no clear evidence on camera of any of this, though Cleaver and Congressmen James Clyburn and Frank offered their own testimony. WhileI credit their accounts, the facts are in dispute still, with no determinative evidence, so I should not have stated the claims as fact. Of course, the lack of recorded evidence – there is a very loud din of screams and calls on the available video, amid which any single voice might easily go intelligibly unrecorded – is not proof to the contrary, yet many conservatives, including some who criticized me, state that the claims were a lie, as if that were established, when it is not. We have not yet reached the metaphysical state, though clearly many reality-program participants and celebrity hounds believe it, in which to exist is to exist on camera. But we all have our own standards of evidentiary rigor. Andrew Breitbart has offered, I believe, a hundred million billion dollars to anyone who can provide documentary evidence of a shout from a crowd, and we all know what kind of standards Andrew Breitbart has.
So now I have further guidelines for myself to regulate my retweeting. And on the subject of Kashmir, I found that my proffer to my Indian correspondent that the issue is a complex one was roundly rejected. It is not complex, she said. “Jammu & Kashmir’s erstwhile king decided to join indian union.pakistan has got nothing to do with Kashmir.” Now, while the Israeli-Arab conflict may have deeper roots in time, the Hindu-Muslim dispute over Jammu and Kashmir has a complex history too, almost identical in age – in their most recent manifestations – to that of the Israeli-Arab dispute. Amid the conflict and confusion of the partition between India and Pakistan, the Maharaja of Kashmir, as the agreement between Pakistan and India permitted, chose to be part of India – even though the population of Kashmir at the time was an estimated 77% Muslim. We might all agree, even without the benefit of now splendid hindsight, that this offered not a road map to an untroubled future.
Beyond that I won’t stray today, except to note, more parochially, this photo from Greater Pakistan of a Washington D.C. rally by Kashmiris.
A special envoy, indeed. There is none. Nor are there the widely publicized reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that are regularly issued, especially during such periods of conflict, regarding Israel and Arab-Muslim forces. There are no investigations or condemnations by the U.N. Human Rights Council. There is no BDS movement against either India or Pakistan, there is no political romance of a Kashmiri “intifada” (though, I discover, my Kashmiri correspondent does claim solidarity with the Palestinians), and there are no famous artists and performers canceling visits and concerts in India, Pakistan, or Kashmir.
Of course, I don’t believe there is a regular rock concert circuit in Pakistan and Kashmir. Noam Chomsky, on the other hand, I am sure, waits even now at an Indian policed border for admittance into Pakistani administered Northern Kashmir, where he will condemn India and express his own solidarity with Pakistani militants. What would Kashmir do without him?
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