Govt disallows author Mridu Rai’s lecture in Srinagar

Srinagar: The authorities on Wednesday disallowed prominent Indian author and academician Mridu Rai to deliver a lecture in Srinagar.
Mridu was scheduled to give a lecture on ‘Languages of Violence, Languages of Justice: the State and Insurgent Kashmir’ on Pt Rugunath Vaishnavi Annual Talk organised by the J&K Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) at a local hotel here.
However, the lecture was banned by the authorities at the last moment after the hotel authorities told the organisers to get permission from district magistrate.
“We had done the booking two weeks ago, but we were conveyed by the hotel authorities on Tuesday evening that they were ordered by police and civil administration not to allow us to conduct the program, otherwise their hotel will be sealed. So we had to cancel the program,” JKCCS president Parvez Imroz said while addressing a press conference.
He said the state has invoked Section 144 under which four or more persons can’t assemble at a public place.
“We knew only pro-India parties and a particular section of people can hold programs in public places. That is why we were going to assemble in a hotel and hotel is a private place. We had invited selected people, so Section 144 could not be invoked here and we did not need permission from the authorities. We condemn such an act by the state,” said Imroz.
Speaking on the occasion, Mridu said the greatest violence which can be done by the state “is silence to make sure that voices can’t be heard.”
“So I have to see illustration of it today in Srinagar,” Mridu, formerly a professor of South Asian History at the Trinity College, Dublin, who recently joined Calcutta’s Presidency University, said.
She said the ban on the lecture was “ludicrous which does not fall within the ambit of Section 144.”
“We were going to have conversation with each other; if that is dangerous then state is in trouble in Kashmir. We are not allowed to speak, but we will still speak. I will speak from wherever I can. You will still hear me,” said Mridu.
When Kashmir Reader contacted Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Farooq Ahmad Shah, he feigned ignorance about the ban on the lecture.
“I don’t have detail about who was going to conduct the program and who has been banned,” Shah said.
Meanwhile, Mridu delivered a lecture to limited audience at JKCCS office at The Bund here. She said that Kashmiris should find alternative means to make their voices heard outside Kashmir and India.
“You can raise the voice for justice only to expose the state, but you can’t seek justice from it which will only legitimise the state institutions. You should find alternatives to take your voice to international forums,” said Mridu.
“You seek justice from someone when you know he will give you that, but Kashmiris can never get justice from India, and if they will, they will get it in the form of AFSPA and PSA.
“Right to self-determination is a powerful language which can’t be denied at international level,” she added.
She said that since 1989, the Indian state has created a language to portray Kashmiris as violent and dangerous in which voices of Kashmiris have become invisible.
“They portray that all of you are dangerous, terribly dangerous except those who can help the Indian state,” she said.
She said the state killed 117 boys in 2010 saying that they were violent, but she thinks that the state has forgotten what the violence means.
“In language of violence the army man has right to be violent while the boy who is hurling the stone does not have that right,” said Mridu.
“In Kashmir you can only be violent, otherwise you are not Kashmiri. If you are Kashmiri and you are not violent you are not allowed to be Kashmiri,” she said.