THE Kashmir issue is yet again in the limelight. The rallies organized on Thursday in Srinagar were ample proof of the people's determination to fight on indefinitely for asserting their right of self-determination, something that had long ago been acknowledged by the UN. One can clearly make out the chorus in its condemnation of Indian highhandedness and the people's love for their freedom. Nevertheless in the face of this grim picture, it is heartening to see some Indian intellectuals criticizing vehemently New Delhi's Kashmir policy. One cannot help but praise Arundhati Roy, the world-renowned novelist and human rights activist, for demanding 'azadi' for Kashmir. Her comments urging the Indian government to end its occupation of the disputed region has certainly put the Indians in an awkward position. This would gain Kashmiris more listening ears and would moreover introduce the conflict in its right perspective. And such was the power of Ms Roy's comments, that it angered the Indian government, forcing Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma to say that it was preposterous for anyone to say so. The recent conflagration in the Valley clearly points to the state government's reliance on strong-arm tactics. The protests in the last few months were indeed against the government's decision to transfer 100 acres of land to a Hindu Shrine Board for building structures for the yatrees. Not surprisingly, the subsequent demonstrations against this move turned pro-independence. But the manner in which the authorities handled this episode was barbarous, to say the least. It also resorted to other devious methods like the economic blockade of the Valley by cutting off the highway connecting the valley to the rest of India. And when the protesters took to the streets they were met with bullets, resulting in deaths of a number of people, including the APHC leader Sheikh Aziz. These events would have to be seen in the backdrop of the current peace process going on between Islamabad and New Delhi, including the resumption of the trans-Kashmir bus service. But unfortunately the latter without any doubt appears to be lacking in its commitment to the composite dialogue. If anything, it wants its influence to dominate the region, be it through Machiavellian methods. Even a local affair like the upgrading of our Air Force was something that unnerved the Indian Air Chief Marshal F H Major who referred to it as a worrying development. Doesn't such hegemonic designs, especially the conflict in Kashmir, stand out as a massive contradiction to Indian claims of being the world's largest democracy?