By Sajad Hassan Khan, Sartaj Hafiz Rathore, Ishrat Mushtaq Malik
“It is not enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it is not enough to believe in it. One must work at it”. (Eleanor Roosevelt).
The history of mankind is replete with examples that where there is peace and harmony, there is progress and development; and where there is war and turmoil, there is regress and decay. The Indian subcontinent carries with it the dirty stains of partition and the brutal memories therein. Unfortunately both the nuclear powers are unable to garner peace for more than seven decades now. This is in line with the recent face-off between India and Pakistan along the LOC that witnessed many lives, as always, including two children, both seven years of age, one from Indian side and the other from Pakistani side. This is a moral shame for both the countries. What a pity!!!
In her book, Kashmir as a Borderland: The Politics of Space and Belonging across the Line of Control, Antia Mato Bouzas, a Spanish political scientist, argues that,“the opening of the LOC to connect Srinagar and Muzaffarabad (and other points between the Kashmir Valley/Northern Jammu and ‘POK/PAK’) in 2005 was intended to facilitate the visits of divided families and boost cross-border economic ties through trade. This and other confidence building measures aim[ed] to transform the conflict character of the region without addressing the question of ‘social justice’. Groups on both sides who do not recognize the LOC as border maintain that its opening to exchanges, an apparent deterritorialization process, is in fact contributing to its institutionalization as a border” [Sic.]
The border has created a distinct political space, and that is the space of conflict and the uncertainty of this conflict has permeated the lives of inhabitants at all degrees. The valley looks like a vast military camp and people around the LOC are punctuated by sounds of machine gun fire, Kalashnikov rifle shots and heavy bofor shelling. India and Pakistan have fought four sanguinary wars (1947-48, 1965, 1971, 1999) whereby atrocities by the army and the paramilitary forces from both the sides have not stopped since 1950s, and shelling and firing still shows no signs of abating. This military face-off along the LOC has inflicted heavy loss of life and property since then, claiming the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians including women and children.
Even amid the pandemic, there are no signs of flattening of the violence.
As an editorial in ‘The Diplomat’ (11-11-2016) and in several articles from time to time in the ‘Indian Express’point out, “Seemingly, the forces of the two countries claim to target only the border posts. However that is far from reality. ‘They are hitting villages too, sometimes deliberately, and are thus willfully endangering the lives of civilians’ on both sides of the border, hence destabilizing the entire region. (There is no need to put the exact figures here).
The rising scale of such incidents have brought both the countries on the verge of increasing hostility and their relations to a standstill. As per the report of the ‘Economic Times’ (January 5, 2020), “the year 2019 recorded the highest ever ceasefire violations (by Pakistan) in Jammu and Kashmir in the last 16 years”. However, according to another report in the ‘Dawn’ – a Pakistan based daily newspaper- (October 22, 2019), “the Indians have committed 2000 ceasefire violations since 2017”. Stepping up the diplomatic efforts to isolate the neighboring/rival country at regional and global levels won’t do when the media establishments of both the countries, playing blame games and using mixture of lies, tend to show the ceasefire violations and atrocities to be the recklessness on part of each other without providing a more realistic depiction of the contemporary socio-economic plight of both the countries. This imagining constructs a wretched barometer of public attitudes in the mass media and spreads hatred that stinks like rotten eggs.
Given the tense standoff after the ceasefire violations, from time to time, by India and Pakistan, patriotism bordering on anti-Pakistan jingoism and anti-India nationalism became popular and major theme of the cinemas of both the countries. Hence, the ‘Film and Television Institutes’ of both the countries have left no stone unturned in the proliferation of anti-India and anti-Pakistan films which have spewed venom amongst the populace of both the countries. Movies like J.P. Dutta’s Border (1997), the excessive jingoism of Ghadar (2001), the covert operation displayed in Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019), etc., are some of the examples of Indian box office hits. Similarly, Pakistani films like Haidar Ali (1978), Parwaz Hai Junoon (2018), and Azaadi (2018) among many others have featured overtly chauvinistic outlook based on anti-India rhetoric. Such films are a clear departure from the overtly secular outlook of films associated with the writings of Rajendra Singh Bedi, Kaifi Azmi, Saadat Hassan Manto, Ali Sardar Jafri, Amrita Pritam etc.
Happymon Jacob, the Associate Professor of disarmament studies at the School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi rightly said in an interview to the “South Asian Voices” (11-05-2008), “It’s important to remember that we do not have any written down ceasefire agreement. All we have at this point of time is a telephone conversation between the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan in 2003. You can’t man a border of 1,125 kilometers that is infested with all kinds of complications with a telephone conversation. You need to have do’s, don’ts, principles, norms, regulations put down in black and white”.
Who are we?
In the 21st century, we have become a society of drug abusers/peddlers, socio-psychological victims, traumatic and terrorized citizens, unemployed lots ‘structured in poor industrial habitat’ with negligible status of the private sector, fractured educational system; continual, if not continuous, internet blockades, social vices like breaking up of the institution of family as a social unit, late marriages, dowry, superstition, gender injustice, stark poverty, and what not!
What do we get?
Various kinds of national and regional political formulations have been milking this tragedy in most rapacious manner. Mere politicking won’t do, neither would communalization of society and politics. One needs to look at this issue without just making it the India-Pakistan question or a religious question; it is not just these two. It is like a jigsaw puzzle; the jumble of socio-economic, political and cultural underpinnings. It is also about the atrocities perpetrated against the population of all the provinces alike; of the thousands of missing youth, of the extrajudicial killings, of the widowed women and orphaned and blinded children, of the raped girls and enforced disappearances. Moreover along the LOC, on both the sides, the situation is frightening and terrible. The paralyzed educational system, the absence of rehabilitation policies and programs for the victims of ceasefire violations, poor internet access, inadequate women empowerment schemes, the unorganized and irregulated drug de-addiction centers, the lack of career counseling cells for the educated youth and the increasing trauma among the people, especially children, etc., have been adding to the miseries of the people since decades.
It is obvious that the post Covid-19 world would not be the same as before. The shrinking economies and the frustrated governments could give way to much aggravated economic crisis and political instability. That’s why peace and absence of wars would be the biggest necessity for the coming days. It is indispensable for both the countries to take steps for upholding and maintaining peace. Resumption of talks and dialogue process between the two governments (Track 1 diplomacy) seems to be the conventional theme now. This calls for looking into the Kashmir conflict by transcending these “conventional ways” and adopting some new ways of looking into the bewilderingly complicated nature of this enduring tragedy. Those responsible regional, national and international political formulations need to be exposed, and for all this to happen, civil societies (Track 2 diplomacy) within Kashmir as well as in rest of India and the world needs to be strengthened by bringing the intellectuals, socio-political scientists, religious leaders, and the likes, from both the sides to deliberate upon the said issues and try to work for a peaceful future.
Is this problem as intractable as it has thus far been? Can’t we expose the forces in order to lay bare the ground realities which are far away from what the rest of the world is being led to believe? Is this the fate of Kashmiri’s or just the politicking of the political leaders? Are we really loved or is Kashmir a mere strategic necessity?
When the power of love is greater than the love of power, the world will know peace..
Sajad Hassan Khan, Sartaj Hafiz Rathore, Ishrat Mushtaq Malik are Doctoral candidates in Modern Indian History at Aligarh Muslim University Aligarh.