KASHMIR CRISIS: LET PEACE HAVE A CHANCE!
BY: Dost Dar
Kashmir is a happy combination of mighty splendor of mountains of lovely glades and forests. Its water resources are unique in the entire world with hundreds of lakes and thousands of streams and springs with crystal clear waters. Kashmir has always fascinated kings, intruders, nature lovers, saints, mystics and poets and thus earned the title ‘Paradise on Earth’.
But today the picture is different. Of course it had been truly a paradise, a land where Rishis lived, an abode of peace and tranquility and a meeting place of various cultures, a great learning seat for various religions and also a vibrant trade route between India and Central Asia.
So much so that a renowned poet and philosopher, Dr Sir Mohammad Iqbal once said that ‘Kashmir is a place where God is seen without a veiled’.
کوہ و دریا غروب آفتاب
من خدا دیدم آنجا بے حجاب
The mountain, the lake and the sun set
Lo! I see God unveiled
And as G R Malik puts it: “Ever since it emerged as a fresh vale from the waters of the great Sati Sar which was desiccate, it has seen cataclysmic ups and downs in its history and this is fairly well known in great deal but what has seldom been realized is that Kashmir served as a potent source of inspiration for most vibrant literary renaissance of England, the romantic movement of 19th century.
Almighty has been generous enough to this land, but Alas! When in 1947 India and Pakistan were emerging as free nations from the British Empire, Jammu and Kashmir was not only left unresolved but deliberately and intricately made into a labyrinth. Thus, the most dangerous dispute on the earth was born.
The Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan is perhaps the most dangerous dividing line in the world. Both India and Pakistan have their own political reasons for continuing hostilities and at times small scale wars too happen. ‘A disaster on a monumental scale’ says Richard H. Curtiss in Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, (August 2002) when refereeing to this dispute.
Now when massacres, bloodbaths, disappearances, tortures, rapes, exoduses etc are happening on a constant pace since last few decades, no wonder that the title-Heaven on Earth’ doesn’t belong here anymore.
Caught between the two guns, Kashmir valley is witnessing a strange situation of killings and uncertainties for more than three decades now. Commoners scream and shout for the loss of lives that has become a routine here but are not able to do anything to change the status quo maintained by two nuclear neighbors vis-à-vis their Kashmir policy.
Killings, forced disappearances, fake encounters, severe injuries to protestors, suppression of freedom of speech, lack of accountability on part of both the mainstream as well as separatists has been going on here unabated and there are definitely quite a few for whom the conflict is not just a simple conflict but a full-fledged conflict industry. However, commoners continue to suffer sullenly.
Protracted strikes and frequent restrictions have rendered the masses- especially the poor- highly vulnerable to various challenges of life including difficult living conditions as well as acute helplessness that sometimes results in potential immorality. A section of the people, the men in grey suits, adopted a policy of ‘Run with Hare and hunt with Hounds’ and are benefitting from all sides and these are the people who have proliferated the problem even further.
The present Kashmir plight has been best described by Late Agha Shahid Ali in his book ‘A Country Without Post Office’ when he says that “…. in this paradise no one is safe. How many intellectuals were swallowed by the abyss of horror, where politics is the only industry and horror is sold like a commodity. The unfortunate part is that the leadership is divided, interested in selling Ice to Eskimos”
One of the sad consequences of this dispute is our environment which has been totally neglected and ignored as if it weren’t ours and as if talking about environment would be a digression from the mainstream discussion i.e Kashmir dispute. The disppaerance of our forest covers, the massive concretization of the agricultural lands, the melting of high altitude glaciers and the entire species of flora and fauna greatly disturbed since mid –eighties when the area was first time militarized. The depleting water resources and the forest cover of the region is equally important concerns for India and Pakistan as well as Kashmir- One can say it is a collective inheritance that needs to be conserved and therefore demilitarizing the area is a dire immediacy.
The idea of demilitarizing and declaring Siachin a ‘Peace Park’ had been presented by Environmentalists and Peace Activists in part to preserve the fragile ecosystem of the region badly affected by the military presence at 5th World Peace Park conference in 2003 at Durban.
Why can’t we begin peace process from Kashmir- attributed as Heaven on Earth- and let Kashmir be a ‘Peace Park’. Let the Durban concept be extended to entire Kashmir on either side.Lets demilitarize Kashmir, lets demilitrarize Paradise and the start could be a single company of soliders by India and Pakistan. We can’t the two neighbors work on this proposal and come forward to begin demilitarizing the environmentally sensitive areas first.
If both India and Pakistan claim to be well wishers of Kashmir, then why Kashmir on both sides of LOC has been turned into world’s largest militarized place on earth- a hell in reality.
While India and Pakistan have fought wars over Kashmir and people of Kashmir have always stood for ‘right to self determination’ guaranteed by the United Nations, the situation seems relentlessly turning ugly by each passing day. Since 2008, there have been mass protests and gross human rights violations. More and more locals have taken arms and have joined militant ranks while forces have also adopted a tough and rigid policy. There seems no light at the end of the tunnel as both India and Pakistan seem least concerned regarding initiating a meaningful dialogue. The hostilities continue on both the sides and Kashmir continues to bear the brunt.
Picking of arms by well-read and scholarly persons who get killed in encounters is a matter of grave concern for everybody and the recent statement issued by the Jehad Council, after Dr Manan Wani’s killing, that counseled youth to complete their studies can be looked as a positive change. However the warning issued to SPO’s to quit their jobs by militants is yet another serious worry for it has the potential of triggering a civil war in Kashmir.
Perhaps the biggest unfortunate part of Kashmir is that the society and the leadership remains divided in different interest groups while as the poor, the downtrodden, the unheard chunk of our population continues to wrestle and loose the battle with dilemmas arising around
As Kashmir is reeling in deep crisis over the past few months, different political parties of Kashmir from Unionist to Separatist camp respond differently , while some succumbed to storms, other rowed the waves , some favored and some boycotted ULB elections. Hurriyat, as is quite clear, is divided into four categories- moderates, hardliners, peripheral and silent ones. Although JRL is struggling to keep all shades together but that is only numerically and not ideologically.
It is probably the high time for the leaders of this god-forsaken land to be bold to introspect and formulate prospecting strategies for taking forward the issue towards a peaceful and amicable solution, leaving aside their view points about Kashmir from pro-India, pro- Pakistan to Autonomy, Self rule and complete independence. The need is to take all walks of life together and develop a consensus that will be in the larger interest of Kashmir.
Coming to Indo-Pak talks which have often resulted not more than beating a dead horse. The traditional practice of talks for the sake of talks which have eventually proved a ‘dialogue of the deaf’ should be repudiated. Both India and Pakistan are at the end of their rope, they too are fighting wars and spend much of their GDP over Kashmir, making their own people to suffer hunger, poverty and a life of indignity.