Building stake in peace

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For the past couple of decades now, successive governments have been very vocal about bringing in “peace through development”. From the development economics point-of-view, the standpoint that better economy brings better dividends in terms of peace is indeed logical, particularly when one goes by the modules correlating peace and development. But there are other dynamics of the political amphitheater in Jammu and Kashmir as well which too can’t be overlooked.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been reeling under the violence for three decades now and despite tall claims by the successive governments in the State and at the Centre, no much respite has come for the people of the trouble-hit region. The reason being that despite peace having become a buzz-word for the politicians not only in this region but world-over as well, unfortunately the people who actually want peace and could bring it about are missing. Or to put it in other words, those who can actually make a difference to the situation and bring about peace are either not interested in it, or have deliberately been left out and are not allowed space to make any worthwhile contributions.

Take, for instance, the human rights record in Kashmir. Despite laws and constitutions guaranteeing protections for people’s rights and punitive action against those found culpable of violating them, the governments here have invested precious little to create mechanisms to ensure that rights are upheld and violators punished. Part of the reason why the people’s anger and alienation from the state and its systems is refusing to ebb down is that there are different stake-holders, state as well as non-state actors active here, who are directly responsible for the repeated bouts of violence here. All these perpetrators of violence have certainly developed a vested interest in the continuation of the conflict. While as illegal trades are happening under the guise of disturbed situation, political super-markets in Kashmir have thrived, which is, in itself a big incentive for them to keep the pot boiling. Politics concerning Kashmir has certainly become an industry for certain sections and peace will be like death for all those who are benefited by the continuation of hostilities here.

Now that a new government is taking shape in New Delhi, it will have to be careful about all those areas of concern which were, unfortunately, left unattended by the previous regimes. Instead of talking of development as a means for reaching the end of peace, it will have to flip the coin and think and talk of peace also as a means for development. For example, we have seen governments talk about rebuilding the tourism infrastructure, maintaining that tourism can bring tremendous foreign exchange for the country besides removing the problem of unemployment here. True, but for the dawn of peace, any place will have to see not only visible development but all other factors that influence choices of war and peace will also have to be carefully controlled and maneuvered. If the people having vested interest in continuation of hostilities are not restrained and tamed, no amount of development is going to ensure peace. For any calm to prevail, while investing in developmental processes is a must, it is also necessary that the conflict itself is dis-incentivized for all its stakeholders including the ones who are very much part of the government and the state institutions.

Jammu and Kashmir like any other violence-hit zones in the world has suffered a great deal because of the persisting violence. It’s not only that the guns are to be silenced but the back-stage perpetrators are also to be scaled down to put an end to the violence. And what could be a better way to achieve this end than roping in all relevant actors and potent forces, bring them on board and develop their stake in peace! Once there is political will for it, which certainly must go beyond the rhetorical overtures, it should not be difficult to devise a plan and mechanism for achieving this end.

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