Posts Tagged ‘Kashmir issue’

Last 5 months of Kashmiri resistance against Indian oppressive rule – Urdu Weekly Rehbar

November 14, 2010

Editorial: An evaluation of the last 5 months  in Kashmir

Urdu Weekly Rehbar, Srinagar (Kashmir)

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The Kashmir question

February 7, 2009

Kashmir Watch,

As is the case each year, a day of solidarity with the people of Kashmir has been marked. On television programmes, at rallies and at other functions, the atrocities committed in that Valley of Tears has been highlighted and commitments given to ensure a just resolution to the dispute. Much of this talk has been heard before. But this time round there does seem to be some real hope that a solution may just emerge. A few months ago, Barack Obama had spoken of his desire to resolve the Kashmir issue. Other US officials too have mentioned this as a priority. And the British foreign secretary, in an article written soon after he visited Mumbai, called on India to step up efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue, given that it was a factor that fuelled extremism.

The Indian response has been one of angry dismissal. Officials, including the foreign minister and the national security adviser, have insisted that such comments amount to an intervention in India’s internal affairs. They have discounted the warnings about the degree of hatred Kashmir stirs up against Muslims. This is obviously unwise. There can be no doubt the terrible rights abuses we have seen for decades in Kashmir are a factor in the growth of militancy in the area. The future of that territory also hampers closer ties between India and Pakistan, constantly cropping up whenever the process of dialogue gets underway. For Pakistan, the renewed interest of the world in Kashmir is a positive event. It is quite apparent, given the unhelpful Indian attitude, that it will be possible to solve the problem only with the assistance of key powers. Given its own internal constraints, India obviously has no interest in any change in the status of the territory. Like other, unfinished business that lingers on since Partition, the Kashmir question needs to be solved. Pakistan has in the past made brave efforts to find a solution to the problem and by doing so bringing peace to the lives of Kashmiris who have suffered for years and borne the worst consequences of a dispute over land that divides families and communities. It must now step up efforts to find an answer to the Kashmir question and with the support of other nations work towards turning it into reality.

[editorial note-The News-Feb 6, 2009]

David Miliband comes under fire over Kashmir

January 22, 2009

From , January 22, 2009

David Miliband was at the centre of a diplomatic row with India last night after officials and ministers protested about the Foreign Secretary’s words and body language on a visit to Delhi.

Indian officials told The Times that they were upset by his suggestion, made in a newspaper article and in private discussions, that the disputed region of Kashmir was the root cause of terrorist attacks such as that in Mumbai. In the article on Thursday last week, Mr Miliband wrote: “Resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms.”

One senior Indian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: “The long and short of it is that he did manage to ruffle a few feathers. It was both the content of the message and the way it was delivered — the body language.”

India has long rejected international involvement in Kashmir, over which it has fought two of its three wars with Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947. Indian officials were also angered by Mr Miliband’s assertion at a press conference in Delhi, and in private conversations, last week that there was no evidence that the Pakistani state directed the Mumbai terror attacks.

The dispute threatens to overshadow the current visit by Lord Mandelson, with one senior Indian official publicly voicing his reluctance to appear at an event attended by the Business Secretary.

One Indian newspaper reported yesterday that Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, had written to Gordon Brown to complain about Mr Miliband, though officials denied that.

Vishnu Prakash, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “We do not need unsolicited advice on internal issues in India like Kashmir.”

Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of State for Commerce, said that he almost stood up Lord Mandelson at an event on Monday.

“I didn’t feel like going,” he said, adding that he had called Pranab Mukherjee, the Indian Foreign Minister, on Sunday to ask whether he should attend and was told that he should go, but should make his point.

Mr Mukherjee, who met Mr Miliband last week, tried to play down the row yesterday when he spoke to reporters at a security conference.

“When the Foreign Secretary of the UK visited us he shared his perceptions about the situations, and I equally told him and all the interlocutors that this is your perception,” he said. “We do not share this perception.”

A senior British diplomat said that Mr Miliband had not spoken out of line or diverged from British policy. He added however that India, along with Israel, was a country where whatever a Foreign Secretary said, there was always a risk that it could upset domestic political sensitivities.

The Kashmir issue and the violence in the Indian subcontinent

December 10, 2008

Nasir Khan, December 8, 2008

Almost the whole world has condemned the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Such terrorism has also, once again, reminded us how important it is to combat the forces of communalist terror and political violence in the Indian subcontinent. But what is often ignored or suppressed is the fact that there are deep underlying causes of the malaise that erupts in the shape of such violent actions; the unresolved Kashmir issue happens to be the one prime cause that inflames the passions and anger of millions of people.

However, to repeat the mantra of “war on terror” as the Bush Administration has done over the last eight years while planning and starting major wars of aggression does not bring us one inch closer to solving the problem of violence and terror in our region. On the contrary, such short-sighted propaganda gimmicks are meant to camouflage the wars of aggression and lay the ground for further violence and bloodshed. The basic motive is to advance imperial interests and domination. The so-called “war on terror” is no war against terror; on the contrary, it has been the continuation of the American imperial policy for its definite goals in the Middle East and beyond. Obviously any serious effort to combat terror will necessarily take into account the causes of terror, and not merely be content with the visible symptoms.

The unresolved issue of Kashmir has kept India and Pakistan on a dangerous course of confrontation since 1947, when the British raj came to an end and as a last act of charity to their subjects the imperial rulers agreed to divide India along communal lines that was to prove a Pandora’s box for the coming generations. We had witnessed their double-dealings in the process when they gave their blessings and patronage here and there and a lot of mischief wherever possible especially while they drew the boundaries between the two emerging countries. The recipients of favours reciprocated in kind: the last viceroy Lord Mountbatten was made the first Governor-General of Free India! This carefully crafted expedient arrangement served its purpose well for one country at the cost of the other.

At the time of partition, the princely State of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by the Hindu Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh who was the great-grandson of Gulab Singh, to whom the British, under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar (1846) had sold the entire valley of Kashmir. Because the overwhelming majority of Kashmir was Muslim, it was thought that Kashmir would  join the new state of Pakistan. When the Kashmiris from what came to be  known  as Azad Kashmir and the tribal fighters from the North Western Frontier Province of Pakistan started a guerilla offensive on the state to bring pressure on Hari Singh to join Pakistan, he asked Lord Mountbatten for help, who agreed to give military help if the ruler joined India. Thus started the first war between India and Pakistan that finally stopped in 1949 when the newly-formed United Nations Organization arranged a ceasefire. The Line of Control was established that has remained the de facto boundary between the Indian-controlled Kashmir and ‘Azad’ (Free) Jammu and Kashmir (but called Pakistan-occupied Kashmir by the Indians).

To affect a ceasefire, in 1948, India took the matter to the Security Council of the United Nations against Pakistan. As a result the Security Council passed three resolutions in 1948 and 1949 that also acknowledged the rights of the people of Kashmir about whose land the two countries were fighting . According to the resolutions, India and Pakistan were to hold plebiscite in Kashmir so that the people could decide their own future. The Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru promised that the people of Jammu and Kashmir would gain independence when the peace was restored. After the end of the hostilities, he did not keep his word; neither were the terms of the resolutions ever fulfilled. The Indian government granted a special status to Kashmir that allowed more internal autonomy. This was thought to pacify the people when Kashmir’s ruler joined India. But the promise to hold plebiscite was not kept and the successive Indian governments have adamantly held that Kashmir is an integral part of India, and all demands of the Kashmiri people for plebiscite or defying Indian occupation were presented as internal Indian matters. No third party was allowed to speak on behalf of the Kashmiri people or voice their legitimate demands under the UN Charter or the UN resolutions. Meanwhile India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir another war in 1965.

The grievances of Kashmiris had accumulated over the decades. Kashmiris challenged the legitimacy of the Indian occupation and in 1989 they started armed struggle to evict the occupiers. Mass arrests, disappearances and violence followed in the wake of the military crackdown. India deployed more than 500,000 soldiers to suppress the Kashmiri Muslims.

According to conservative accounts Indian forces killed about 78,000 people and  brutalized the whole population, but the Kashmiri sources put the number of those killed  around 100,000. In this militant struggle, Kashmiri Hindu minority, the Pandits, also became the victims insurgents; according to the state government over 200,000 fled the valley. They sought refuge in Jammu and some fled to India. The conditions under which the Pandits have lived since their displacement have been deplorable. But it is heartening to see that all sections of Kashmiri Muslims and their leadership are now pleading for the return of their Hindu brothers to their homeland.

After 18 years of brutal military occupation, the Indian government was faced with a new situation. The Kashmir Jehad Council called for an end to armed struggle and instead appealed to all militant freedom-fighters to use only non-violent and peaceful means to achieve liberation from India. The call for Azadi (freedom) is getting louder which the Indian machine guns and their marauding forces are not able to drown. But the Indian rulers have shown little willingness to listen to the people and have kept a tight military stranglehold over the Kashmir Valley.

The Kashmir conflict has caused untold misery and destruction in Kashmir, both in life and property. It has also been the key cause of tension between India and Pakistan as rivals. The tremendous drain of resources incurred by the two countries on military buildup and arms-race including the acquisition of nuclear bombs is a result of their confrontation over Kashmir. The official propaganda each government has directed against the other created enmity, distrust and hatred in the respective populations of these countries against their “mortal enemy”. This has gone on for over six decades and there is no end in sight. This has poisoned the minds of Indian and Pakistani people. As a result we see political polarization and perennial tensions amongst the people that stand in the way of settling the issues like Kashmir and the normalization of relations between the two neighbours. In addition, another ghastly development has been the rise of political and religious extremism in India and Pakistan.

The growth of religious and political extremism in India and Pakistan is not new. But what is new is the general acceptance of extremist tendencies in the social and political fabric of the two countries. The preachers and high priests of communalism and hatred influence the mainstream politics.

In India, some political parties have been closely allied with communalist militant political Hinduism or Hindutva. The Sangha Parivar is the umbrella organization for all Hindutva parties. The avowed aim of Hindutva has been to assert Hindu supremacy and Hindu communalism in India by identifying India with Hinduism and Hindu rule. Hindutva organizations are influenced by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which stands for a Hindu majoritarian rule. The Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) is the leading political party of India that stands for Hindutva doctrine and Hinduising the entire country. Jawaharlal Nehru had once warned that if fascism would arrive in India, it would arrive in the form of majoritarian (Hindu) communalism. His words and warning were almost prophetic.

Of course, the main targets of Hindutva have been the Indian Muslims in the first place, followed by low-caste Hindus–formerly “Untouchables” (!) and now called Dalits–, and Christians. Over 150-million Indian Muslims are a religious minority in India. Since the unfortunate circumstances that led to the partition of India in 1947, Indian Muslims have come under enormous pressure. They have gradually found themselves at the mercy of Hindus, politically marginalized and socially alienated in their own country. Even their national status and loyalties became suspect. They are “Muslims first”, so how can they be “true Indians”? And, why are they in Hindu India anyway if they don’t like India or complain about their lot in India? They can just pack up and go away. They are ‘Pakistanis’ and should migrate to their own country!

Such views and political developments in India have left Indian Muslims in an extremely difficult situation. In 1992, Hindu militants destroyed sixteenth-century Babri Mosque in Ayodhya while the state authorities stood idle by. The then Indian prime minister promised to re-build the mosque. The promised was not kept. Instead a temple was raised on the site of the destroyed mosque that provoked religious frenzy and communal passions. Three thousand people, mostly Muslims, were killed in the ensuing riots.

Two thousand Muslims were massacred in 12002 in Gujarat, which was a full blooded pogrom which took place under the state government run by the BJP. The New Delhi rulers did not intervene to stop the massacre of Muslims.

Attacks on Muslim holy places and people have increased in the recent years. In one recent attack by Hindutva activists on a mosque a Hindu lieutenant-colonel of the Indian army was arrested for his involvement in the attack.

In Pakistan, fundamentalist religious parties have felt duty-bound to monopolise Islam, but they have never at any time gained much support in the masses. Their poor electoral results in various elections have clearly demonstrated that. However, Pakistani Muslim clerics have gained much notoriety for their inter-religious invective. The Sunni preachers direct their anger at the “infidel” Shias and the Shia preachers reciprocate by calling the Sunnis “infidels”! This leads to an unending cycle of violence and acrimony in the name of Islam. But the danger posed by militant Islamist groups in stirring violence and hatred is beyond doubt. However, the Indian treatment of the Kashmiri Muslims and the unresolved Kashmir issue because of Indian intransigence is universally condemned by all Pakistanis; it also provides an opportunity to the militant groups like Lasher-e-Taiba and others who exhort their followers to avenge the grievances of their Indian co-religionists at the hands of Hindutva militants as well as to make a stand for the freedom of Kashmir by all means, including violence. This is exactly what happened last month in the Mumbai attacks.

For the last six decades India has maintained its occupation of the Kashmir Valley by political manipulation and brutal military force. The massacres of the Kashmiri Muslims by Indian forces amount to war crimes under international law; however, the ultimate responsibility for this genocidal policy lies with the New Delhi rulers. If Indian government wants to continue with the occupation of Kashmir and also expect that people of Kashmir will forego their demands for freedom because they face a great military and economic power like India, which has extended its cooperation with other imperialist powers like America and Zionist Israel, then one thing is certain: the situation will get worse; violence and terror will flourish.

The 10-million Muslims of the Kashmir Valley want independence from Indian colonial rule and oppression. The best course left for India is to make a break with its previous policy, and accede to the right to self-determination of the Kashmiris. This will not weaken India; instead, it will show the strength of Indian democracy as well of the humane aspects of Indian cultural tradition.

Whether the people of the Kashmir Valley decide to join India or Pakistan, or they opt for full independence should be for them to decide. No matter what decision they make to determine their future as stipulated by the UN resolutions should be their and their alone. However, it is far from certain that they will choose to join Pakistan, but if they do so that should not worry India. In such a case, Hindu Jammu and Buddhist Ladakh will certainly join India. Thus, by a wise and courageous step Indian leaders can create the political conditions under which a new era of good neighbourly relations between India and Pakistan can materalise if they allow the people of the Kashmir Valley to control their own destiny instead of the inhumane treatment and humiliation at the hands of the Indian state and its armed forces. Once the main bone of contention between India and Pakistan is removed then the two former rivals and “enemies” can become friends and concentrate on socio-economic problems of their people within a peaceful atmosphere. An independent and self-governing entity in the Kashmir Valley will bring hope and good-will to its neighbours. By removing the biggest unresolved problem of Kashmir that has fueled hostility and has caused immeasurable damage, the two countries will also be able to contain the forces of communalism and religious fanaticism that plague India and Pakistan.


Nasir Khan is a peace activist. He is the author of Development of the Concept and Theory of Alienation in Marx’s Writings 1843-44 (1995) and Perceptions of Islam in the Christendoms: A Historical Survey (2006). He has his own blogs at http://nasir-khan.blogspot.com and  https://sudhan.wordpress.com through which he can be contacted.

Oh the Pangs of Reunion: Reversing 1947

August 11, 2008

Tanveer Ahmed, August 8, 2008

Blunt realism can lead one to the depths of darkness and despair, idealism invariably provides scope for hope…

Indeed, it’s time for people in Jammu and the Valley to trade in their verminous polemics and self-destructing demeanour to prepare for the lofty heights of economic dynamism, communal cohesion and environmental revitalisation. Meanwhile, the governments of India and Pakistan should each swallow an ample dose of sober medication and realise it’s time to confess; “We tried for almost 61 years to control the tempo, fracture the identity and dictate the destiny of Kashmir: We’re terribly sorry, it hasn’t worked out well for any of us, not least because we attempted to defy nature: It’s over to you folks, we both hereby concede that you’re more than capable of reversing the mess we’ve put you in.”

(An imaginary and quite wishful quote no doubt – but to paraphrase the venerable Kashmiri pandit film-maker Sanjay Kak “The obnoxious silence has to break.”)

Background

The Kashmiri people, be they Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Buddhist, are an incredibly accommodating lot. Judging by how they’ve overlooked and tolerated the rule of ‘outsiders’ in these past few centuries; functioning as a tug of the pernicious post ‘47 two-nation theory was an absolute given. Pakistan tried in earnest to make the Muslim much more of a Muslim than he needed to be while India gradually did much the same to the Hindu. Where did that leave the poor Hindus in Pakistan or the hapless Muslims in India? Marooned in their very own ancestral abode!

The millions of ‘desis’ that had been forcibly uprooted from either side of the un-natural divide, found it excruciatingly difficult to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones, left behind or killed in cold-blooded communal frenzy. The Sikh of Rawalpindi (undivided India and post partition Pakistan) who escaped with his bare life to Jallandhar (India), didn’t merely change his address in the Punjab, it was a blood-soaked divided Punjab. His centuries old identity and ancestral roots were ripped in exchange for a new identity, which defined his roots as enemy territory. The Muslim from pre-‘47 Agra (India) led a contorted existence in Karachi (Pakistan), her family members who didn’t migrate with her became her nascent nation’s enemies.

As the decades passed by, progress and development for India and Pakistan was a laborious struggle. Amongst other factors, unprecedented population growth and unhealthy military expenditure made post-colonial restructuring nigh on impossible for both countries. Whilst poverty in the region rippled; education, health and infrastructure were coldly sacrificed. Intellectual and artistic advancement was and still is sadly, deemed a luxury, ill-affordable to a pair of overly paranoid nation states.

Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India were an existential threat to each other and so sermonised Doordarshan and PTV, not to forget Radio Pakistan or All-India Radio. Their favourite playground for battle was of course Kashmir, attrition after attrition. The intelligence agencies of India and Pakistan, in conjunction with local lackeys; ensured that the Kashmiris were forever obliging hosts. Dissension or god-forbid obstruction was never an option. Pakistan’s “Jugular Vein” (Shah Ragh-Urdu) and India’s “Integral Part” (Atoot Ang-Hindi) were loaded oxymorons that quite literally made morons of the Kashmiri mentality.

Setting aside the moral liability of nuclearisation for just a moment, 1998 was a year of technological accomplishment for the region. Both countries demonstrated vigour to defy the “International Community”. Nevertheless, Kashmir as an issue that accompanied the creation of Pakistan and independence of a crippled India was the perfect binary foil that prevented the “International Community” from prolonging its dismay. The “Islamic” and “Hindu” bombs were here to stay.

1999 and Kargil’s fiasco; followed by 9/11 have mercifully in retrospect, changed the modus operandi, if not modus vivendi, from the proverbial ‘war-war’ to ‘jaw-jaw’.

Dialogue and communication as a means of conflict resolution, is not only plausible, efficient, cost-effective and positively natural. For Kashmiris of whatever persuasion, it’s the only possible method; an alternative simply did not and will not exist. It would be far too rich and ludicrous for either India or Pakistan to suggest any indigenous provocation of violence. Contrary to what some Kashmiris and others have suggested, there is little evidence of any of the many ethnicities in Kashmir espousing martial instincts.

Moving on to the “irreversible Peace Process” initiated in January 2004; this has thankfully proven to be the freshest of fresh airs since 1947. Both entities have shown an element of maturity and resolve, tit-for-tat provocations notwithstanding. Dialogue between Indian and Pakistani civil society has invoked and propelled fresh thinking as well as nostalgia of an un-divided past. Ruefully, at the insistence of both countries, most of this ‘dialogue’ has taken place outside the region in the wider “International Community”. Both governments still feel it un-nerving and unsafe for barrier-breaking intra-dialogue and initiatives to take root in the region.

Of utter frustration to the Kashmiri is that any peace dividends that have accrued so far have been primarily gobbled up by the Indian and Pakistani national. Movement between the two countries has increased exponentially while between the two parts of Kashmir, it’s still barely a trickle. The contrast is startling if one considers that many ‘well-connected’ Indians and Pakistanis have travelled to each other’s country on numerous occasions and at will, to “merry-make” while there are ample Kashmiris belonging to divided families, who have yet to meet their siblings after 61 years!

Intra-Kashmir movement and dialogue, though unprecedented has been lacklustre to say the least. By extension, reference may be extended to economic activity, cultural interaction, administrative reform and well…the list is endless. In short, India and Pakistan have not kept pace with global socio-economic/geo-political changes: Elements of an ‘Iron Curtain’ reminiscent of the ‘Cold War’ are starkly evident, particularly in Kashmir. Their respective administrative mechanisms are not quite equipped or even focused on speeding things up, both having a tendency of getting bogged down in inevitable cul-de-sacs. Old habits do die hard!

A bit of historical perspective

It’s an indisputable fact that pre-colonial India was an economic powerhouse of global proportion (in relative terms, way ahead of it’s current trajectory) and a fabulous specimen of world-class culture and art; driven by an amazing array of diversity in food, clothes, language and construction; organised and administered by a harmonious fusion of Hindu/Muslim spirit.

Ideas, people, goods and services in whatever dimension flowed freely. If an artisan of Attock (NWFP/Punjab-Pakistan) decided one day that he wished to venture East for work…his destination may well have been no less than modern day Myanmar….traversing the breadth of modern day Pakistan, India and Bangladesh…others of his ilk had little hesitation in setting up home en-route, if a place took their fancy…indeed, Tagore’s “The Kabuli Wallah” fails to escape reminiscence.

Symptoms

In its current collective predicament and despite modern advancement in transport and information networks, the region has poisoned itself with a mad concoction of Westphalia and inappropriate religious fuel, amidst a rotten basket of other self-inflicted ills. As a consequence, entities within the historic ‘whole’, repeatedly fail to recognise the humane aspirations of those it has been programmed to categorise as the ‘other’, this blinds it from visualising the stupendous potential; that a harmonised region with an efficient governing structure can deliver.

Pakistan and India, despite their vast potential, have cultivated fractured societies with fault-lines in every direction. Pro & anti-US, extremist-moderate, local-national, Muslim-Hindu, pro-establishment & anti, Punjabi-Other, progressive-traditional, spiritual-material, Aryan-Dravidian even etc etc. Though both are unanimous on progress, they are blinkered on any form of reform or revision: In the meantime, those who consider themselves victimised and/or isolated, are screaming out for recognition and opportunity.

A major irritant is the glut of misinformation that public opinion is subjected to. There is only one way to make democracy work: to provide accurate, unbiased information and contextual education, particularly of our common history.

An example from another tormented region may be apt: Alan Hart is a seasoned British journalist with arguably unrivalled exposure to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. The following is an excerpt from an interview he gave to worldpress.org last month.

URL reference> http://www.worldpress.org/Mideast/3206.cfm

“Most citizens throughout the Judeo-Christian world are totally ignorant about the truth of history. I’m a classic example. I came out of my mother’s womb conditioned by Zionism’s version of history. It took me 12 to 15 years of being an ITN TV reporter to actually get to the other side of the story. I can understand how people who didn’t have my exposure to it don’t challenge.”

The Kashmiris are akin to being stuck in a sardine can, compelled to either defer to India or Pakistan. Lack of freedom to evolve their own identity, traps them in the communal mess that we repeatedly witness.

Fears

The current crisis in Indian-administered Kashmir has the un-needed potential of repeating the horrors of 1947. The symptoms are all clearly visible. There is ample human potential in the region, forever un-utilised and repressed; conditions perfect for dancing towards collective doom.

The peace process at its current pace is blatantly ill-equipped to neutralise the situation. India and Pakistan simply do not have the requisite time or the broad strategy necessary to solve a problem which has thus far, exasperated them and caused an unwanted shift of focus from their respective schedules. If anything, a hands-on approach on their part could exacerbate the tension. When people are suffocating on one side (Valley) and lava-laden on the other (Jammu), military instruction/obstruction or ‘intelligent’ manipulation could cause an uncontrollable eruption.

There is ample evidence to suggest that Muslims in Indian-administered Kashmir are galvanising and by extension contemplating isolation of the minority Hindu community. As death tolls rise and economic activity on the Jammu road from the Valley dwindles to a complete halt, consequential blocking of India’s only surface route in and out of Kashmir could be a precursor to a communal division of the state. Anathema for the construction of a global “super-power”, forever exposing the region to become servile to the machinations of ‘others’.

Recommendations

Solidifying the whole region; not on communal lines but by re-aligning diversity to the whole region. Pakistan and India need to get over the idea of restricting movement via borders and imposing separate identities. It is important for both to not come across as inveterate narcissists who do not like to be crossed. They should provide an historic opportunity for Kashmiris to demonstrate how calmly they can, through penetrating dialogue and inspiring initiative, solve problems that have afflicted the State. This will change the perception of seeing the Kashmiris as a liability to witnessing them as a force that cements the region together.

Thus far, political rhetoric alluding to some of the above has not been translated into practice. Those who can instigate a change in approach are metaphorically tied in chains e.g. writers, artists, activists and other energetic members of civil society. Whereas, lackadaisical technocrats and bureaucrats, wearing the badge of either country are given the duty of enacting the rhetoric.

That doesn’t work. It raises false hopes at best and repeatedly exemplifies a frustrating inability to bridge the gap between political decisions and implementation on the ground. We’re not living in the 5th century BC; this is the age of instant communication, overt round-the-clock economic consciousness and unbridled movement of people and ideas.

If one were to sincerely make an effort to convert looming tragedy into benign opportunity, the current scenario could be viewed as “The Pangs of Reunion”, an actual desire by the public to revert the region back to it’s natural formation, minus borders of course.

A broad strategy could focus on provisioning a return of religious space to the Hindus and Sikhs who were forced to leave Pakistan and Pak-administered Kashmir. Hence re-vitalising their ancestral roots and giving those areas the much-needed diversity they have sorely lacked for 61 years. L.K. Advani and others should work vigorously with the Pakistani establishment to re-create Hindu space in Pakistan, especially in his home province of Sindh where remaining Hindus live in isolation.

Giving the Hindus and Sikhs who live in the border areas of Indian-administered Kashmir, an opportunity to rebuild their mandirs and gurdwaras in their ancestral land in Pak-administered Kashmir is a crucial part of this suggestion.

In light of all above, Amarnath is but a minor issue, perhaps not worth the environmental degradation and political agitation that it has evoked. Symbolising it as a landmark of the re-union of the sub-continent could have unlimited positive consequences.

The 61 year old Indo-Pak mess could be transformed into giving the Kashmiris what the Moghuls, Afghans, Ranjit’s Sikhs, the Brits and Dogra rule couldn’t give them…the freedom to utilise their abundance of talent.

The writer is a freelance journalist, activist and consultant

E: sahaafi@gmail.com

W: maloomaat.net


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