Creating atmosphere conducive
for dialogue towards peace
has two aspects: ‘creating conducive atmosphere’ and ‘dialogue’. Creating
conducive atmosphere suggests that we don't have one at present. The question
An important reason is the interplay of external
armed intrusion and internal subversion. External intrusion is combated
but not fully uprooted because of the gregariousness of the Indian State.
We did not strike back when we should have. To hide our criminal inaction,
we seek an alibi in Pakistan’s explicit ‘operations’ against us. Where
do we find an enemy showering flowers and rose petals not bullets and hand
grenades on its adversary?
As for internal subversion, the question is subversion
by whom? Identify them. In my opinion, we have (a) committed secessionists
and separatists (b) uncommitted secessionists and their sympathisers (c)
sections of ambivalent political and administrative cadres. (d) sections
of partisan and biased media, and (e) some self- styled human rights activists
and their organisations.
The committed secessionists and separatists have
taken to arms on the sponsorship of their Pakistani mentors. Misplaced
religious fervour provides grist to their war mill. They never indicated
a desire to give up arms and talk of peace. That is a decision, which not
they but their sponsors alone can make.
Uncommitted secessionists and their sympathisers
are standing on the fence. They vacillate with the turn of tide. This section
could be vulnerable to promptings for peace and dialogue because their
stakes are not high.
Of the sections of political and administrative
cadres indulging in internal subversion, the political lot is divisible
into two classes: those in power and those out of power. The first category
is the last one to share power in larger interests of the State. Therefore,
it must hunt with the hound and run with the hare. The second category
is eyeing for political power, and must liaison with and publicly speak
the language of all such elements as can stand up to the ruling party.
They are the frontline group demanding unconditional dialogue with the
insurgents. Theirs is not a conviction but sheer political expediency.
Their self-aggrandisement speaks more loudly than their pro-militant empathy.
As for ambivalent sections of administrative cadres,
they are not essentially committed to the development and progress of the
State. A fear of accountability or reprisal of sorts does not deter them.
In other words, either they take undue advantage of a humane and democratic
political dispensation or consider it their right to subvert as components
of the Muslim ruling elite of the valley reclining against a philistine
support - structure from within. Moral turpitude of general political community
in the country and the state has considerably influenced the shaping of
their mindset. A corrupt ruling political leadership should not expect
puritanical and pious behaviour from the state functionaries. The ambivalent
administrative and bureaucratic lot can be tamed first by an exemplary
roll model set by the political leadership, and second by strict enforcement
of answerability and accountability as set forth by law and practice.
As for the section of partisan and biased media,
the question is whether it is sincere in what it reflects? This is what
the people of Kashmir in general and the dissident groups in particular
should want to know. We cannot ignore that many eyebrows are raised on
the impartiality of press in this country.
Then is the role of self-styled human rights activists.
These organizations have mushroomed in the country after the armed insurgency
surfaced in Kashmir. They talk of rights not of duties. They talk of the
UN Human Rights Charter but ignore the national and state constitution
enshrining the will of the people of this land. They take the victimised
civilian population as their trust but treat the national security forces
as an adversary: to them the might of the state means its total surrender
to armed insurgents or unarmed subversives. Yet, of all the people, it
is they who know the desk book formula of armed conflicts viz. when gun
comes in, human rights depart..
This class has to be tirelessly dragged into procrastinated
debates on vital issues like parameters of civil liberty, obligations of
the state, constitutional prerogatives, international law, human rights
and the code of conduct, trans-border and trans-national terrorism, strength
and weaknesses of a pluralistic society etc. This exercise will help create
an atmosphere conducive for talks once we are able to eschew bias.
Now we come to the second aspect of the proposition,
namely ‘dialogue’. The question is this: dialogue with whom and for what?
Let us try to disentangle the mesh into which the entire issue is intertwined.
Talks have to be held with the dissidents. They
are (a) externally supported and abetted armed insurgents (b) dissident
political leadership oriented along secession from Indian Union, and (c)
political opponents to the ruling party. Now law and order falls within
the State List. Dialogue should essentially be held between the ruling
political party meaning the state government and the agitating groups.
As far as armed insurgents are concerned, they
are not acting on their own. Somebody else outside the country decides
for them. Offer of talks to them cannot be meaningful.
As far as dissident and secessionist groups are
concerned, these have formed into APHC. Essentially, this group is a conglomerate
of contradictory ideologies viz. pro-Pakistan, pro-independence, Islamic
theocrats, Wahhabis, Osamavis, Azharis and pseudo-secularists of Kashmiriyat
brand. Can there be a fruitful talk with this assorted group? And if there
is, will that have validity?
Now if any segment of APHC musters courage to
come forward for talks, what will be the reaction of their external mentors?
Confusing and contradictory statements are emanating from this leadership
in regard to talks. The latest is the demand for tripartite talks. This
shows lack of self-confidence.
Unfortunately, the APHC does not look beyond its
narrow confines. If it could, it would find a compulsion for introspection.
History tells us that whenever in the past, Islamic society began to buckle
under the imperative of socio-political change, the orthodoxy reacted sharply.
Thus the emancipated and liberal thinking in Islam up to the times of Ibn
Sina and Ibn Roshd (11th century A.D.) was countered and brought down by
the orthodoxy supported by feudal barons and local satraps. When, in the
second half of the 20th century after World War II, scientific and technological
advancement greatly impacted societies, Islamic orthodoxy came to be activated.
We should try to understand the position of Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim
region, in this historical background.
Apart from this factor, there is also a psychological
phenomenon that creates hurdles in our way for a dialogue. It is the buffer
psychosis. The entire mountain belt starting from western Burma and extending
eastward all over the Himalayas, and then on to the Karakorum, the Hindu Kush, the
Badakhshan, the Alborz, and across the Caucasus to the Trans-Caspia,
has remained a buffer between the northern and the southern Asiatic plains.
From the vast plains lying on the either side of this great watershed,
powerful empires and potentates rose and fell in the course of history.
In a scenario of long spells of political and economic rivalry between
the contending empires and satraps, the people of these mountain slopes
and valleys always suffered economic, social and psychological compression.
This created the buffer psychosis rendering their self-confidence and personality
always shaky and tenuous. Fragile economy and political uncertainty made
them a victim of insecurity. Be it the Bhutanese, the Nepalese, the Tibetans,
the Kashmiris, the tribals of NWFP, the Afghans, the Azeris, the Georgians,
the Daghistanis or the Armenians, the common denominator of vacillating
mood runs all along their history. In Kashmir, Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad
once explained it in his sledgehammer hyperbole.
But at this juncture, the role of our intellectual
luminaries should supervene. It is of paramount importance that the masses
of Kashmir are educated intensively about the drastically changed world
situation while Kashmir remains a part of the Indian Union. It is not just
the accession of one territorial unit to a larger territorial unit called
the Indian Union. Accession is the historic decision that facilitated the
Kashmiris step out of age-old buffer psychosis, which is responsible for
their endemic backwardness. It is their first ever effort of living with
an unassailable political, economic, social and cultural personality and
identity. The mission for mass education along this line should have been
undertaken as early as 1947. The example of beacon lights like Maulana
Abul Kalam Azad should have become the guiding spirit. It is here that
our political chapters failed us and it is here that our intellectuals
and luminaries must play their role even though belated on. I say this
keeping in mind the casual treatment given by some political analysts to
the essence of accession. Therefore, when somebody advises the Home Minister
Advani to accept a settlement of Kashmir "even if it is outside the Constitution
of India," then all right thinking Kashmiris should stand up and ask whether
the makers of proposals like that are their sincere well-wisher?
Things have changed drastically. The changed situation
provides democracy and pluralism for the entire Indian nation. No State
Government, much less the Central Government, ever tried to launch a massive
pro-national orientation programme for the people of Kashmir in the wake
of new and unprecedented political and social arrangement. They should
have been prompted by the harsh realities looking into their eyes. The
realities are (a) Kashmir is predominantly a Muslim region. (b) The Kashmiris
are bogged down with the buffer psychosis as historical legacy. (c) Literacy
level in Kashmir is very low. (d) Kashmir is being projected quite unnecessarily
as the symbol of Indian pluralism. (e) By drumming up Kashmiriyat, the
negative factor of isolationist psyche has been reinforced, and (e) Kashmir
is a landlocked region with only a fair-weather road connecting it with
the plains of India. This impinges on her rapid economic development and
India’s decision of adopting the path of democracy,
secularism and pluralism is not an ordinary or insignificant decision.
It is s stupendous effort to harmonise religious, ethnic, linguistic, cultural
and other identities in a bid to cast them into a tolerant and humanistic
social frame. This is not something easy to achieve. It asks for sacrifices
not escapement. Let us cast a glance at the entire Asian and African continent.
Do we find the example anywhere? Many Muslim societies in these continents
are locked in a grim struggle for realising these goals but so far without
much success. Sincere friends of the Kashmiris have to explain to them
whether, in ultimate analysis, a theocratic, feudalistic, militaristic
and a cramped conservative social order can help them establish their identity
and pull them out from the economic morass?
Sustained and serious thinking along this line
may help create an atmosphere conducive for a dialogue for peace. But I
will not mince words. Unfortunately, for last half a century an ordinary
Kashmiri has been fed on blackmail, on exclusionist notion of religion,
on feigned sympathy and on many a tantrum of sorts. What is called alienation
in general parlance is, in fact, the dilemma in which they have been cleverly
placed. If our politicos, policy planners, mediapersons, human rights activists,
social figures and intellectuals embark on a massive objective and pragmatic
programme of educating the people in the basics of the philosophy and application
of democracy, secularism and pluralism, we can get out of the vicious circle
we are caught in. This particular awareness will force our political leadership
to harmonise and dovetail their policies and programmes for larger and
futuristic national interests. The vote bank canker eating into the vitals
of our society needs a scalpel therapy. Proper and intensive political
education and economic redress must go hand in hand to remove the dilemma
and restore Kashmiris to rational and logical perceptions and inferences.
Americans exude satisfaction and happiness over
a prospect of dialogue in Kashmir. It was Pakistan, the Hurriyat and their
sympathisers who had been asking for a long time for intervention by the
Americans. Now that the American intervention is more than palpable, why
does the Hurriyat play a truant?
Before concluding my observations, I must emphasise
the importance of return, rehabilitation and restitution of the minority
community of Kashmir Pandits in creating an atmosphere conducive for peace
in Kashmir. How long will Kashmiri and Indian polity carry on its body
the festering wound of an act of ethnic cleansing of a minuscule but indigenous
religious minority? I must warn that by politicizing or circumventing or
diluting the issue of displaced persons from Kashmir, a peaceful solution
of Kashmir problem will remain elusive. If the Pandits are to remain outside
Kashmir, then Kashmir cannot be an integral or non-integral part of India.
This is what precisely our enemy wants to see. Safe return and concentrated
rehabilitation with sufficient constitutional safeguards of cantonal/oblast
arrangement for internally displaced persons have been endorsed by the
UN Human Rights Commission and other relevant UN bodies on the basis of
resolutions passed by the Security Council. Apart from that, big powers
and their parliaments have also endorsed these resolutions. The State and
the Central Governments must come out of an obsolete mindset and tackle
the problem by talking to their genuine representatives and ideologues.
While the good-will of a given majority community is the ideal guarantee
for the safety of a minority, yet, at the same time, the majority community
can show an extra measure of tolerance and accommodation, which are also
crucial to their own progress and development. The world opinion is totally
against xenophobia. Left alone, the non-elite Kashmiri majority community
does not lack the vision to recall their extirpated compatriots and jointly
rebuild a tolerant and compassionate Kashmir.
This paper was presented in the seminar organized
by Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies (KFPDS) at Broadway
Hotel, Srinagar on 3-4 June 2000.