Towards Sustainable Peace In Kashmir
6 May 2003
New Delhi: The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee's visit to Kashmir has raised the level of expectations for a sustainable peace in the region. The visit was not only overdue after the successful conduct of the Assembly elections but a personal obligation on his part. It was due to his personal assurance of a free and fair election that the people of Jammu and Kashmir participated in fairly good number in these elections. This should be the beginning of a new process - that will usher in an era of peace and stability not only in trouble- torn Kashmir but also in the whole of the subcontinent. The Prime Minister's offer of friendship to Pakistan from Srinagar carries a unique significance. It not only signifies the logical step for the sake of the forward movement but is also in tune with the raised expectations after his repeated emphasis to move beyond the beaten track to rectify the past mistakes. It is a big gamble. Not only is the Prime Minister's credibility at stake, he has put the survival of the democratic institutions in Jammu and Kashmir at risk as well. One would hope that the proposed peace process moves beyond the camera flashes and showy symbolism. The price of failure will be enormous as the conflict in Kashmir is not merely political. It is humanity in deep crisis. For the last fifty years the politics of deception and intrigue joined with the advent of militancy in the 1990s has played havoc with the life of ordinary Kashmiris. Tens of thousands of lives have been lost in the endless mayhem of violence. Men and women have lost their dignity and children their innocence. The absence of peace holds no meaning for the young generation. People are driven by extreme feelings and negative instincts. Violence is destructive. It is not creating a revolution or organising people under an ideology but simply generating hate leading to degeneration of the human personality. It is divisive. It has not only resulted in the loss of purpose but of the sense-of- being also. Pain is endured to inflict pain; death embraced to cause death. The insensitivity due to continued violence has deprived the people of love and emotion. They love to hate! The violence has damaged the social fabric with society standing totally shattered, scattered to the extent that it does not behove even in the social spheres, leave alone the high-stake game of politics. The society in Kashmir today consists of a mob of individuals solely driven by self- interest. Local so-called social scientists call it the 'survival instinct'. The collective good of society is sacrificed on the altar of self in the name of this survival instinct, even when in the end this 'survival instinct' proves a mirage. There has been great erosion of values in society. This is despite the mushroom growth of religious institutions and the increase in the literacy rate. The situation has degenerated to the extent that a son 'simply' kills his government-employee father to gain eligibility for a job after his death. A father encourages his daughter to entertain higher-ups in the bureaucracy to find a job, as it has become difficult for him to find a suitable match for her. Corruption and economic crimes are on the rise. The local economy is dying. The so-called custodians of society who could have played a role to arrest the negative phenomena have contributed to the rot. They are the worst adversaries of any civilised society. Here the fence is eating up the crop. Humanity has been subjected to the worst kind of rights violations by the defenders of the law itself. Extremism is being fought by resorting to extreme and extra-judicial measures. This has complicated the situation further. The ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir is a blot on the face of humanity. It has brought misery not only to the people of the State but to the people of the rest of India and Pakistan as well. It has triggered a mad arms race between the two countries that is eating up the resources of the poor in the region. The leadership in India and Pakistan would have to move beyond the symbolism and stated positions to help create a movement of peace and reconciliation in Kashmir. Such a movement should have the inherent potential to bring the people of India and Pakistan closer. If any peace movement divides the people in the subcontinent, it would not only be self-defeating for that movement but would also prove detrimental to the cause of sustainable peace in the region.