Monday, August 10, 2009
Such is the sordid tale of Kashmir’s two decade black out from the world. It is not that the six million people of Kashmir are not newsworthy. It has all of man bites a dog journalistic elements to it, what it lacks is, approval of the powers to be to make it a story that every news outlet wants to tell. Prior to the clamp down, millions of Kashmiris took to the streets in an act of peaceful civil disobedience, asking for restoration of their honour and dignity, seeking freedom—freedom to possess the basic human right of living life with dignity and honour. The slogans of Azadi in the streets of Kashmir are not political statements in my mind, they are a human statement that reminds their fellow brethren in the world that there are millions of Kashmiris who in this 21st century are deprived of their basic right to live in freedom, seek medical care for their sick, bury their dead with dignity, guard the modesty of their women, provide a sembelance of peace in the lives of their children, give their elderly a life of ease towards their end, grant education to their youngsters, cultivate their lands and pick their fruit form the orchards without being harassed and molested, take a journey without being questioned and detained, be considered as decent humans and not demons. Sixty people were left dead during these unprecedented protests, many more injured, adding to the many thousands who have gone before in the struggle for seeking human dignity. All what Amnesty International 2009 report says about the situation is the following:
“Between June and August, central security forces shot and killed at least 40 people who defied curfew restrictions. The curfew had been imposed during demonstrations and counter-demonstrations over a proposal to transfer forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board.
Impunity continued for past offences including enforced disappearances of thousands of people during the armed conflict in Kashmir since 1989.” (Amnesty InternationalRreport, 2009)
Even Amnesty squarely blams the victims as being the violators, they got shot because they defied the curfew.
Violence is what Kashmiris have lived with everyday of their lives for the last twenty years. This violence has left indelible marks on the psyche of Kashmiris and done long term damage as is well documented by a research study done by independent researchers for Medecins. In their findings the authors, all Europeans, found through their extensive interviews with 510 people in two districts (30 villages) Kashmir, that
“The civilian population in Kashmir is exposed to high levels of violence, as demonstrated by the high frequency of deliberate events as detention, hostage, and torture. The reported violence may result in substantial health, including mental health problems.” (deJOng et.al. 2008)
They found that people had
“frequent direct confrontations with violence since the start of conflict, including exposure to crossfire (85.7%), round up raids (82.7%), the witnessing of torture (66.9%), rape (13.3%), and self-experience of forced labour (33.7%), arrests/kidnapping (16.9%), torture (12.9%), and sexual violence (11.6%). Males reported more confrontations with violence than females, and had an increased likelihood of having directly experienced physical/mental maltreatment (OR 3.9, CI: 2.7-5.7), violation of their modesty (OR 3.6, CI: 1.9-6.8) and injury…” (dejong 2008, p.1)
I am not a politician, political scientist or a historian. I am a humanitiarian and a Kahsmiri. Instead of theorizing about the issue of Kashmri, I would like to speak to you form my heart, sharing with you what I witnessed first hand in 1992 and almost every summer thereafter.
While Kashmir is reeling under the recent protests over violation of honour of two women Neelofar Jan and Aasiya Jan of Shopian, let me remind you that this is neither new nor an aberration. I can never forget the grave violation of ten women of Syed Checkpora in Shopian in 1992. A copy of the complaint No. 71 of 92 lodged by Hussain Malik at the local police station documented the gang rape of ten women including an eleven year old Zaitoon and sixty year old Sayeeda Begum. The doctor’s who examined these women found evidence of violence against these women and documented gang rape. The words of the sixty year old woman, a skinny figure with a wrinkled face, “I was raped by nine soldiers” are forever unforgettable. The same year in April 1992, Wular lake was dyed red in an unforgettable massacre on April 4th, 1992 cordoning off 40 villages around Wular and conducting searches in every home and destroying everything in their path. Three days of military crack down resulted in death, torture and rape. After killing the victims, mostly fishermen and boat people, they were tied with stones and drowned in the lake and others drowned themselves to escape torture. Shaheena Akhter, a fifteen year old, was gang raped, her sister Hajra beaten badly before being raped, fifty year old Hajra who fainted while resisting the soldiers, found herself stark naked when she regained consciousness the next day. The women who were violated were numerous. The oppressors were well known—members of the Dogra regiment of the Indian military, led by Major D.R. Singh. There were witnesses to the dastardly acts who testified, yet nothing happened. Instead these women, the victims were forced to sign statements under duress, vindicating their abusers. While Kashmir was still grieving the victims of Wular, another brutal massacre was carried out in Sopore on Arpil 13th, 1992. Amongst many horrible crimes against men women and children was Aisha, a victim of gang rape and cold blooded murder, wife of a school teacher and a mother of two beautiful children. Her husband who returned his identity card to the Indian administration aptly said, “while India mourns the massacre of Jallainwallah Bagh even after fifty years of their independence, she is creating a Jallainawallah Bagh in every street of Kashmir.”
I could go on recounting many more stories, more horrific acts of violence against innocent women that I saw and documented in Zirmanz, Watlab Ghat, Kehmoosa, Kanipath and Mallangam, Aloosa and Ashtung, but I will stop here. This was eighteen years ago. Fast forward to May of 2009 and we witness the gruesome murder and gang rape of Neelofar and Aasiya Jan. What has changed—NOTHING-- What was done to the perpetrators in 1992 or in 2009—NOTHING. Just as the violators of the recent victims will go scot free, while there will be incidental scapegoats, temporarily detained, transferred or shuffled to silence the protestors, who now have more of a voice with the help of, and tireless efforts of the civil society groups (two of the distinguhsed guests Mr. Navlakha and Prof. Chatterji deserve credit for that). What will also happen and has already happened in the latest case in Shopian is that the victims will be victimized further. The police authorities in Kashmir where there is no rule of law will make sure that the victims are terrorized, silenced and forced into wrong confessions and in the process many of those police personnel will fatten their pockets with bribes. This is a disheartening pattern we have witnessed time and again and there is no one to hold the police authorities accountable. As was the case in the latest investigations, the senior police officers are busy with personal physical training, playing golf on the prestigious golf course built on the ruins of the only city forest in Kashmir. Their ways of investigation are outmoded, their interest in finding the truth nil and is coloured by many different pressures to which they bow down easily. ( J&K Coalition of Civil Society July 2009). How can a force that is supposed to protect the people of Kashmir be allowed to go unaccountable when they commit gross violations and dereliction of their duties. So where is the force that truly protects the interest of the Kashmiris? But then, let us not fool ourselves when a people have no rights, there is not much to protect. But will anything change. Will the practices come to an end? Will rape and torture cease to be used as weapons to tame the Kashmiri population?
None of this will change as long as there are laws in place that protect the armed forces from prosecution and do not hold them accountable for their actions. Only in Kashmir do you find a soldier who has killed, raped or destroyed property being rewarded monetarily as well as professionally. When the incentives are so great, why wouldn’t they use the privileges granted to them for victimizing the Kashmiri population. I remember a couple of years ago when a student on his way to college, boarding a bus was shot and killed and left on the Bouleavrd, the police officer was immediately promoted and heralded for his bravery, for having killed a dangerous insurgent.
These laws were instituted “…in early July 1990 the Kashmir Valley (and in later years Muslim majority districts of Jammu province) was brought under the Disturbed Areas Act. Under the provisions of this act the military has absolute power to search homes, arrest without warrant and shoot even on mere suspicion, The draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, passed in 1958, was also extended to Kashmir, Section 6 of this gives impunity to armed personnel acting in disturbed areas. Even the much touted National Human Rights Commission (1993) bars investigations against armed forces in areas declared as disturbed areas…” (J&K Coalition of Civil Society, 2005)
These laws have resulted in gross violations of human rights
“ in the name of retributive justice, have been/may be used to perpetrate state violence, subvert due process of law, undermine civil liberties, and freedom of the press, eroding rule of law, permitting torture and sexualized violence on those in state custody, criminalizing innocent persons, and, in effect, undermining the safety and security of citizens.
Local realities reflect the use of these laws by the military and paramilitary to control the general population with impunity. These laws authorize soldiers to search, question, raid houses, and detain without charge-sheets. Curfews remain undeclared, permitting security forces to operate without evidencing cause, and enabling repression of civil society without prior warning. These laws blur distinctions between 'military' and 'paramilitary', as evidenced by the enhanced training and authority invested in the CRPF in Kashmir. ( J&K Coalition of Civil Society, July 18, 2009)
Terrror breeds terror: I remember a four year old boy relating to me in his innocent way as to what had happened to his mother who had been attacked by drunken soldiers. He did not know the terminology of rape and violence, what he did know is that what happened was a hate filled incident and that his mother was a victim of hate. I wondered what impact this incident would have on the mind of this young child, how would he process his anger and what would he do if he decided to avenge his mother’s rape. I have the same question when I look into the eyes of all the orphans of Kashmir that have witnessed violence and are traumatized. What about this generation that has grown in violence and has known violence as the norm? I have been amazed at the resilience of the younger generation of Kashmir, the children of the uprising. They have learned, to a large degree to channel their pain and find ways of making peace within themselves. This sentiment is well summarized by Malik Sajad in an interview to a reporter of the Washington Post<
"For the young generation, it's our moment now," said Malik Sajad, a 20-year-old political cartoonist for the Greater Kashmir newspaper who was raised during the war. "Nobody here saw a childhood. We were always kept indoors. But we don't believe that the solution is in the gun. Now we want to show the world that Kashmiris deserve peace." (Watts, 2008)
This new way of thinking has confounded many including the intelligenisa in India as well as others who benefitted from keeping the hatred and war mongering alive in the hearts of Kashmiris and superificially aided them in one way or another. The challenge posed by peaceful demonstrations is baffling the Indian authorities. They know how to shoot at sight but they are not trained to suppress dissent by millions on the streets of Kashmir without a gun, without even stones. The pent up rage which erupted like a volcano over the Amarnath Shrine Board land transfer, was an immediate and spontaneous reaction to all the injustices that Kashmiris have endured for two decades from mass disappearances, to deaths, torture and rape. Those who thrive on portraying everything as a communal protest could not justify their logic, Kashmiris in their true spirit of hospitality greeted, housed, fed and guided the pilgrims and not one among half a million of them was hurt or attacked, while the Indian army was engaged in killing innocent Kashmiris in the streets. As a mother with a very sick child in the hospital, I myself switnessed many Indian tourists and pilgrims who were ill, being cared for by the Muslims of Kashmir, being treated as special guests. Patients and their caregivers had no food and medicine while caught in a hospital of Kashmir during the curfew. Strangers who would come through back alleys and marshes, avoiding the gaze of the military, fed the Hindu pilgrims and their patients and somehow arranged for whatever medications they could for them. At a time when there were no medical supplies, doctors and volunteers made sure that the Indian visitors had what they needed. Such hospitality and tolerance always gets overlooked and all we read about is the hatred. Unfortunately even the Amnesty report of 2009 portrays the summer 2008 mass uprising of Kashmir as communal protests, which they were not in Kashmir.
During July and August, communal protests in Jammu and Kashmir rose to levels unseen in recent years and erupted into violence on several occasions. Police used excessive force to deal with the violence and shot dead more than 60 people. (Amnesty International, 2009)
There were indeed attacks on Kashmiris who became victims of the rage of communal interests in Jammu. Some Kashmiris were burnt alive, a driver killed and many others attacked. In Jammu, these hate filled interest groups created a blockade of the only highway, pharmaceutical companies refused to send medications to Kashmir and fruit, which is the main cash crop of Kashmiris, bound for the plains, was left to rot in trucks carrying them resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage to the economy. This was a time when Kashmiris realized that self-reliance is something they had traded for a while by becoming dependent on everything coming from the plains.
The dilemma the Indian administration was faced with during the peaceful mass protests was novel. What do you do when people demand freedom of expression of their will in the true spirit of non-violence. How do you crush a mass resistance movement, mostly led by the youth of Kashmir, the children of war, expressing their resentment in a peaceful way. The answer came very quickly from the authorities who clamped an unprecedented curfew and choked the population. What the authorities did not realize then, and fail to realize now, is that you can delay deliverance of justice or suppress the will of people, but never wipe it out of their psyche. Alienation and brutalization of Kashmiris will never endear them to India or Pakistan. No amount of money showered upon the residents of Kashmir will buy their hearts and minds. The people of Kashmir deserve the right of self determination, a basic human right. Peace will come to Kashmir, God Willing, for that though, centrality of Kashmiris basic rights is essential. With rights also come responsibilities and to be able to discharge these responsibilities Kashmiris will need to do some preparation and homework.
The only way to resolve any conflict is to understand the root cause of a conflict, origins of violence, and how can peace and stability be built after violence has occurred and how to sustain reconciliation among people who have been at odds with each other for so long. (Rossi, 2003)
Given what I described to you so far, it should be very easy for anyone to understand that Kashmir is a conflict zone, one where there are gross violation of basic human right have occurred and continue to occur. It is not a cultural conflict, a religious conflict or a territorial conflict. It is a conflict that is simply one of denial of people’s right to self determination, a right guaranteed to the people of Kashmir by the United Nations and agreed to by both India and Pakistan. It gives people of Kashmir the ultimate authority to decide their political fate. It is a far simpler conflict to resolve than conflicts that have deep rooted religious or ethnic roots. The resolution of Kashmir quagmire calls for a resolute grassroots movement, led by leaders of all sides trained in international relations and conflict resolution, historians, peacemakers, political leaders and experts in social psychology. The mix of political and psycho social is important given the scars that the violence of last twenty years has left on the people of Kashmir.
The next step is to carefully examine the causes of violence, both as a result of terror perpetrated by those fighting for freedom through violent means, as well as state sponsored terrorism. What was the root cause of anger and discontent of those who chose to lead an armed struggle and how justified or balanced was the response?
The crimes committed have to be investigated as well so these crimes are not repeated. One way of moving the process forward could by adopting the model of peace and reconciliation Commissions similar to post apartheid South Africa under the aegis of the United Nations or independent peace activists form all sides of the conflict.
A way forward:
The centrality of Kashmiris’ rights has three aspects. The first and foremost of course is the political aspect of resolving the status of Kashmir according to the wishes of people of all regions and developing a strategy to help support the decision that the people make. The first step towards creating an atmosphere of normalcy would be to end all forms of subjugation and repression, and withdrawal of the large military forces that are a constant reminder that the people of Kashmir are living in an open air prison. Other aspects of political solution will follow when the basics are addressed. Secondly, a socio psychological and economic model needs to be developed, one that works out a strategy for economic survival, a model for accommodation of all people irrespective of their faith, a model for reviving the whole traumatized Kashmiri society psychologically and a model for protection of rights of all minorities in all regions. Thirdly, a faith model one that brings together leaders of all faiths to come to an understanding of peace and reconciliation and promoting these principles in their respective communities; a way to move forward and live in harmony, with respect and understanding.
Enmity and hatred are two evils that will keep the South Asian region always unstable and grand standing and arrogance will only further widen the divide. It will take courageous leadership on all sides, particularly religious leadership to end bloodshed by implementing true understanding of their faiths, one that preserves the sanctity of all living beings. Once we are at peace with ourselves, InshaAllah, peace on earth will prevail.
Prerequisites of peace:
To move forward on the path of peace, Kashmiris need to engage in a process of self-examination and honest introspection. They will have to ask themselves: What is the struggle of Kashmir all about? Is it a religious struggle, a territorial struggle or a struggle for justice? Are we being unfair by biting the hand that feeds us? This, being the most common accusation that I have heard from many in the Indian community, and some factions of the Kashmiri community? Was staying silent and maintaining the status quo better than pouring out on the streets in 1989 and stirring the pot? Many of the previous generation, the generation of my parents might say, yes. They had found a way of life, living as subjects of a state that provided them jobs,naukri, bijli and pani, a semblance of democracy, while making sure that the so called autonomous structure bestowed on them by the Indian constitution, was gradually eroded. They were learning to be Indians, although the Indian polity never accorded them the same privileges as other citizens of the country. The response of the younger generation, the generation of the uprising, however, is different. While the majority of the young people may be ignorant or very little informed about their history, they are the children of struggle, they are the victims of war, they are survivors against all odds, they are not ready to forget the sacrifices of the 100,000 people dead, 8,000 disappeared and thousands of people tortured and rotting in jails. This generation is also not ready to fall into the hands of those that used religion in the past to garner support for their aims. I think they realize that the struggle of Kashmir is a basic one, one of “Azadi”, the meaning of which can vary from that of their elders. They want Azadi, freedom of thought, expression, life and liberty. Their Azadi means freedom from fear—fear of being shot at sight for no reason, freedom from fear of being tortured, freedom from rape and molestation. They realize that their Azadi, will not come from the skies, they are willing to die for it. And here an important question to address is: Will these young people lose their sense of justice and fairness if they were to get ther Azadi? Will they abuse the freedom they fought so hard for. What measure are in place for them to channel their anger and frustration?
This self-examination will also need Kashmiris to look back and own the mistakes of the past—mistakes made by those that misused religion, while knowing little about their faith, those that allowed themselves to be exploited by the oppressors, those that maltreated minorities and women, those that understood very little about the multifaith nature of the Kashmiri community, a beacon in the subcontinent that is often plagued with communal hatred.
While Kashmir is not a religious struggle, I would like to submit that faith can inform people in very powerful ways. In today’s world religion is looked upon with absolute disfavour. In fact, it is often blamed for all ills of the world today. Unfortunately given the Isalmophobic atmosphere that we are in today and the pos 9/11 politics, Islam gets a particulary bad rap. However, as a humble student of different faith traditions, I have yet to encounter a faith that breeds hatred. In my twenty years of bridge building work as part of various multifaith and multicultural groups, I have learned that no religion promotes hate for one another. What we fail to always do is to make that distinction between the faith and those who claim to be the followers of that faith., and I can speak particulary about Islam and Muslims. Faith based approach to peace building is an idea that is rapidly gaining favour in the global community and there are many successful experiments of reconciliation that are faith based which can be studied to gain guidance.
The Muslims of Kashmir are a faithful people and their faith can guide them through a process of reconciliation just as faith guided the people of South Africa. The centrality of Kashmiris’ rights is closely tied to their faith and helping them use their faith with an open mind, devoid of stereotypes, prejudices and biases under the guidance and leadership of those who understand the principles of Islam rooted in justice and peace.
Islam is a way of life that is rooted in peace and peace building, not the distorted version of propounders of Islam who use Islam to suit their own needs through misinterpretation or those others whose mission is to defame Islam and Muslims. I am sure by now you are all beginning to wonder who this extremist is amongst you. Well all Iam asking for is to allow people to use a framework that they can relate to work towards peace and the best one, in my mind for Kashmiri Muslims is their faith. I firmly believe that the Muslims of Kashmir can reject the philosophy of hate and extremism that many adopted in the early years of the insurgency, and find a way out in their faith to reconcile and forgive, by following the principles of justice and reconciliation laid out in the Quran living with others with openness, respect and accommodation. They can with boldness choose in the true Islamic spirit to live the commandment of the Quran
O you who believe, be persistently firm in justice, witnesses for Allah even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives…. Al-Quran S.4 v.135.
O you who believe, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of people prevent you form being just… Al-Quran S5: v.8
If the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims of today understand truly the meaning of this Quranic injunction, they will never become oppressors themselves, a fear that many have.
The first step in reconciliation according to Islam is forgiveness, not retribution, While in Islam you do not turn the other cheek, the reward for forgiving your enemy, one that has hurt you and harmed you is with God alone
The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof; but whosoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah. Verily, he likes not the oppressors Al-Quran 42:40
As long as this movement of peace is rooted in the principles of truth, justice, Mercy and forgiveness as prescribed by the Quran for the Muslims, peace will automatically follow. Once this principle of justice is adhered to and implemented, all hatred will melt away and the process of moving forward will begin.
This process of using faith and reconciliation does not have to be exclusive to Muslims alone. Other faith communities can have their own models as well, but I am no one to dictate tothem. This process of learning will involve diverse segments of Kashmiri with focus on the very young, one’s that are most affected by this conflict. I assist a lot of refugees who come from most dire circumstances from all conflict zones of earth—Somalia, the Balkans,Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan to Canada. What I have noticed is that these refugees live in absolute peace in Canada, once they are removed from the atmosphere of animosity. However, the trauma is deep and left untreated can take various unhealthy forms of expression, especially in children. Processing the trauma and attending to their psycho-social needs of Kashmiri population can wait no longer. The figures are alarming, there is a psycho-social crises that demands attention from all who care for human values. From the MSF study we learn that every Kashmiri is affected by trauma and they have not yet found way to process this trauma which can rise its ugly head in various forms of depression, revenge and retribution. We need to address the psycho social along with the political. The children of Kashmir need an outlet for their misery, their anger and their frustration. They have to know that there is a possibility to live without fear and intimidation.
One of the models of faith and reconciliation is the Interfaith Mediation Centre of Kaduna, Nigeria, lead by a pastor and an Imam, one time bitter enemies who renounced violence and vowed to bring their community together in peace using the faith based model. I have had the good fortune of meeting these remarkable men. ( I recommend the film (Pastor and the Imam) to anyone who has not seen already.) Another option to consider would be the the model of peace and reconciliation commission of NelsonMandela.
Reevaluation of leadership is another prerequisite. Moving away form hereditary leadership and priesthood (both clearly discouraged in Islam), will free the minds of people and allow those that truly represent the masses and understand them based on their commitment to peace and justice to step forward. Dominant personalities must be replaced by a common ideology of reuniting the people of Kashmir for the purpose of striving for justice. Kashmir has to pave way for new leaders to emerge, leaders that truly understand the common cause of freedom form oppression, of uniting people under only one banner of reclaiming the dignity and respect of Kashmiris in a nonviolent manner. These leaders will have to sacrifice something that current leaders are used to, namely seeking protection from the forces that they are fighting against. The old leadership while making room for new blood, will hopefully share their collective wisdom with the new one’s and the young leaders have to honour the sacrifices of their elders and forgive their shortcomings. Such courageous young leaders will need guidance from others—intellectuals, historians, peace activists and others that have well understood the struggle in the path of liberation of hearts and minds. While there are many in the Kashmiri society and in the Pakistani and Indian civil society that can offer their wisdom and guidance, I suggest that in addition, Kashmiri leaders seek the guidance and intervention of “the Elders”, “a group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote shared interests of humanity” These guides including President Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Ella Bhat, Mohammed Yunus, to name a few, would be the best to help lead peace and reconciliation between Kashmir’s young leadership and the Governments of India and Pakistan. Such eminent leaders who have no vested interests other than peace building can help the whole region of subcontinent to reclaim peace with justice.
Enough blood has been shed in Kashmir, both India and Pakistan have spent enormous resources on armaments and maintaining their huge defence budgets, money that could be well spent on the betterment of the poor and hungry in their countries. Both countries have realized that there is no military solution to the Kashmir imbroglio, so why not give true peace a chance. Kashmiris will not look small by being magnanimous. Forgiving their oppressors and perpetrators of injustice and getting rid of hatred and vendetta that can consume and destroy will be a healthy start for a new society, a new beginning, a new dawn. Once this groundwork is laid hopefully with the help of the Elders, a vote to express their desire to decide their destiny can be held and both India and Pakistan and rest of the world must at that point honour the decision of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and then aid them in the process of rebuilding their lives with dignity.
Is this just a dream? Perhaps, I do pray that it will in some form become a reality that frees my people from misery, subjugation, pain and suffering, InshaAllah.
I believe peace is possible if all parties are willing to take bold necessary steps the most important of which is promoting a free and fair civil discourse in all sections of the Kashmir society bringing together, civil society members, political scientists, thinkers, religious leaders and political leaders of all inclinations. Kashmiris who have no recent history of governance will have to get together and define their struggle through healthy debate and discussion. Empty slogans of Azadi will only breed frustration and no tangible results, Intimidation, mistrust, threats and sheer violence agsinst those who dare to speak out has silenced many in Kashmir that could have begun this discourse a long time ago. Freedom of expression of diverse opinions and narratives is a healthy beginning to root out hatred.
Governments and those that claim to be self appointed guardians of one kind or another have to develop a tolerance for hearing all voices, even the one’s that may not be to their liking in a non-judgemental way to pave way for moving beyond tolerance to understanding.
I have faith in the youth of Kashmir, especially those that are the children of the uprising--- one’s in Kashmir and in diaspora. Bridge building can happen and has to happen for a peaceful united Kashmir where ethnic and religious hatred will have no place, where there will be no imposition of any kind—religious, social or cultural--A united Kashmir which will truly show the world that peace is possible through forgiveness and reconciliation. It needs courage and bold leadership from all sides and support of those that care for peace in the world.
de Jong, Kaz, Nathan Ford, Saskia van de Kam, Kamalini Lokuge, Silke Fromm, Renate van Galen, Brigg Reilley, and Rolf Kleber. "Conflict in the Indian Kashmir Valley I: exposure to violence.(Research). ." Conflict and Health. 2.10 (Oct 14, 2008): 10. Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON).
J&K Coalition of Civil Society, State Public Commision on Human Rights, Srinagar, Coalition of Civil Society, Amira Kadal, Bund, Srinagar, 2005.
J&K Coalition of Civil Society, Report on the Shopian rape incident, July 2009.
Rossi, John Allen. “Teachign about international conflict and peacemaking at th grassroots level” The Social Studies, 94(4), July –August 2003)
Watts, Emily “Peaceful protest in Kashmir alter equation for India: Tough response criticized as outmoded”, Washignton Post, Aug.28, 2008.
This statement by Manav Kumar summarizes the fate of all efforts at any Confidence Building Measures on part of India and Pakistan. CBM’s barely capture the imagination of average Kashmiris who have always been treated as outsiders to any deliberations about their political fate. Political posturing by the two nations of Indian and Pakistan, and all CBMs have been nothing more than posturing, have little bearing on the everyday life of Kashmiris. Kashmir currently is, as Kamal Chenoy puts it, hostage to the two “bitterly contending nationalisms” (Chenoy,2006) of India and Pakistan both making a claim over Kashmir, one using the faith of the majority community as a claim to its territory and the other using the fear of crack in their national secularism were they to let go of the Muslim majority Kashmir.
Add to the contending nationalisms, obsession with historical memories, namely the bitterness over the partition of the country, deep rooted fear and suspicion of each other, every step forward tends to stall. Since both India and Pakistan consider the issue of Kashmir a bi-lateral issue, and interference by any outsiders who could help the process along anytime they get stuck in the past, or their trust in each other dwindles, seems to be bleak. Kashmiris often pin hopes in the West or the Middle East to use their influence in impressing upon the Indian and Pakistani authorities to resolve the issue of Kashmir in consultation with Kashmiris, unfortunately no one has come forward strongly enough to advocate the desires and wishes of the people of Kashmir.
If there was any outside support or pressure to get the Kashmir issue resolved, it has dramatically diminished in the post 9/11 world of the so-called “global war on terror”. In order to gain sympathy and support for its policies in Kashmir, India has conveniently labelled the popular uprising in Kashmir as a terrorist movement. In the post 9/11 world a shift occurred in approach to the Kashmir dispute. In the name of fighting terrorism in Kashmir, India succeeded in convincing the world that Kashmir was a problem that they had to deal with internally just as America has to deal with terrorists elsewhere. As a result, India’s claims on all of Kashmir became more popular and denial of plebiscite gained strength.
Given that both India and Pakistan consider Kashmir a bi-lateral issue, they have resisted outside intervention and help in resolving the issue of Kashmir. The US government could not actively engage in the issue of Kashmir as it would appear hypocritical to be supporting “terrorism” while they were engaged in uprooting terrorism elsewhere in the world.
With President Obama, the hope of change for many around the world, there may or may not be any change in the US policy towards Kashmir. President Obama has appointed a seasoned diplomat, Richard Holbrooke as a special representative for Pakistan and Afghanistan, “yet his public description of responsibilities has been carefully worded to avoid mention of Kashmir, because India’s government has long rejected outside mediation of the conflict… (Coll, 2009). This attitude was affirmed by the statements of Secretary Clinton on her recent visit to India when talking to reporters in Mumbai, she sated that. “the US is very supportive of al efforts in the fight against terrorism. At the same time, we are not going to in any way pressurize to restart (Indo-Pak) dialogue as it is for these sovereign governments to decide”. (Outlook India, July 18,2009 ). In an interview with Dawn News, Secretary Clinton mentioned that “disputes between India and Pakistan, which are historical and long standing, should be looked at with fresh eyes, and there should be an effort to build some mutual trust”. (Outlook India, July 18, 2009)
No where in these statements is there a mention of the wishes of either the people of Kashmir or any word about their misery and pain. There was also no mention in Secretary Clinton’s remarks regarding the alienation that has been created in the Kashmiri psyche through repeated violation of basic human rights in Kashmir. The US approach can be summarized on the sidelines approach. The advice given by US political advisers during the time of back channel negotiations was to “keep hands off” as is related to Steve Coll by Ashley Tellis, a political adviser in the US embassy. Will this approach change in anyway in the Obama administration, only tiem will tell.
The most dramatic shift in Pakistan’s stance on Kashmir was demonstrated in Musharraf’s proposed solution in which, for the first time, he mentioned that Pakistan would give up its claim on Kashmir as long as India accepted some of its proposals for peace which involved
a. phased withdrawal of troops
b. demilitarizing all or parts of Kashmir
c. dividing Kashmir into seven geographical areas (five of which are under Pak control and two under Indian control)
d. self-governance for locals
e. considering a new approach of perhaps joint supervision involving Pak, India, Kashmir and a UN mandate.
Musharraf defended his proposal as something that would benefit both India and Pakistan and as he says, “I wasn’t just giving concessions—I was taking from India as well”. (Coll, 2009)
While this proposal which caused a great deal of uproar in many quarters, we now know was not merely a figment of Musharraf’s imagination, rather it was a result of looking at the Kashmir issue from a realistic point of view, with “fresh eyes” and striking a compromise, and the participants of this proposal were representatives of both governments of Pakistan and India. It is the “paradigm shift” that the two countries secretly arrived at after years of negotiations and numerous meeting in secret locations outside of the subcontinent in what was called “the back channel”. A detailed analysis providing an insight into the nature and subject of these negotiations is documented by Steve Coll in his New Yorker article of March 2009. Both Indian and Pakistani officials, whom Steve Coll interviewed, confirmed that the back channel talks were close to an agreement on Kashmir only to be thwarted by fall of the Musharraf government. What we also find out from his report is that both Prime Minister Singh and Musharraf held discussions with Hurriyat and other separatist groups. Omar Farooq of Hurriyet tells Steve Coll that he found “Musharraf was someone who was willing to think out of the box”. One wonders if this out of the box solution was in reference to the proposals made public by Musharraf. If so, how much of this proposal was shared by the Kashmiri leaders with their people. Did they also keep them in the dark and just assumed that one more time the people would accept whatever was imposed on them? Did these leaders have a strategy to make the Kashmiri public accept this proposal? In the same vein, did the leaders of India and Pakistan have a plan for making their people buy into the proposal?
When one refers to the separatist leadership in Kashmir, there is no one speaking with one voice, there are multiple voices, although the majority of people in both factions of Hurriyet have maintained the centrality of right of self-determination in resolving the issue. A unified leadership with a single vision and a concrete proposal for resolution in accordance with the wishes of the people has yet to emerge. A document that could clearly state the goals of the Kashmiri struggle with signatories from various factions has yet to surface. The state of leadership is well summarized by Manav Kumar as a group of people “struggling for influence”. The Kashmiri leadership has been marginalized within Kashmir to a large degree. People’s faith in them, in my estimation, has dwindled and there is no single group that can claim that they represent the interests of Kashmiris, especially the new generation. If the cause of Kashmir as an issue of justice is to advance, Kashmiri leaders, irrespective of their differences, as true representatives of their people must speak with one voice and involve the civil society from all sections and regions in order to come up with a proposal that they can present to the governments of India and Pakistan as well as the world. This has to be an open consultative process if people’s faith in leadership is to be restored and exploitation of one person or group over another by various interest groups is to end.
Now that the new administration is in power in Pakistan and there are signs that talks have resumed, we will have to wait and see how the “back channel” negotiations and proposals will figure. Will they start afresh or modify what was begun?
The purpose of CBM’s is to create confidence, a change in attitude, end mistrust and engender cooperation between rivals. CBMs are recourse to finding a way out, exploring the dispute with an open mind and an approach where one is willing to lose some and gain some. At the same time there has to be a common goal, which in this case is peace and stability in the subcontinent, a dangerous nuclear flashpoint. In the reconciliation work I do with individuals, recognizing that there is a problem is a first and essential step, and it is no different between nations. Mutual trust and transparency and cooperation can never be built overnight which is why it has to be an ongoing process that continues in spite of who comes to power in both India and Pakistan. A framework for peace building that is derived out of consultations with all parties, who acknowledge that there is a problem and which includes the aggrieved, meaning the people of Kashmir, will be the only long lasting peaceful solution. The benefit of continuing this conversation with agreed upon goal of peace and security of the region, and supported by all nations and people that care for peace and justice should be obvious to leaders of both India and Pakistan. India, an emerging super power in the South Asian region cannot afford to have an illiterate population more than that of Sub Saharan Africa nor can it afford in this 21st century to have more than half its population malnourished. Nor can Pakistan continue to have mounting foreign debt and a severe shortage of basic amenities for its population. (Hilali, A.Z. 2005). Eradication of poverty ought to be the primary goal of both nations—let them feed their poor, not the arms race. If the Kashmir issue is left unresolved and Kashmiris are treated as irrelevant and superfluous to the efforts of confidence building, constant turmoil will keep both countries on edge and South Asia will continue as the most militarized zone on earth and continuing hostilities may bring the nations to the brink of a nuclear war.
Kashmir is not normal, despite the efforts of the Indian government to hide the facts from the world. As long as India continues to portray a façade of normalcy in Kashmir to the international community and the Indian media plays a complicit role by covering the governments record of torture and extrajudicial killings and disappearances, Kashmir, as Meenakshi Ganguly, a Human Right’s Watch senior researcher puts it, “is going to be where justice failed the promises of Indian democracy.” (Coll, 2009)
None of the band aid solutions will aid a long term peace process. Symbolic gestures such as opening the Muzaffarabad Srinagar bus service, or opening the trade route are all steps towards bringing a bit of normalcy to the lives of Kashmiris on both sides of the LOC, something that is needed for families to end their decades long cruel and abnormal separation, and for traders to promote their goods with their own people but they can never be a replacement for the ultimate issue, which is solving the problem of Kashmir according to the wishes of its people. Assuming that with economic resurgence, the problem of Kashmir will disappear is a delusion. Socio-economic measures and development efforts have to follow, not precede, the political efforts at settlement. Trade cannot be used as a bribe to overshadow the political issue. Trade is good for normalization after the political settlement has occurred, or at least alongside initiation of the political process. Nor will fake elections in Kashmir become a substitute for plebiscite, the right to decide through democratic means the political future of Kashmir. The scars of the Kashmiri people are too deep to heal with the balm of economic prosperity alone. No Kashmiri, save the opportunists, is ready to forget the sacrifices of their brothers and sisters who were murdered, molested, tortured or those that vanished in thin air. The “Zulum parast” (worshippers of tyrants,) a Sir Walter Lawrence described Kashmiris, have now transformed into “Azadi pasand”. Kashmir power brokers will have to seek their power from the people, the millions of people who last year marched on the streets of Kashmir peacefully. These are people not interested in shedding blood to earn their freedom to live in dignity, but people who will not accept humiliation and subjugation. Intransigence on part of all parties, whether it concerns unwillingness to redraw the maps, indisposition towards plebiscite or aversion to nonviolent struggle will all be hurdles in the path of reconciliation and peace building. Hence all three parties must give a little to see this intractable conflict brought to a speedy resolution, I hope and pray sooner than later, may be in my lifetime.
Chenoy, Kamal. "Contending nationalisms: Kashmir and the prospects for peace. " Harvard International Review. 28.3 (Fall 2006): 24(4). Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 18 July 2009
Coll, Steve. "The Back Channel. " The New Yorker. 85.3 (March 2, 2009): 38. Expanded Academic ASAP. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 20 July 2009
Hilali, A.Z. "Confidence- and security-building measures for India and Pakistan. " Alternatives: Global, Local, Political. 30.2 (April-June 2005): 191(32). Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 18 July 2009
Kumar, Manav. "The hidden conflict: false optimism and silent strategy in Kashmir. " Harvard International Review. 26.4 (Wntr 2005): 36(4). Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON). 18 July 2009
Outlook India, No pressure for Indo-Pak Talks: newsoutlookindia.com.
David Wolfe: Kashmir Peace Conference Remarks July 24th The Gold Room, Rayburn House Office Building, Washington DC
This is the first time in my four-year involvement with the KAC, and as a coordinator of this conference since 2005, where I have been asked to express my views regarding the subject of Kashmir. For those of you who don’t know, I was a NE Asian Human Security, Conflict Resolution and Post-Conflict Reconstruction Specialist, who speaks Japanese and can have a lengthy discussion regarding history, literature, non-proliferation etc, regarding the East Asian region. However, I feel blessed to have come into contact with the Kashmir issue via a chance meeting with Dr. Fai at the United Nations in February 2005, whom I consider my mentor, and dear friend. This then led to working with Dr. Angana Chatterji and Dr. Richard Shapiro who have both given me guidance, knowledge and support despite professional setbacks I have endured due to my commitment to the Kashmir Issue, it is worth it. So my remarks today will be a meeting of my two worlds, but comes after a year long reflection following my trip to IJK, my experiences I encountered both positive and negative, and the understanding of how a people can be on the brink of violence at any moment, which I eerily felt for the five weeks I spent on the ground.
Earlier this year while accepting an award in Israel for achievement in literature, the famous Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami gave a compelling analogy meant for Israel-Palestine, however I believe will give you an understanding of where I stand in terms of non-violence, and specifically the Kashmiri people. Murakami said: "Between a high, solid wall and an egg that breaks against it, I will always stand on the side of the egg. Yes, no matter how right the wall may be and how wrong the egg, I will stand with the egg. Someone else will have to decide what is right and what is wrong; perhaps time or history will decide.”
When I traveled and in a sense lived with a family in IJK, I was the guest of my very dear friend Mohammad Yasin Malik and and lived with the family of Ghulam Rasool Dar, whom will be in my thoughts for the rest of my life. Yasin, without manipulation gave me free reign to seek out for myself what the people felt with regards to occupation, violence, non-violence and the fears that came with daily life in the valley. I also spent time with Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, whom I also consider a dear friend, in order to understand all perspectives of the separatists, as I learned from the common shop-keeper, professor, student, both male and female, or house wife to gain a well rounded perspective in an attempt to form my own assessment of reality. In fact, I was placed under house arrest and roughed up a bit by SP and CPRF personnel for doing so. However I feel I was able ascertain most of the answers to the questions I had asked myself. I raised this very question to all of them. “Do you ever feel as if the non-violent movement will fail?” The answers varied. Mirwaiz, of course, as a religious man, stays the course he always had. Though he does live a sheltered existence, he stands with the non-violent movement, but knows at anytime he could summon the youth to pick up arms and fight once again.
Geelani-sahib, as most of you know, does not advocate violence, but reserves the right to retaliation and self-defense. A point that he and I disagreed. This experience is the core reason why the Murakami quote resonated with me so deeply. I am a believer in nonviolence. However, if Geelani decided violence is the only answer to solving the problem, no matter how much I vehemently disagree with his assessment, I will stand with him. In the end Geelani-sahib did kiss me on the forehead and called me his son, which in my own heart felt like I had been baptized again, and will forever be highlight in my life. By the way, I was raised Christian and spend a lot of time with Muslims so I have my own internal struggle as well…
Yasin Malik for me is one of the few who can legitimately answer this question. Yes I have my bias, however he has tried the strategy of ending the non-violent movement and pick up the gun, and returned to non-violence. He understands first hand that this is a losing proposition, and continues this as justification for his continued stance despite the continued house arrest, detention and violence by the Indian Military against the Kashmiri people, and himself specifically.
However, the Kashmiri people left me with a feeling of indifference. They were exhausted by the occupation, yet not spiritually broken. They resisted violence, but understood it’s possible necessity should that time come. And finally, they were unsure of the commitment of the separatist leadership, with the exception of Yasin Malik, whom everyone across the board felt had served his time, given his sacrifice and had accepted possible death for his non-violence struggle since he had faced while serving as a militant leader.
As a specialist in Conflict Resolution and Human Security, there are indicators that signify the core of why violence exists in any given area. That armed conflict and violence are not inherently found in any culture, religion or political movement.
You see violence is cyclical in nature. Unless the cycle can be broken, there will never be a viable solution. I firmly believe that the people in IJK have been able to disrupt that circle, and start a new line outside of the circle with their non-violent movement surviving the violence of last summer perpetrated by the Indian Military. Remember, 68 people died during non-violent protest, including Sheik Aziz.
I also believe, that India and Pakistan are the only actors in this conflict that are keeping that circle in motion. Whether it be ISI and Pakistani military funded militants who commit what I like to call “mosquito” attacks on the military, the Indian military using fake encounters to justify killing an innocent, or the occasional skirmish that happens when two militaries face each other down with soldiers who are brainwashed into false pretenses about the other. When violence does occur in Kashmir, the recipient of the response regardless of who initiated the violence, are the people of the Valley, and no one else. With all do respect to people in AJK, please dismantle and demobilize the militants in AJK. Their actions are continuing the suffering of the very people they supposedly are fighting for, and a people who have given employing violent struggle as a means to an end. It’s time the people of AJK, the ISI and the Pakistani Military got with the program. I hear your cries of injustice, but are you achieving any form of justice for the people in the Valley?
The people in the Valley receive the cyclical retaliation from the Indian Army due to, frankly speaking the actions of an outsider who obviously does not share the same value as the Kashmiri in the Valley. If the people in AJK did share that value and a belief in non-violent struggle, then groups like Lashkar e Taiba, Jaish e Muhammad and Hizbul Mujahideen would no longer be carrying out operations in IJK. This might be naïve to believe, but I put my faith into the actions of those on the ground, and what I have continued to witness is a failure to fundamentally support the people in IJK with their continued efforts, despite being labeled militant, terrorist or extremist, when those labels are meant for the actual actors of the violence, who do not come from the Valley, but from the other side of the LoC, or the Indian Military and government.
I know the non-violent struggle has taken it’s toll on the Kashmiri people to the point of exhaustion, but giving up on non-violence is to give up on the principles that they continue to stand for, and serve as an example that sets the Kashmiri apart from any other party in a conflict in the world today. In my opinion, there is no “what next” or “then what” to the question posed to this panel. The non-violent struggle is painful, it comes with sacrifice, it comes with death, torture, rape and the most despicable acts that human beings can perpetrate. Agreed, these are words that come easy from an American whose struggle is to lose twenty pounds or quit smoking cigarettes, but I have seen the resolve in the faces both young and old. It’s that face that keeps me from abandoning the issue regardless of the professional price I may pay for doing so.
If the Kashmiri were to once again start an internal uprising, pick up arms and fight the Indian occupation, I would not be surprised, and I can assure you I would support their cause for self-determination regardless because of the just nature behind its meaning, but I would be disappointed that they failed in what they have continued for so long and serve as an example of strength, courage, honor and dignity. As previously stated in the Murakami quote, “the egg may be wrong” and this is what I mean because I believe in the real power rests with those who practice non-violence. However, I will stand with the egg.
The Kashmiri have stared humiliation in the face, and smiled that innocent smile that you see on all their faces knowing that they are right, which forever guarantees their dignity. That the egg may appear to be broken, but the wall will never be justified in not allowing flexibility or padding to prevent it from doing so.
So to some up my opinion, the response of “then what” or “what next” would be to accept violence as an option, or logical next step. In my opinion, this is a short cut, an easy answer that will only score low marks on the exam of life. You are either non-violent or you are not. If people are martyred as part of the movement, then their place in heaven will be solemn and beautiful. Can any religious person honestly go to the pearly gates and justify breaking the second commandment handed down to Moses, “Thou Shalt not Kill.” For a religious person, this is part of God’s test, God’s rules, God’s “Bill of Rights”. To turn to violence in my opinion is to fail God’s test, and a continuation of the evil and ills that have continued for the past 62 years.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
When it comes to improving the security situation in any society, it all begins with economics. Most people think of economics in terms of foreign direct investment, economic aid, the World Bank, IMF etc. However, when in societies such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China or Iran, the stability and security in these states hinges on the quality of life that people must sustain for survival. It may even amaze many people to understand that if the majority of citizens in South Asian states were granted access to basic food necessities (grains, cereals, vegetable, fruits), basic education for their children increasing at the very least literacy (K-8) and some form or employment or trade opportunity, then the ability for those societies to prosper will become incredibly sustainable.
The recent uprising in Xingjian Province in Western China by the Uygur population stemmed from blatant policies of discrimination against this ethnic and Muslim sector of the population by the Han Chinese authority. For decades, stability in Xingjian for the most part was a sustainable existence. There were obvious concerns by the ethnic minority Uygur population that discrimination was taking place by the ruling Han. However, the Uygur’s never turned to violence, but did become a more isolated society and turned inward, rather seeking greater inclusion into mainstream Chinese society. Despite a lack of evidence, the Chinese Government has labeled the Uygur population as a terrorist minority following the 9/11 attacks, based on religious affiliation and the informal transient labor and trade sector with neighbors in Afghanistan. As the access and quality of life deteriorated in Xingjian province, so did the human security situation. The result was on full display this past month in the form of the riots in Guangdong and Urumqi.
This form of civil uprising in the region has not just found it’s way to the doorstep of central governments either. The Taliban also have found out first hand what happens when the desperation of civil society turns on those assuming responsibility for that population. In the SWAT Valley, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) of Pakistan, people have grown tired of the inability of the central government to once and for all bring stability to the region, and doubly tired of the Taliban’s intimidation and forced control of the population, leading to the formation of local militia’s. The significance has been the progress these newly formed militias have achieved compared to that of the government in rooting out the Taliban. This proves that when people are pushed to their limits, the basic necessity of survival will win out over any political entity, violent or otherwise.
Both of these examples are the result of bad economics, education and public infrastructure by either the central authority, or the militant organizations that have nothing to offer other than an extreme ideology and a negative human development index. Moreover, it questions the government’s ability to understand that regardless of the societal makeup, communities want to improve. They want to see development and advancement for their children. This does not mean that these communities want to be ‘westernized’, but it does mean that they do believe they can have sustainable growth within their own communal and social dynamic through flexibility and adaptation to fit specific social norms and requirements.
There are multiple examples found throughout the region. In Sri Lanka, the Tamil situation was the result of mass discrimination against the Tamil population, and complete disregard for their legitimacy as an ethnic group. Of course, this does not excuse the reign of terror that Tamil forces conducted on the general Sri Lankan population, and non-Tamil communities within the Tamil areas of Sri Lanka. However, it goes to the heart of the belief that when a population feels they are not being granted an ability to grow as a society, they will resort to desperate means in order to achieve their objectives.
In India, these examples are found throughout the sub-Continent. In Kashmir, Bengal and Orissa, the people have resorted to both violent and non-violent means of communal response. In Kashmir, following a brutal and often bloody uprising from 1988-1995, the struggle has maintained a non-violent stance despite militants coming across the LoC from Pakistan at the behest of Pakistani military and intelligence personnel. Moreover, the violent and oppressive means that the military and security forces continue to employ to dominate Kashmiri life and culture. In Bengal, the Naxalite population has resorted to full militant struggle for independence. In Orissa, the attacks on all non-Hindu’s, specifically Christians, and the propaganda in local media, also led to state wide protest. Most of the problems in India are the result of Hindu extremism propagated by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) or their more extreme subsidiary the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). It must be noted that these two powerful political groups are more nationalist in nature rather than religious extremists. However, their propaganda of violent action against non-Hindu communities makes their ideology appear more in line with the Taliban than say the Stalinist regimes in other parts of the world.
In all of these cases, civil society was pushed to the brink or responding either in a violent manner, or in the case of Kashmir, strikes shutting down the whole Valley in an attempt to finally get the world to take notice of the situation. In a recent conference in Washington DC regarding Kashmir, one panel was posed with the question, “When non-violent movements fail, what’s next?” The answer more than likely is not very trivial to people living in the West or the developed world. However, unless analysts, academics and politicians attempt to walk in the shoes of the disenfranchised in any given society, the conclusions will always appear to be simple, without realizing the complexities that a society faces ethnically, religiously, politically and economically. In every case within South Asia, the model continues to mirror that of the colonial model, which created the problems that still exist today.
In order to solve the problems regarding economic and social development, human security, food scarcity and education in South Asian communities, civil society must have greater input into the sustainability of proposed actions. A new trend must begin to emerge where confidence-building measures (CBMs) target the ground realities of civil society. Human migration, informal labor sectors and inner tribal trading must be addressed in a pragmatic manner in order to bring realistic solutions to the daily problems faced in the most dire of circumstances. This will come in relaxed border restrictions through centralized registration based on trust and free of intimidation by the central authority, discrimination and/or racism. Finally, the corruption throughout the bureaucratic agencies of the central governments must be addressed and dealt with swiftly and without prejudice. In fact, this problem is at the heart of all the other problems.
What we find in South Asia today, are governments whose perceived understanding of governance is the model left behind by colonial powers. Exploitation, racism and cultural exclusivity plague the day-to-day activities of civil society in every nation state in the region. The assumption that these populations are in some way homogenous in nature and not filled with the diversity one might find in the United States is patently false. In fact, the melting pot theory may even hold more substance in South Asia than any part of the world. Unfortunately, the ruling classes who are left in charge following either a dictator, oppressive regime, ruling political party or otherwise have left nothing but poverty, despair and corruption in their wake, and a future mess for the international community to try and solve.
Until the nation states of the region come together in a cooperative manner, address the petty differences that continue to obfuscate the situation in the region; changes will never have a sustainable outcome. The answers to these problems must come from within. The animosities towards western nations who are viewed as the cause of the problems today are valid. However, it is time that these governments keep blaming the West, and come up with viable solutions for all of their people.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Part II: Cross-border trade, informal labor migration and citizen registration for border crossing management efforts
In order for the people within the South Asian region to gain confidence regarding their own security, governments must reduce restrictions in cross-border trade, affairs and labor migration. Hence the reasoning confidence building measures (CBMs) necessitate the targeting of local communities, rather than the status quo of CBMs among centralized governments. Of course, given the regional security complications, this will be no easy task to complete. However, in order to bring populations more into the mainstream and avoid the psychology of ‘criminalization’ of the average citizen due to inspection, regional authorities need to establish a unified registration system to alleviate such concerns. The social, cultural and religious ties among various groups will allow enable the ability to trade within their own communities across borders.
For example, the opening of cross border trade across the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir resulted in some minor gains. Of course, there have been complications with regards to who can get the permit to cross the LoC.. Moreover, the level of bureaucracy, limitations of which goods can be traded and the strains placed on the Kashmiri traders on both sides of the LoC continues to hinder the progress. However, the result of trade has increased economic gains within the region, and shows clearly that the political problems between India and Pakistan are not between the people on the ground.
The same can be said between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In fact, there are greater cultural ties between the Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s SWAT Valley, Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Additionally, the projected surplus in the production of wheat in Afghanistan should be a useful asset for the central governments to establish some form of regulatory method to increase cross border trade.
Stop the bureaucratic madness
The complaints in the Kashmiri cross border trade agreement mainly stems from complications generated either by bureaucrats in the central government, or military personnel monitoring the border who do not have the justification or a reason for prevention. Reports of 70-80 trucks on the Pakistan side waiting for approval by the government was an initial blow to cross border relations because the majority of goods crossing the border are from the Indian side. However, the Indian authorities have placed restrictions on certain commodities that can be traded across the border, specifically cardamom and coconut. Since the original idea of the CBMs targets boosting confidence among the local populations, it lacks justification by both India and Pakistan to create complications for the local population. If the reasoning was due to security concerns, that would carry possible legitimacy. However, the continued lack of justification to those seeking to trade across the LoC reeks of political unwillingness to actually see progress in the sixty year old stand off between India and Pakistan.
The issues in cross border trade across the Pakistan Afghanistan border are undeniably much more complicated. The problem of Taliban and insurgent militant organizations streaming across the border are a problem for military and security forces on both sides. However, militants rarely use the traditional road systems to cross the borders due to the frequency of patrolling by the Pakistani Military and NATO/US Forces. Therefore, regulatory measures are a viable option for the two governments to move forward with the agreement reached between the Zardari and Karzai Governments following their trilateral meetings with President Obama in May.
Once again, the point of the cross border trade is to alleviate the strains of the ongoing conflicts in the region on the regional communities, the vast majority of which are not participating in any form of militant movement. The fact that these so-called CBMs are being restricted due to bureaucratic foot dragging undermines the whole notion that these are CBMs created for local communities. The greater the ability the people within the Pashtun tribal areas have in restoring a sense of normalcy and rejecting the threats and intimidation by the Taliban and insurgents, will pay dividend in cooperation with governments to help combat extremism. Essentially, communities need to be part of the solution for sustainable development growth leading to greater regional security.
Legitimizing informal and migrant labor sectors
Informal and migrant labor within the South Asian region has continued for centuries. Look no further than the Uyghar’s captured by US Forces entering Afghanistan from Pakistan in search of work. Since the Uyghurs in question were technically Chinese, and Muslim, there was a belief that they were entering Afghanistan in order to join insurgent groups. Unfortunately for these men, they were unable to return home out of fear of being labeled a terrorist due to their length incarceration in Guantanamo Bay. However, they are a prime example of the informal and migrant labor that occurs across all the regional borders.
Few admit that ethnic and tribal groups do not recognize the borders drawn in the region by the British Government during decolonization. Many of these ethnic groups have functioned for centuries, relying on one another for labor, trade, education, and in some cases food assistance. This inter-regional alliance among groups needs continued fostering, but can also be regulated in a way that groups do not feel violated or insulted by a central government that provides little facilities in terms of goods and services.
The legitimizing through transparent registration free of extortion and corruption, the economic impact for centralized governments should produce robust gains in economic growth, cross-border alliances among states and the possibility of greater regional security. States need to work with one another at better facilitation measures regarding cross border interaction. There is recognition of the security dilemma that these cross border migrations pose to central governments. On the contrary, granting a community greater opportunity to goods, services and income can only increase the psyche that central governments are working towards the betterment for their people, and not just their constituencies.