By Javid Ahmad Ahanger
“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed” (UNESCO)
The terms “Peace and Conflict” are paired as opposites, like light and shadow. In Enlightenment thought, violence and conflict, seen as the greatest evils in history, were ascribed to a disorderly world. Political philosophers such as John Locke in the 17th century and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the 18th century viewed war as futile and believed that social contracts could prevent violence. Peace does not necessarily mean absence or suppression of conflict. Rather peace theorists accept conflict as a normal part of human life and international relations. The goal of peace analysts is to determine how to manage and resolve conflict in ways that reduces the possibility or the levels of violence without diminishing other values such as justice or freedom. In politically oppressive societies, like Kashmir and other regions, which demand Azzadi or freedom are met by coercive means, rather than negotiation of new relationships and process of solving conflicts by peaceful means. Therefore, the legitimacy of the existing order is eventually challenged by the inability of the system to accommodate alienated communities whose participation is limited because of social regimentation. In the long run, deterrent strategies relying on threats and punishment have limited value in maintaining social control with resistance triggered by the suppression of aspirations for cultural identity, security, and recognition. Kenneth Boulding, a leading international peace theorist, divides peace between the positive and the negative: “On the positive side, peace signifies a condition of good management, orderly resolution of conflict, harmony and mature relationships, gentleness and love”, which are hardly used by India to solve the long term conflict in Kashmir and pave the way to build peace.“On the negative side, it is conceived in three senses: the absence of something – the absence of turmoil, tension, conflict and war.” These are unfortunately present in Kashmir. The voices of freedom have been crushed by war, oppression, and brutal force by killings tens of thousands by the state apparatus.
Kashmir was once lauded by poets, authors, and foreign travelers for its pristine beauty.When the French physician, François Bernier, visited the Kashmir Valley for the first time, in 1665, he was surprised by what he found in Kashmir and he wrote, “It surpasses in beauty all that my warm imagination had anticipated. It is not indeed without reason that the Moghuls call Kachemire the terrestrial paradise of the Indies.” But now the very charm has been lost and Kashmir has turned into a hell for last 27 years of violent conflict.
People in a nation-state fear the state more than the non-state actors. Ronald Reagan once said, “Would it not be better to save lives than to avenge them?” In 1968, historians Will and Ariel Durant calculated that there had been only 268 years free of war in the previous 3,421 years. Meanwhile, World War I, II, and then the destruction of two cities of Japan, and the ongoing war on terror were state-sponsored, which killed only innocent people across the globe. According to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary General of the UN, the elimination of repression and poverty is an essential element of peace. Peace thinkers such as Gene Sharp view non-violent action as an effective strategic instrument to achieve specific political objectives and score victories with non-lethal means. Other thinkers, such as Geoffrey Ostergaard, who follow the traditions of Gandhi, emphasize non-violence as a principle capable of preventing the origin or existence of unjust social and economic system. Non-violent social structure in turn can be created by establishing egalitarian social relations.
Today, Kashmir is divided between the nuclear powers of south Asian countries i.e. India, Pakistan and China. Pakistan controls slightly less than a third, India some sixty per cent, and China the rest. Most of Kashmir’s people are concentrated in India, and the rest are mainly in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The relations between its many communities are now marked by mutual mistrust. And since the mid-eighties, armed fighters have started a violent guerilla war which shows no signs of abetting even at this point of time. Irregular wars have cost between sixty to ninety thousand lives in Kashmir. As Edward Gargan pointed out in “Valley of Violence and Silence” (New York Times, 22 November 1992), “there would have been no need to worry about the Pakistanis if the Kashmiris’ grievances had met with sympathy and support among the masses of India” (qtd. in Abdul Hakeem, Paradise on Fire, 2014). But, throughout the last six decades of India’s occupation of Kashmir, the Indians masses have largely ignored or actively supported the injustices and atrocities visited upon the Kashmiris. Former Indian Defense Minister, George Fernandes, admitted in The Other Side (March 1992): “no matter how you look at it, in Kashmir it is the revolt of the masses against a State that has been insensitive to their hopes and aspirations and has consciously and deliberately tried to suppress them into becoming an underclass…” Similar thoughts are echoed by the Indian intellectuals and few senior politicians. Former Home and Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, recently said that India has nearly lost Kashmir: “I have written five columns, I have written it on different dates. But if you read the five columns together, you will get that sinking feeling that Kashmir is nearly lost. Many of you may not believe me, but Kashmir is nearly lost today” (Financial express, 26 Feb 2017; see also The Hindu 25 Feb 2017).
“Conflict only ends when the people at its Centre look over the precipice and recognize that compromise is a life-or-death imperative,” said John Lyndon of OneVoice Europe in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Here one might wonder why such peace theories are not being implemented viz-a-viz the Kashmir dispute. At the same time, the leaders should also read and understand the greatest peace theories that had been propagated by the political scientists as well as take lessons from history. C. Rajagopalachari, the statesman, realist and an eminent intellectual of India, was right when he wrote (Swarajya, 25 September 1965): “It would be as foolish a thing as any foolish thing a nation can do, if we proceed on the assumption that we can hold any people down by sheer force…the political decision concerning Kashmir, or any part of it, should be on the basis of self-determination.”
In his book, The Invention of Peace (2000), Michael Howard, the foremost historian and theoretician of war, says that the pursuit of peace is an artificial pursuit, with no certainty of final success. Yet, with the values of humanism and enlightenment, this pursuit can only hope to succeed. Margaret Mead, the renowned anthropologist, on the contrary, says that it is war, not peace, that is a human invention. Putting the insights gathered from studying diverse human communities, she poses the question in her book, War is only an Invention-Not a Biological Necessity (1940), “If we despair over the way in which war seems such an ingrained habit of most of the human race, we can take comfort from the fact that a poor invention will usually give place to a better invention.” In Kashmir, an end to the struggle seems ever more remote and the concept of peace appears only a dream. Thousands had joined the ranks of the martyrs in a war that has lost its way, a war that now feeds on itself – each act of violence generating a new response that generates more recruits and the process goes on.
The Preamble to the constitution of UNESCO declares, “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Let the state deconstruct the violence and fear which it has created by the power of force; let us build peace in the minds of humans so that no mother and father will receive the coffin of their child. Let peace be given a chance to decrease the demands of coffins that has tremendously increased because of violence.
Javid Ahmad Ahanger is a doctoral candidate at the Department of Political Science, Aligarh Muslim University. He is working on ‘Political Opposition in Jammu and Kashmir’. He has a keen interest in South Asian Politics, Kashmir Politics, and Peace and Conflict Studies. Email id: Ahanger.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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