By Javid Ahmad Ahanger
The terms Peace and Conflict are paired opposites, like light and shadow. In Enlightenment thinking, 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 reduce the possibility or the levels of violence without diminishing other values such as justice or freedom. In politically conflictual societies, like Kashmir, and other regions which are similar, demands for resolution 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 the peace between positive and negative “On the positive side, peace signifies a condition of good management, orderly resolution of conflict, harmony and mature relationships, gentleness and love”. These are hardly employed by the state 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.
Kashmir has been lauded by poets, authors and foreign travellers for its pristine beauty. When the French physician François Bernier visited Kashmir Valley for the first time, in 1665, he was surprised by what he found in Kashmir. Subsequently, 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 from last 27 years of violent conflict.
People nowadays in nation-state system are more afraid of the ‘state’ than the non-state actors. Ronald Reagan questioned: “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. It is most likely, that they undercounted the wars. Certainly, there has been no year without war since. World war Firrst, second, then destruction of two cities of Japan, and the ongoing “war on terror” all were state sponsored wars which killed only innocent people across the globe.
According to Boutros Boutros-Ghali, former Secretary General of the United Nations, the elimination of repression and poverty is an essential element of peace. Peace thinkers like Gene Sharp view non-violent action as merely 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 caught between the nuclear powers of South Asia and other powers- India and Pakistan and China.
Most of Kashmir’s people are concentrated in India, and the rest are mainly in Pakistan administered Kashmir. The relations among its many communities are now marked by mutual mistrust. And since mid-eighties, armed fighters have started a violent guerilla war which ceases to fizzle out 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. 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….’ Same is feeling the Indian intellectual and senior politician of INC Former Home and finance minister P. Chidambaram who 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).
In terms of Kashmir, why cannot leaders and policy makers read and open the pages of history and learn lessons?
Michael Howard, the foremost historian and theoretician of war, in his book, “The Invention of Peace (2000)”, 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 seems only like 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 process goes on.
The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO declares that “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 power of force; let us build peace in the minds of human so that no mother and father will receive the coffin of their child. Let’s peace be given a chance to decrease the demands of coffins that has tremendously increased because of violence.
— The author is a Doctoral candidate at the Department of Political Science Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at:firstname.lastname@example.org