By IRFAN GUL
Ever since the culmination of British rule in Indian subcontinent and the subsequent birth of India and Pakistan as two sovereign countries, the issue of Kashmir conflict which owes its genesis to partition, is looking for its final settlement & peace for a long time now. After so many decades, India and Pakistan have settled the dust of partition and started their journeys as two sovereign , independent countries but same is not true for Kashmiris. The political uncertainty, violence, protests, killings, miseries have kept the spot in limelight and the dust unsettled till date. The people in Kashmir find themselves in an era which is full of apprehensions, grievous & violence prone.
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”. It is definitely a hectic task to maintain and sustain peace in Kashmir particularly in the present crisis and instability, but in no way falls outside the world of possibilities. In the present circumstances, Kashmir is not only eagerly looking for peace but importantly in need of justice to heal the wounds of pellets, bullets, shelling and so on. The people of Kashmir are in dire need of some breathing space the right to be heard but feel dejected as debate regarding the so called holding talks has remained stuck in nationalism/antinationalism discourses instead of peace, opportunity and justice.
Without paying any heed to the current turmoil and initiation of substantial measures, the administration instead aspires the turmoil to end on its own by demoralizing and breaking the will of the people. The laid-back attitude of the Government, at both levels, has made it an issue of prestige and is waiting for the people to blink first as it would relieve them from responsibility of taking measures or anything else to counter and improve the situation. When even holding talks with Kashmiris is seen as an act of treason and the firebrand national media is constantly humiliating and provoking the people of Kashmir on their prime time TV debates, it is difficult to construct the defences of peace in Kashmir.’
When sentiment can’t be eliminated and conflict resolution seems too far, then managing the conflict and building the peace is the only option left. It is due to the fact that managing conflict will be helpful initially in sustaining and consolidating peace, and in the long run, will make a way to start the process of political engagement and resolution of the conflict. There are, of course, ways and means through which conflict can be managed though state should possess the will to do so and shall not see it as concession or favour to anybody.
State can go for pre-emptive peace-making in Kashmir instead of acting after the worsening of situation and putting all onus on the people to restore the peace, doing nothing on their part in diffusing the crises except using force. In fact, the state’s approach in handling the situation has aggravated the situation more and the state without any remorse on what is happening is showing no signs of restraint in use of force, raids and arrests. We have seen how students came on roads when forces entered colleges and had that not happened the situation would not have reached the stage where the closure of educational institutions becomes unavoidable to prevent the further worsening of situation. So there are no pre-emptive efforts for peace but a forced and fragile, uneasy calm in Kashmir.
There are many perspectives and theories regarding the conflict management of Kashmir conflict. Involving third party in diffusing the intensity of conflict is still a viable choice. According to William J Dixon, by managing conflict, we mean any steps taken to help resolve a conflict peacefully, from bilateral negotiation to third-party mediation. Third-Party managers include a variety of different types, including nation-state, state coalitions, regional or international organizations and individuals. But when we talk of conflict management, it is about internally Managing conflict through humane ways & means.. Demilitarization, political dialogue, welfare economics, Recognizing the problem, humanitarian gestures, justice ,shunning revenge politic, respect and protect human beings, end of humiliation, protection of life and wealth, etc. are the determinants of managing conflict internally and practising these things will be the boost for the durability of peace.
Peace has become a causality in this part of the world largely since 1990s. From sometime now violence and protests have become routine affair and normalcy distinctly exceptional. In the1950s, it would have been little easier to resolve the conflict because of decolonization wave in the immediate aftermath of Second World War and Kashmir conflict being in its initial stage it could have been afforded to let it be resolved easily because Nation, Nationalism and nation state discourse was not as belligerent and extreme as is today. In such times, the discourse of nationalism was in the making but today nationalism has become a prestige issue and is being practised like a religion. India & Pakistan being the parties in the conflict, have in fact turned nationalism more aggressive in the entire subcontinent particularly with respect to each other and with the result conflict resolution seems too distant to achieve.
Conflict management is one effective way of sustaining peace and lowering the intensity of the conflict. It involves addressing the social and political sources of conflict as well as reconciliation. It requires commitment to human rights and needs, acknowledging institutional and structural forms of injustice and violence, healing trauma, promoting justice and transforming lives and relationships, establishing sustained peace, restorative justice, reconciliation, Human development, conflict prevention, and peace-making. In Kashmir the state has to build and make peace instead of enforcing it forcefully. Conflict management requires building Peace by initiating the activities aimed and designed to prevent violence and conflict by addressing structural and proximate causes of violence, promoting sustainable peace by delegitimizing violence as a dispute resolution strategy, building capacity within state and society to peacefully manage disputes, and reducing vulnerability to triggers that may spark violence. In Kashmir conflict can be managed by the measures like lifting of AFSPA and PSA, release of political prisoners, holding talks with people, stopping violent means of crowd control, human policing, stopping of maligning and provoking people of Kashmir on TV studios, justice to people who became victims of state force, stopping forces from entering educational institutions, fixing accountability and responsibility among forces who indulge in causing pain and involved in human rights violations. This can’t resolve the conflict but will surely help in minimizing the day to day sufferings of people and will sustain peace till conflict resolution is achieved. State should initiate the process of Peace building by facilitating the establishment of durable peace and trying to prevent the recurrence of violence by addressing root causes and effects of conflict through reconciliation, institution building, and political as well as economic transformation. This consists of a set of physical, social, and structural initiatives that are often an integral part of post conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation. So, peace is the need of the hour and dialogue is the initial prerequisite for making peace in Kashmir. I will conclude by quoting a line of Ronald Reagan who says peace is not absence of conflict, (but) it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.
— The author is Working for Pratham Education Foundation (NGO) as District Resource Leader (DRL) for District Pulwama, Kashmir. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org