The Nelson Mandela Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution organized a conference on Kashmir titled “Kashmir: Is peace possible?” on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2011, at the Mir Taqi Mir building on campus.
The speakers on the panel consisted of Prem Shankar Jha, the former editor of Hindustan Times; Ravi Hemadri, the executive officer for The Other Media; Sukumar Murlidharan, the former editor of Frontline; Najeeb Mubarki, assistant editor of Economic Times; Virinda Grover, human rights activist and Supreme Court lawyer; Najeeb Jung, vice-chancellor Jamia Millia Islamia.
On the question of Kashmir, there was a consensus among the panelists on the fact that the situation in Kashmir is not only bad, but the incompetency and the high-handedness displayed by the Indian State in dealing with the crisis has created conditions of anarchy and widespread abuse of human rights. A situation that will be difficult to take control of and bring it back to normalcy.
They were also in agreement to the fact that law enforcement agencies have abused power accorded to them through the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). It was clear to them that the presence of law enforcement agencies, including the army, is disproportionately high in Kashmir. Mubarki cited a figure of one security personnel for every seven residents of Kashmir.
Among many reasons stated for the current situation in Kashmir, Hemadri pointed out that the stifling of rightful public dissent is among the major factors for violence and unrest. He stated that in his observation, violent public protests involving stone pelting usually occurred as a consequence to the denial of people’s peaceful expressions of dissent.
To the question whether peace is possible in Kashmir, every speaker was of the opinion that yes, it is possible; however, they differed on the solution — on the way forward.
For Jha, the main reason behind the civil unrest was due to fact that the politics of Kashmir has been used over the years as a “football” in the game of national politics. And unless the politics of Kashmir was insulated from national political forces, the situation will not get any better.
For Jung, the problem lies in governance. What Kashmir needs is “good governance” he believes; “empowerment” of the people is the solution to the problem in his opinion.
However, Grover disagreed to Jung’s assessment and emphasized that the crux of the problem is not the absence of “good governance” — which she believed is a term we have been taught by the World Bank some 20 odd years ago and we simply keep repeating it — but the problem of Kashmir is political, and therefore, the solution has to be a political one.
On the other hand, Mubarki was the least optimistic on the prospect of peace in Kashmir. For him, Kashmir is a “police state.” And in his view one cannot expect such a state to make peace with its citizens. For him, the situation will only get worse.
Scenes from the Event
Watch a short video clip of the event. (Link to Video)
Human rights abuses have flared up in Kashmir because of misgovernance. This isn’t political. It is human humiliation. When all is lost, there is no caution.
On the other hand, claims of human rights abuses have also been used as a weapon against the state, so human rights abuses ceasing is not guaranteed to mean accusations stopping, or peace happening.
While India has added to Kashmir’s woes, the solution in Kashmir is largely out of India’s hands. Pakistan will settle for nothing except full control over Kashmir. For that matter, it isn’t like Kashmir going to Pakistan will mean peace for Kashmir either, if we look at the state of that country right now. Plus, it isn’t going to mean the end of violence in the region, since the larger goal (according to propaganda) is the dismemberment of India.
On the other hand, sitting it out hoping that Pakistan somehow changes policy is futile. Less noticed is that as Pakistan is slowly being forced on the backfoot in Afghanistan, they are going to need a proxy state, which is pretty much what is happening.
As is the expectation that Pakistan’s seemingly inevitable collapse will fix things, because much of the conflict is managed by militant groups like the LeT, which don’t particularly care whether the country or government exists or not, as long as they have sources for funding. If Pakistan disintegrates, militants will still be trying to capture Kashmir.
India doesn’t really have much of a choice other than to bring down their own mistakes adding fuel to fire and playing things as they unfold. Thus, peace is impossible unless the Kashmiris choose to give up the conflict and reach an understanding, which is also unlikely, since militants threaten and kill (at times) people who engage with the government.
Kashmir has pretty much brought itself to this point, though India and Pakistan helped. Kashmir is the only entity that can fix this. All these talks are useless.