Call to settle Kashmir issue expeditiously

Call to settle Kashmir issue expeditiously

The Kashmir issue should be settled expeditiously, this way or that, and the best way out would be to withdraw, or at least greatly diminish the presence of the armed forces there as the people have to think and decide without any fear. This certainly cannot happen under the shadow of bayonets.

This was stated by Noor Zaheer, New Delhi-based scholar, social activist, Communist party member and daughter of the late communist leader Sajjad Zaheer. She made these remarks while addressing the students and faculty of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST) on Monday afternoon.

The subject of her address was “Is peace possible?” “It is totally up to the people of Kashmir to decide as to whether they want to join Pakistan, remain within India, or be an independent state. There should be no interference in their decision-making from any quarter. Nobody can foist a solution on them,” she said.

As for other issues dogging ties between the two neighbours, the scholar said the formation of Saarc had initially offered lots of hope for the normalisation of ties, but then that turned out to be a non-starter. If people of one country had been allowed to invest in the other, there would have had to be normal ties because of the capital of one country’s individuals in the other.

Another factor she mentioned was student exchanges “because when you live in a country, you form ties and friendships, you begin to develop a liking for the country and shed your biases that you may have been indoctrinated with. When this happens on a mass scale, it will surely influence the stance of the governments on both sides,” she said.

The scholar lamented that educational institutions in India that were providing education to the less economically fortunate were being wound up, and student unions were being “decimated”. “It is student unions that spread the message of peace and harmony.”

She added, “It is as important for the masses to be involved in the peace process as the governments.” Talking about the Kartarpur border opening, she said it certainly was a highly positive development but we just could not rest on our laurels. “We shall have to do lots of spadework in this regard.”

As for the onslaught of capitalism in India, she said that previously by law, there was to be only one tractor for cultivation over 60 hectares, but now that restriction had gone and farmers with more means could purchase tractors with no limit on the numbers which, she said, had bred inequality and had benefited the multinational tractor manufacturing companies.

Talking about the cross-border movement of the masses, she cited the example of India’s border with Bangladesh and said that villagers from the border areas were allowed to cross over ad sell their produce in which ever currency it was convenient to them. This, she said, continued for quite sometime till the border villagers on both sides cultivated lots of confidence in each other and that even led to the lessening of border patrols. “No cases of espionage or anti-state activities were discovered,” she said.

Talking about Saarc, she said India being disproportionately larger and stronger than the other member countries led her into a big brother complex which created a lot of resentment among the other members of the union and thought that it was this phenomenon that stymied the progress of Saarc.

As for the arms purchases running into trillions, she said it had been calculated that were this trading in arms come to an end, each and every individual across the globe could be adequately educated.

Arms, she said, were not just purchased by regimes for inter-country warfare; they were also procured for browbeating their own people and in this context she cited the display of the most modern tear gas canisters at the Republic Day military parade in New Delhi in 2017.

She said that when in their younger days they went on rallies and strikes, they were instructed to have special goggles and put on a certain kind of padding to protect their eyes and mouths, but none of these offered any protection against these modern canisters which were meant to suppress none but the local people.