Going around in circles of violence and confusion

There are two ways to deal with conflicts. One is to resolve them and the other is to manage them with a nutritional diet that perpetuates, even complicates, the conflict. For over seven decades, there has not been much clarity on how New Delhi wishes to engage with the conflict of Kashmir. It has coupled military might with political and economic packages but kept the gun alive. The policy hasn’t changed much with a right wing regime in power except for the deepening lack of clarity on the ambitions and strategy of New Delhi.

After last year’s horrifying and macabre drama of bullets, pellets, crackdowns and arrests, it’s the season of encounters and interlocution, both going hand in hand. Some months ago, the union home minister Rajnath Singh boasted of a magic wand like permanent solution for Kashmir. In the ensuing months, there has either been the talk of dialogue for which a former intelligence man has been appointed its special representative with no clearly spelt terms and objectives or the big boast of containing militancy. While the interlocutor has busied himself with meeting mainstream political groups, few odd organizations not directly connected to the conflict and some oddballs here and there, the statistics related to militancy scream with a rebuke in the face of the audacious claims. The number of militants killed has gone up. But so has the number of casualties suffered by security men. Also on rise are the number of militants operating on the ground and the enlarging base of organizations like Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

A question often posed by many on all sides is whether the gun and the dialogue can co-exist. Conflicts don’t end overnight. In military conflicts, the guns don’t vanish overnight either. In many peace processes around the world, road maps to peace have not been able to silence the last of the guns but have aimed to do so. The first guns to commit to ceasefire in many of them have been of the state actors, which are easier to control. It is far more difficult to disarm the non state operatives, who are not necessarily under a more disciplined and centralised system of control as the state’s military apparatus. Needless to mention, that in Kashmir, where Pakistan has stakes, it is even more difficult to do so, without expecting Pakistan to make some commitment to this end.

In Northern Ireland, in run up to the Good Friday peace agreement, while the demilitarization of the British military was a foregone conclusion, the idea of decommissioning weapons of the Irish Republican Army, the armed rebels, was put to debate. Even Gerry Adams, who gave up arms, and felt that decommissioning of weapons was crucial to peace process warned against “leaping ahead”. Adam decided to make it a bargaining ploy and linked it to the demilitarization of the British troops and the removal of their bases. In Ireland, it did become a bone of contention, but only metaphorically, with an essentially ethnically divisive conflict making this a rallying point for the unionists against the Republicans. Nobody waited for the last guns to fall silent before they entered into negotiations. The one time IRA leader, Martin McGuiness, who put his faith in the peace process, looking at the impossibility of what he was being asked to do, had famously said, “”What do they want me to do? Do I have to lie down in the middle of the road and allow them to walk on top of me? I can’t do it. I can’t get the IRA to surrender.” In many other contemporary peace processes, decommissioning was treated as an important but not a central issue. It has rarely featured in many peace processes in Latin America, where referendum, of late, has been the catch word. In Israel, even after handing over of power to Yaseer Arafat heading the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Arafat was unable to convince rebel groups to lay down their arms. The 1991 South African Peace Accord did not ask the ANC to hand over the arms but required that firearms should not be displayed at public meetings. The retention of weapons by militants has been an accepted practice in many conflicts while the peace processes are in the making.

New Delhi’s insistence on halting all guns of rebels may be more wishful. Besides, in its conflict management approach, it forecloses no options, whether it is in pursuing military strategy or a political outreach. Is it a strategy of buying time to strengthen their own hold and hang on until opponents yield their radical goals? Even that is not clear.

On one hand, the Centre, either of its own volition or advised by the special representative on Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, has decided to begin an amnesty policy for jailed youth, a policy that was well within the powers of the state government to pursue; and on the other, Kashmiri prisoners in Tihar jail have been thrashed, reports of which emerged coinciding with Sharma’s second visit to Kashmir. Is there design in this contradiction? The confusion and complexity goes beyond these two patterns. A new policy being flaunted by the government is that of effecting surrenders and motivating youth to lay up arms. The policy remains mired in mystery in the backdrop of the nineties when surrender policy meant co-option of youth to coerce them into re-arming themselves as part of counter insurgency grid. The policy then produced tyrannical results with excessive bloodshed. Is this a re-hash of the old scheme?

Violence must definitely end for ensuring conducive-atmosphere for peace process. The onus must be shared by all sides. But the government must shoulder the larger responsibility. Ruthless actions, continuum of human rights abuse, excessive militarization and tendency to buy time foster among the radicals and alienated an equal appetite for violence. If military action alone could perform, the militancy had come almost to a naught in the first decade of the millennium. Why did it begin to re-grow and why did bloodshed regain its status as a measure for power?

Bloodshed is neither an indicator of peace nor of weakening the enemy. Young boys are ready to pick up the gun and even though lack of funding squeezes their chance of actually getting to hold one and press the trigger, these young boys are high on motivation because of deepening anger and alienation, which finds an outlet through stone pelting and occasional cases of lynchings, which were earlier never known in Kashmir. This reality makes the chances of peace bleak and the prospects of dialoguing extremely difficult, though not impossible. Martin Luther King spoke about evolving for all human conflicts “a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation”. The policy of the future must be based on the principle of including people, not excluding them through vindictive measures or confusing plots that generate suspicions. If peace is the goal, the language and its essence cannot be anything but peace and love. New Delhi’s initiatives do not fall within this ambit.

The destructive potential of initiatives, aimed at buying time in a bid to debilitate and weaken the enemy, is equal to its therapeutic claims. New Delhi can continue to follow rudderless and flaccid policies, buy time and run the risk of perpetuating a culture of dehumanization, immorality, hatred and anger in Kashmir. But, what worth would that be to any of the stake-holders in the bargain? In Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s epic novel ‘One hundred years of solitude’, Colonel Auerliano Buendia, filled with disgust by his bloody war pursuits during the revolution, tells General Moncado, who is in his custody and facing death row, “….you’re really paying for the crimes of other people, because this time we’re going to win the war at any price. Wouldn’t you have done the same in my place?” Moncado responds, “What worries me is that out of so much hatred for the military, out of fighting them so much and thinking about them so much, you’ve ended up as bad as they are. And no ideal in life is worth that much baseness.”

News Updated at : Sunday, December 3, 2017