Peace is defined when there is no state of violence, conflict or war. Everyone will argue that peace is humanity’s highest value. Peace and security are the prerequisite conditions for any society, culture, economy and state to prosper and flourish. Jammu and Kashmir once a beautiful abode of peace and harmony has now turned into land of bloodshed and sufferings. Here the important question arises what is the most obvious existing reality of the state of the Jammu and Kashmir? Today again the vicious cycle of violence that is resulting into loss of numerous precious human lives, huge economic loss, property damage, and above all everyday sufferings of common Kashmiris.
There is constant atmosphere of insecurity and fear in south Asia as a region and among the people of Kashmir particular. The growing violent state response to political movements in the region especially in Kashmir, not only affected the security but it had greatly harmed the Indo-Pak relations, as there are many unresolved issues between these two nuclear countries and Kashmir being one of them. The use of violence by both States as well as by non-state actors has become greatest obstacle in finding the solution and restoring peace in the state.
South Asia, as a region is often described-quite rightly-as the utmost dangerous place on globe. Although, SAARC was established to promote regional peace and development, however it remained distant dream only because of Indo-Pak bad relations. As many authors and experts believe that Kashmir can become a Switzerland of Asia, but the tainted relations between the two powers has adversely affected the peace and stability in the South Asia especially in Kashmir also. In most of the South Asian states, popular aspirations for regional aspirations such as right to self-determination and autonomy are perceived by their respective national regimes to be in conflict with their imaginary idea of national identity. Over half a century after independence, the nations of South Asia remain mired in a vicious cycle of poverty, deprivation, and underdevelopment.
Jammu and Kashmir is a landlocked region in South Asia, sandwiched between India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. There are a number of conflicts and outstanding disputes between India and Pakistan. However, the Kashmir dispute remains a flash-point of tension between the world’s newest nuclear powers. Pakistani and Indian troops still continue to confront each other on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and along the Siachen glacier. Kashmir has often been described as a ‘Paradise on Earth’. However, the nature of conflict and dispute between the India and Pakistan had turned this beautiful region in to a graveyard. The border disputes plus other unresolved issues of contention between India and Pakistan have given this very heaven the tag ‘Hell on Earth’. The onset of militancy in the J&K, started in the late 1980’s and continued for nearly two decades, and have grown from last few years again, further complicated the volatile situation in the region particularly in Kashmir. Today, the word ‘Kashmir’ has become synonymous with torture, death, Human right violation, destruction and genocide in South Asia.
Kashmir has become entrenched in the minds of Pakistanis and Indians as the single biggest issue facing the South Asia. Kashmir has come to represent very high stakes for both countries in terms of national pride. This pride has given nothing to the people of this unfortunate land except the destruction. Violence has also directly affected important sources of livelihood such as agriculture, horticulture and the handicraft industry. Infrastructure, too, has suffered immensely. The violent atmosphere also induced a sense of resignation and frustration. The common people, caught between the guns of the non-state’ and state actors were more concerned about their survival than about engaging in productive social and economic activities. Both the countries tested their mighty power in the battle field and Kashmir became natural choice to both these countries.
In present Kashmir normal life has been grossly interrupted and people are forced to live in constant fear of both by state and non-state actors. In fact, state forces have been known to commit severe human rights violations in Kashmir. An Amnesty International report says that “Security forces continued to enjoy virtual impunity for human rights abuses as a result of provisions contained in special security laws, including POTA, as well as in the Protection of Human Rights Act.” On the other hand the public political movements and uprising especially from 2008 were handled with brute forces by the governments in New-Delhi and in Srinagar. The deep rooted frustration among the people of Kashmir again went up recently in 2016 that still continues in one form or the other. There seems no chance of return of peace in the region so that people of Kashmir can inhale the normal air, were life and property of an ordinary Kashmiri can be respected and loved.
Kashmir, in its current situation, represents a case of symbiosis of violence and destruction. However, the peace process, initiated by India and Pakistan after the Kargil crisis, was historic when Atal Behari Vajpayee, and Pakistan’s former president, Pervez Musharraf, initiated a peace process on the sidelines of the Islamabad South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit meeting in January 2004. No doubt that it is quite evident that the Kashmir issue has evolved over time. It has changed from a relatively simple territorial dispute to a far more complex cultural, religious and political issue having global implications.
The first step to a solution must involve the end of violence in Kashmir. In order to achieve this, there has to be action by all stakeholders and parties. The New-Delhi and Pakistan must consider the needs and wants of the Kashmiri people to make the people feel recognized and acknowledged. The political establishment in state and Centre must also bring the wanton abuse of human rights by forces into check. Replacing armed and military-led counterinsurgency operations with accountable and answerable policing and reviving and boosting an economy devastated by violence and conflict would in still greater confidence among Kashmiris.
Kashmir can become a zone of peace and development once again, with the participation of all parties and factions involved in the conflict. This realization itself is, no doubt, a grand achievement of the peace process. The Mumbai attack in 2008, Pathankot and Uri might have shaken the rate of peace in the region. Though, present relation between India and Pakistan are very low ebbing after these attacks. However, both governments should instead focus on creating a favorable environment for cooperation, not just between New Delhi and Islamabad but also between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, where decades of tension and unrest have created distrust and caused each to view the other as illegitimate. More trade, communication and people-to-people contact may help foster better relations between the PAK and J&K governments. Now the time has come to say goodbye to violence. Kashmir demands resolution by the process of negotiation and peace rather by the coercive means like operation ‘All out’.
This Article is taken from my Research Paper entitled “Kashmir Conflict and South Asia: Steps towards Reconstruction of Peace and Security” presented in a two-day International Conference on “Changing dynamics in SAARC: Challenges and Opportunities in the region” organized by Department of Political Science Ratnam College, University of Mumbai on 8th & 9th December, 2017.