Mann Ki Azadi

The ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan is perceived as the most sustained effort to resolve Kashmir dispute in the history of the two neighbors. The flurry of confidence building mea...

The ongoing peace process between India and Pakistan is perceived as the most sustained effort to resolve Kashmir dispute in the history of the two neighbors. The flurry of confidence building measures (CBMs) in the beginning of the peace process that helped ease-out hostilities between the two warring neighbors gave birth to great expectations about the sustainable peace in the sub-continent. For instance, the hype built around the Srinagar-Muzzaferabad bus service made it appear as the crescendo of peace-making effort. Even well-meaning people of considerable intellectual prowess and deep insight got carried away to the buzz that India-Pakistan have reached a consensus on Kashmir and that things have been nailed down to the last detail. They even said what was being revealed bit-by-bit is according to an already agreed script. In the backdrop of such a highly surcharged atmosphere, blaming the common masses for their inability to see through the make-believe built-up and superficiality of the peace process is totally uncalled for. 
 After the December 13, 2001, attack on Indian parliament, there was real risk of war between two nuclear powers, which rang alarm bells in the world capitals. The frantic international efforts and pressure was the main factor in bringing back the two neighbors almost from the brink of war. The composite peace (dialogue) process got underway and number of CBMs were unleashed. The restoration of diplomatic relations, people-to-people contact and ceasefire on the borders between the two armies, were greatly helpful in lowering the temperature and return of some semblance of peace in the region. And Srinagar-Muzaaferrabad bus service lunched with much fanfare was billed as the "mother of the all CBMs".
 Today when the peace process has lost its steam to a great extent, different analogies are in circulation for the impasse. Pakistan's current political turmoil is the oft-repeated reason cited for the lack of progress in the composite dialogue process. Even as there appears some merit in this and other theories explaining the cause of logjam, it is, at the same time, also true that there is still a vast gap in India and Pakistan's understanding of the peace process. For New Delhi, the CBMs imply both — normalization of process as well as conflict resolution. But Pakistan's understanding is diametrically opposite to that of India's. For Islamabad, CBMs are a mechanism purely for confidence building rather than a conflict resolution in itself.
 Irrespective of the other theories about this high-profile peace process, it is not the first time that Pakistan and India have been engaged in pretty intense and sustained manner to find a solution to the vexed and complex Kashmir problem. Who can forget the prolonged Bhutoo-Swaran Singh parleys or lengthy  debates between Krishna Menon and Sir Zaferullah Khan in the UN Security Council. For last 60 years, all these peace processes and dialogues have failed in finding a permanent solution to the Kashmir dispute. Status quo suits India and it has largely been able to maintain it. Pakistan wants a revision of the territorial arrangements but has all these years failed to drive this point home. But a tussle between status-quoist India and revisionist Pakistan has played havoc with the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Whether it is dispute resolution going on or CBMs being perused, these measures might have had helped to bring in some degree of peace for people in India and Pakistan, but as for the people in Jammu and Kashmir are concerned, they continue to languish in worst indignities, enduring sufferings of great magnitude.
 See the irony: both India and Pakistan who claim to be concerned about peace in Jammu and Kashmir have completely forgotten the hapless people of Kashmir in the peace process they are engaged in. CBMs implemented thus far have had a very little or nor effect on the situation in the hinterland. Ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) has no doubt benefited a small segment of the population across the border, but people inside Jammu and Kashmir still continue to bear the brunt of violence.  The people-to-people contact is of great value, but in the face of unabated violence, it has greatly lost its impact and significance. The travel across the two divided parts of Kashmir is controlled with so many curbs by the two dominating states, which mocks at and makes redundant any idea of open borders and free travel.
 If the two states were really sincere about the people of Kashmir, the greatest CBM that could have helped to save innocent Kashmiri lives would have been working for the cessation of hostilities within Kashmir. The onus for the truce in Jammu and Kashmir rests with New Delhi. When the violence according to its own estimates has receded "significantly", why and where is the need for the presence of such a huge and lethal security apparatus here? And why continue assuring immunity to abrasive troops with special powers? Confidence means building of trust; unless and until there is a genuine initiative to reign in the largely wayward forces, as also for their redeployment and withdrawal, no amount of noise making, discussion and dialogue is going to help ease the situation on ground.
 A meaningful dialogue with the separatists is must. But without a visible change of attitude on the ground and proper relief to the people, any peace-making attempt becomes an exercise in futility. The rulers in New Delhi have always wanted a dialogue process for the sake of dialogue, completely bereft of a desire for a positive change on the ground. No doubt the disunity among the separatist ranks, and a less than committed leadership, have also not been helpful to the cause of peace-making, but the behavior of the present Central government headed by Manmohan Singh has been characterized by arrogance and utter disregard towards the Kashmiri aspirations. In the name of dialogue today, New Delhi speaks of so-called roundtables. One can ask where is the space for a meaningful debate and discussion in a crowd of menials and people with vested interest. Delhi's roundtable conferences lack will and insight for the resolution of political issues, which relegates the whole exercise to being 'big talk shops'.  
 Pakistan is immersed in its own problems and has little appreciation and attention for Kashmir today. The wheel of Indian strategy is moving as usual on its axis. It has a well-calibrated and considered policy – that of not recognizing the separate Kashmiri political identity. It is not even comfortable with the Kashmir's sub-national character. The "freedom movement" today is ridden with the worst kind of chaos and confusion. In such a pessimistic circumstance, common people here may be right to wonder if it is the end of the road for the sentiment of 'Azadi' in Kashmir?
 'Tun Ki Azadi' (freedom of body or physical freedom) is conditioned by 'Mann Ki Azadi' (freedom of mind, or thought). Idea of freedom or subjugation originates from the mind first. If subjugated mind is awake to the tyranny of suppression, then only will it long for a change. If the suppression has to put to rest feelings forever, any degree of physical repression will further enhance the numbness rather than trigger an awakening. An awakened mind brimming with passion will strive for change howsoever deep the shadows of subjugation are. In this 'Zulmet-e Shab' (darkness of the night) what matters the most is keeping the hopes alive. 'Mann Ki Azadi' is the precursor to the 'Tun Ki Azadi'. If winter comes spring can't be far behind!

(Ideas expressed are exclusively author's own. He can be mailed at firdoussyed@yahoo.com)

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