Are we on the verge of the war? From media reports across the two sides of the border, it would seem that in spite of the peaceniks and much-maligned doves, we are told that the border is "live" and can any time set the war machinery rolling. The media is charged with patriotic energy, with a side-glance firmly fixed on the TRPs, egging on the leadership, inflating the latter with delusions of conquest, as if the whole affair of war was some kind of a computer game. Scarcely do they feel the pain and suffering of the people, most of whom are poor, living close to the borders on both sides. Ever since the surgical strikes and the unnecessary hype from metropolitan media studios, lakhs of people have been uprooted overnight to locations were they are not entirely welcome and have to rely on the charity of local communities. It is distressing to witness in this harvest season poor people carrying away their small belongings on bullock-driven carts to uncertain places. These scenes so ubiquitous these days on media force a painful recollection of the days of Partition. Not only on the borders where the guns of antagonistic countries are booming and belching fire, but in Kashmir, the starting point of it all, the harvest season is moving on in fear and horror. With over 88 days of shutdown packed with killings, injuries and blindings, people are cutting their rice harvest, and without waiting for too long, go for threshing because many scores of ricks have been burnt to ashes by security forces, a revenge against making their life difficult with stones and loudspeakers. The pilgrims to Mecca and Medina had left their homes at night, with the hope that their prayers for peace will be answered; they returned after pilgrimage but found that they have to re-enter their homes in the same condition under the cover of darkness. Normally, autumn is marriage season in Kashmir. Most of the marriages have been postponed. It is a pathetic situation all around, with the irresponsible loudmouths in flood-lighted studios cashing on the suffering of the masses. So the actual question which ought to be asked is whether the two countries should go to war or not?
Gopal Krishna Gandhi pointed out the futility of the past wars between the two countries which have reinforced the image of each other as congenital enemies. From 1947 to 1999 what have the two countries gained except for feeding triumphalist egos, and dreaming of imaginary victories? The loss on either side has been more or less same. Bangladesh did come into existence but it has sown fierce enmity in the military mind of the other country. General Musharraf whenever cornered about his Kargil adventure, took away the memory back to the humiliation of Bangladesh, pressing the questioners not to stop at Kargil but go beyond into past toward Dacca. Who will point towards which direction if a new war breaks out, one does not know but for sure the result of this war will go beyond rhetoric and vain triumphalism of the two nations. That a large constituency in Kashmir is literally begging for war is a paradoxical testimony of the dangers of perpetuating physical and psychological damages on an entire population. The yearning for war is an ironic plea for ending a long standing low intensity war in Kashmir, which because it has not been acknowledged as such, has further psychologically debilitated people, to the extent that suicidal tendencies are on the rise. An ernest prayer for war hides a pining for peace which the land has been deprived for many decades. However, no amount of joy or pleasure drawn from victories, concrete or abstract, can match the tears of people whose dear ones have fed the roaring war machinery. A war to end war is only wishful thinking, for wars have only produced war chains; it is only through peace and dialogues that anxiety and anguish can be vanquished and greater spiritual victories accomplished.
The answer to the foregoing question is a clear no, and before even contemplating it won't be fruitless to see the gains of unacknowledged and un-owned war in Kashmir. If the low-intensity war continuing in Kashmir had been owned and analysed, and the investigation of which utilised for the acquisition of information, no one would dare to even mention war. You need only a few months of stay in a zone ravaged by low-intensity war to understand what a full blown war can unleash. Even if a country is victorious in a war, the agreements forced on the defeated party become sources of trouble and mayhem in the future. The WWII was a result of the humiliation heaped on Germany and her allies. Hitler, according to many observers, rose from the Treaty of Versailles foisted upon Germans by the League of Nations, particularly from the insulting War Guilt clause, which forced Germany to pay reparations and make territorial concessions. The War-born agreements are scarcely acceptable to future generations. How often have we heard that Shimla Agreement has few owners in Pakistan because the signatures, according to them, were taken from people who had no other option after losing on the battle field. Or even the Instrument in Accession in Kashmir, a document which emerged from a war scene. Fewer documents in modern history are as controversial and disputed as the IoA, one of the reasons being that its genesis is war, the latter in more refined language termed as "special circumstances."For the overall winning Party it is an article of faith but for the defeated it is nothing but a piece of paper representing deceit. On the contrary, the truce born of relatively equivalent grounds is more prospective and bears the seeds of long lasting fruit. To begin work on such peace, the primary duty should be to starve the war horses in the media. For drawing eye-balls they can go to any extent, even simulating wars where none exist. Second, and perhaps the most important part, release the militaristic grip on the civil life of Kashmir, and let people breathe as they wish to. It is inhumane to pitch your respective nationalist myths on the landscape in Kashmir; it may as well serve the two countries better if the local imaginary is pitted against their respective warring narratives. For the moment, lift the siege in Kashmir, and instead of blocking water into each other's country, mutually flood each other with rivers of peace and dialogue.
The author is a writer and columnist. He teaches at the University of Kashmir.