This Article is exploring the peace initiation by the government, people, and organizations in the conflict between India and Pakistan, over the territorial dispute of Kashmir. How the people of Kashmir are affected by this territorial conflict; and what influence the peace initiators could do in the process of bringing democracy to the people of Kashmir is examined, particularly in the backdrop of removal of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which granted special status to the territory of Kashmir.
Territorial disputes over the Kashmir region glinted through the three major India- Pakistan wars in 1947, 1965, and 1999. Auxiliary in the border clashes that began in late 2016 and continued into 2018 killed dozens and displaced thousands of civilians on both sides of the Line of Control. Pakistan is more concerned to segregate Kashmir from India, for democratic rights; but, India is more concerned about cross-border terrorism. From the partition of India in 1947, the conflict in Kashmir continues today, involving three nuclear powers, China, India, and Pakistan, who are in a dispute over the territory of Kashmir. The conflict is set against the backdrop of the Himalayan Mountains and valleys and involves a mélange of languages, religions, and ethnicities, notably Kashmiris, Dards, Ladakhis, Dogras, Hanjis, Gujjars, and Bakarwals. The current scenario of the territorial conflict in Kashmir is a conflict between India on one side, and the other two countries are Pakistan and China, and the Kashmiri separatists and insurgents from Pakistan occupied Kashmir. There are some groups that support the complete independence of Kashmir, while others seek Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan. The conflict in Kashmir has strong Islamic elements among the insurgents, with many of the “ultras” identifying with “jihadist” movements and supported by such identified insurgents.
2.0 Casualties in Kashmir Conflicts
According to the official figures released in Jammu & Kashmir assembly, in 2009, there were 3400 disappearance cases and the conflict has left more than 47000 people dead which also includes 7000 police personnel.
Human Rights Watch (2014), reports that “Behind the Kashmir conflict, abuses by the Indian Security forces and Militant groups continue”. Islamic separatists, militants are accused of violence and serious human rights violations. Summary executions, rape, and torture are reported daily. Kidnapping and killing of civil servants and suspected informants are happening, and militant groups claim responsibilities for the same. Human Rights Watch alleged that thousands of civilian Kashmiri Hindus have been killed over the past 10 years by Islamic military organizations or Muslim mobs. In the struggle for Kashmir, Burhan Wani, a poster boy of militancy, was killed by security forces in July 2016, the government failed to control the protests that broke out. The ensuing violence resulted in the deaths of more than 96 people, with thousands being injured and the Kashmir remained paralyzed for months.
3.0 Article 370 and Peace initiatives in Kashmir
In August 2019, the Government of India introduced the Jammu & Kashmir reorganization Bill 2019 in the Rajya Sabha and moved a resolution to scrap Article 370 from the constitution of India and bifurcate the State of Jammu & Kashmir into the Union Territories called as Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh. However, the removal of Article 370 from the Indian Constitution by the Government of India is to bring peace or it is only a legal integration of the territory of Kashmir to India is the moot question. On the positive side, if the decision helps in resettling the uprooted Kashmiri Pandits, ethnic minorities in Kashmir, back home, it will be a big win. Most of these Pandits want to go back from the existing disorder of living in abject conditions in refugee camps in Jammu and elsewhere. Ending the discrimination against women deprived of property rights after marrying outside the valley is also a welcome step, from the reorganization activity by the government. The decision to divide the state has been welcomed by Ladakh. They have been demanding UT status for a while.
Historically, Kashmiri Muslims have preferred greater autonomy and sovereignty for the region have even proposed. Juxtaposed to it, 55000 families, mostly Hindus, had not been granted citizenship despite settling down in the state after partition, and were unable to own land or apply to government jobs. Hence, a minority of the non-Muslims who live in the region would like to see the state fully integrated into India
Global Peace Messenger Ms. Malala urged the people and government in this context as “The people of Kashmir have lived in conflict since I was a child since my mother and father were children since my grandparents were young. For seven decades the children of Kashmir have grown up amidst violence”.
4.0 Us versus Them
“Us versus them”. The young generation of Kashmiris who grew up in an era of violence is largely ignorant of the true meaning of Kashmiriyat, having been raised instead in the binary ideology of ‘us versus them’. Secondly, a dominant and vocal section of the Pandits after migration, came to be identified with ultra–right-wing organizations that similarly de-emphasized the Kashmiriyat component of their identity. For their part, the Kashmiri Muslims stressed more on their ‘Islamic ‘ identity rather than on their “ Kashmiri” identity; they saw themselves as part of a global Islamic Community.
5.0 Peace Initiatives
5.1 PEACE BUS – Peace Bus organized by the Women’s Initiative for peace in South Asia (WIPSA). It involved Indian activists traveling from New Delhi to Lahore in March 2000 and subsequently Pakistani activists traveling from Lahore to New Delhi in May 2000. The ‘Peace Bus’ activists were able to challenge the adversely pretentious identities and perceptions of the ‘enemy’; and provided a rare occasion for free dialogue, relationship building, and deliberations on problems that pandemic to the bilateral relationship between two countries.
5.2 SAFMA (South Asia Free Media Association) was formulated to promote interactions amongst journalists in South Asia, especially between journalists from India & Pakistan. SAFMA efforts resulted in the ‘Pakistan – India Parliamentarians, Journalists, and Experts Conference in Islamabad in August 2003’. Also, stimulated people–to–people interactions between citizens via their Mumbai- Karachi- Mumbai exchange, the Punjab-Punjab exchange; and historical initiative to bring Indian and Pakistani journalists together in Kashmir.
5.3 PIPFPD (Pakistan- India People’s Forum for Peace & Democracy), works for de-escalation of violence and killings between two countries. Frequently urges for ceasefire agreements initiate for dialogue between governments, including the people’s organizations and civil society of Kashmir.
5.4 PPC (The Pakistan Peace Coalition), is a civil society initiative for peace launched in September 1998, following the nuclear tests carried out by India & Pakistan. The PPC comprises numerous pro-peace organizations, groups, and individuals from various parts of Pakistan. They share the common goal against nuclear arms and work for peace in South Asia. PPC works with regional movements and organizations on broader themes of reduction in defense expenditure to promote human development in the two countries.
The Peace initiators’ role is decisive at this critical juncture to reassure and reinforce the true meaning of Kashmiriat, and the government of India to work for Kashmiris to bring the democratic rights to people of Kashmir, and to ensure them that the Kashmiriyat ethnicity and culture is not in threat because of the termination of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. Promoting and developing people consensus and confidence in the State to see significant improvement in the lives of ordinary Kashmiri can stop recent and anger, and the role of peace initiators’ and messengers to work with the governments of India and Pakistan beyond political goals can bring peace, happiness, and prosperity to the people in the territory of Kashmir.
- Raj Chengappa, The Road to ‘Naya Kashmir’, INDIA TODAY , (Oct 12, 2019, 11.00 AM) https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/cover-story/story/20190909-the-road-to-naya-kashmir-1592959-2019-08-30.
- Ramnik Mohan, Indo –Pak People-to-People Peace Efforts need a Close Look, COUNTER CURRENTS, ( Oct 10, 2019, 10.40 AM)https://countercurrents.org/2019/08/indo-pak-people-to-people-peace-efforts-need-a-close-look
- B.M. Kutty, Pakistan- India Relations:- Non-governmental Initiative for Peace, PAKISTAN HORIZON, Vol.57, No.3, 41-53( July 2004)
- Jaibeer Ahmad, Will the removal of Article 370 bringing peace? ECONOMIC TIMES, ( Oct 07, 2019, 08.40 AM)https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/will-the-removal-of-article-370-bring-peace/articleshow/70622110.cms