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Wednesday 24 October 2007

OPERATION SADBHAVANA – A Culture of Peace Process

(I visited Ladakh and a few border areas and saw for myself the project “Operational Sadvavana”, I met a number of villagers, school children and women in particular to know more about the unique developmental process, and I thought at once that many people outside India may not know the effort of an Indian Army General towards a culture of peace process in Kashmir, so I decided to write a paper about it.)
The contemporary world is witnessing an increasing assertion of rights and privileges on the basis of religion, ethnicity and nationality. Religious fundamentalism together with ethnic conflicts and terrorism have appeared on the international arena with remarkable force, and pervasiveness. The traditional idea of the term security has become outdated. We have to redefine security not only in terms of military power but also in terms of economic power/ role it plays due to its extensive spill over effects on other vital issues of nation state. A question can be raised at this stage---Security for whom? And how do we achieve it?
A phrase often used by the Kashmiris, when asked about their indifferent attitude towards the rest of the country is “hum to mile thae ---ap ne alag rakha (we joined but you kept us separate )”. To some extent, it holds true in the case of Kashmir. The need to break the geographical and political isolation of Kashmir from rest of the country should be the uppermost objective. The construction of railway lines to the Valley should have been taken up as a part of greater political strategy long ago. There is a strong need to remove the “ you ---feed ---me” type of attitude among the Kashmiris. The economic aid and investment must be geared to allow Kashmir’s economy to grow from below. The model for development must be found in order to have a systematic and sustainable development in the state.1
At the heart of the Indo-Pak conflict are two constants: One, the political usefulness of a war-like situation in both countries, and two, mutually sustained mindsets which recognize war as the only real solution. India and Pakistan are all the time vulnerable to the urge to fight. Peace-time life carries a sense of drudgery for millions of people in both countries. Military preparedness and the news of impending war have the unfortunate capacity to give both the young nation-states an instant sense of purpose. One can’t help recalling a time when India derived a sense of purpose by acting as a force for world peace during the seventies, it started to lose that self-identity, even as the failure of the national development project of the sixties became all too apparent. A new national identity began to take shape alongside the models available in the cold war-ridden world. Hunger, poverty and illiteracy gradually ceased to inspire the state planning apparatus. The desired self-image of a military power served a cohesive political role.2 Both countries have used education and the media to reinforce hostile mindsets. In Pakistan, school text books openly teach prejudice towards Hinduism and equate India with Hindus, belittling India’s struggle for secularism. Elite public schools have a better record, but their products either migrate or learn to live on the margins of a fluid, routinely manipulated public space. That journey to the margin of a rapidly shrinking political space is just beginning for the Indian elites whose children have been dutifully raised on the staple of scientific temper in a corrupt, chaotic political milieu. The simplistic, secular textbooks they have studied fail to contextualise Partition in a rational universe, leaving adequate room for the belief that Pakistan is neither a legitimate historical entity, nor a functioning nation. Here lie the roots of a common elite perception that India can emulate what Israel has done to the defenseless Palestine. Senior Dutch sociologist W F Wertheim has rightly bemoaned the absence of a peace economy in the lone superpower the world has now. If only rich countries would consider stopping the sale of expensive weapons to poor countries, they can bring about the stability and peace they love so much. It is the arms sold by the US, UK, Russia, France and a few others that have brutalized life across the Third World from Chile to Liberia to the Philippines. Yet, for India and Pakistan, a phased disengagement with the arms trade offers the only realistic countdown to peace. 3
So how do we define peace? To me, a fruitful definition of peace has to include both the absence of direct violence and the absence of indirect or structural violence. Yet this is a rather negative way to define peace, and several peace researchers and peace educators have attempted to arrive at more positive definitions of the term. Garcia (1981) holds that one of the most attractive definitions of peace and peace education for a broader and more realistic scope is the following one given by Mario Borelli :--- By peace we mean the results in any given society of equality of rights, by which every member of that society participates equally in decisional power which regulates it, and the distribution of the resources which sustain it. (Garcia, 1981, p.-165) So by peace we mean the absence of violence in any given society, both internal and external, direct and indirect. We further mean the nonviolent results of equality of rights, by which every member of that society, through nonviolent means, participates equally in decisional power which regulates it, and the distribution of the resources which sustain it.
The more up-to-date definitions of peace with the UN system to not define peace only as the absence of war and violence, but as the presence of justice. Peace is defined in more positive terms. This view was well expressed at the General Conference of UNESCO at its eighteenth session (Resolution 11.1): “Peace cannot consist solely in the absence of armed conflict but implies principally a process of progress, justice and mutual respect among the peoples designed to secure the building of an international society in which everyone can find his true place and enjoy his share of the world’s intellectual and material resources.”
Many would, however, still advocate that the Kashmiri struggle has reached a stage of no return, but in reality, the people in the Valley are most disenchanted and disillusioned not only with the unending spate of militancy but also for the fact that they have become a pawn in the game of power politics between Pakistan and India. Almost every family has lost a son, forcibly taken across the border for training. The women have fallen victim to rape and sexual molestation at the hands of the terrorists. The executions of numerous Kashmiris, including some prominent citizens, have left a bitter taste. The power struggles among the militant groups have led to kidnapping, looting, raping and killing of fellow beings. The local militants have resorted to forced marriages with girls belonging to socially higher and economically better off families. This has generated disenchantment among the average Kashmiri. 4

India, China troops hold peace meet in Ladakh

LEH, Oct 20: Indian and Chinese troops, as a part of confidence building measures and ‘Peace and Tranquility Agreement’ of 1993 between the two countries, held a peace meeting on the border in Chushul sector of eastern Ladakh region today.
With an objective to develop long lasting friendship between the two border forces, a mechanism of border personnel meetings and holding of flag meetings has been institutionalised. Today’s meet was held at Indian Border Personnel Meet Hut in Chushul sector. Both sides were represented by nine officers.
The Chinese delegation was received by the Indian delegation leader, Brig Surinder Singh. After the reception, the Indian national flag was hoisted and both the Indian and Chinese delegation saluted the tri-colour. In a formal meeting held in atmosphere of mutual trust, greetings were exchanged by both the sides. Both the sides agreed to join hands in contributing towards maintaining peace and tranquility in the region.
The Chinese delegation was treated to a cultural programme by the troops of Chushul garrison. The delegation was enthralled by the rich culture heritage of India and soaked in a spirit of bonhomie and friendship. They also enjoyed the Indian and Chinese music and resorted to foot thumping in the lovely afternoon. Later, both the sides exchanged pleasantries and gifts to commemorate the occasion.
As the curtain came down on the celebrations, the visitors saluted the tricolour and were escorted back to the Line of Actual Control by Brig Surinder Singh.
The friendly interactions between the two border forces have played a significant role in promoting and strengthening bonds of friendship, mutual trust and confidence between the two armies.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

Tearful adieu to Sheikh Mirza

LEH, Oct 16: Renowned Muslim Cleric of Leh Sheikh Mirza Hussain, who died in Srinagar, was today given a tearful adieu when his mortal remains were brought for burial here.
A large number of people from different shades attended his funeral procession. Prominent among them were Power Minister Nawang Rigzin Jora, Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC Leh Chering Dorje, Executive Councillor Health Dorje Mutup, MLC P Namgial, MLA Nubra Pintoo Norboo, Deputy Commissioner Leh Dr M K Bhandari, Executive Councilor PWD, LAHDC Kargil Nasir Munshi, MLA Zanskar Mohd Raza and Councillor Agha Mukhtar.
Leh Bazaar remained closed for half day in the memory of the religious leader.
Sheikh Mirza dedicated his life not only in preaching of Islam in Ladakh but also played prominent role in social activities especially in promotion of secular amity.

Sunday 14 October 2007

Eid celebrated at Leh, Kargil

LEH, Oct 13: Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated with great enthusiasm and religious fervour at Leh and Kargil.
In Leh, the main Eid-ul-Fitr congregation was offered at Imam Dargah under the Imamat of Sheikh Ghulam Hadi wherein thousand of Shia Muslims participated. Special prayers were offered for world peace, prosperity, communal harmony and brotherhood among different sections of the community.
Addressing the gathering after Eid-ul-Fitr Namaz, Ashraf Ali Barcha, president Anjuman Imamia Leh felicitated all Muslims of Ladakh region on the auspicious occasion and said that festival would bring the message of universal peace, tolerance, brotherhood and compassion.
In Kargil, two big congregations were held at Islamia School and Jama Masjid in which thousands of Muslims offered Eid Namaz under the aegis of Sheikh Mohammad Mussa Sharifi and Sheikh Mohammad Mohqiq. They prayed for the peace and prosperity in the region and the State.
Edi-ul-Fitr was also celebrated at Jaffaria Masjid Drass, Sankoo, Tai Suru and Shakar Chiktan blocks.
The Chief Executive Councillor LAHDC Kargil Haji Asgar Ali Karbalaei greeted the people on the occasion.