Alert Sign Dear reader, online ads enable us to deliver the journalism you value. Please support us by taking a moment to turn off Adblock on

Alert Sign Dear reader, please upgrade to the latest version of IE to have a better reading experience


Chewing the peace cud

December 06, 2012

INDIANS and Pakistanis striving for durable peace between their countries should consider launching a political movement of the magnitude of the anti-Vietnam war upsurge if they seriously wish to succeed.

Nothing less will do, and certainly not the namby-pamby resolutions their NGOs issue from time to time from seminar halls across the world. The reason for this is that we are dealing with two increasingly demonic systems that are daily honing their capabilities to conquer their own people and also to decimate each other.

None should doubt the social wherewithal that exists in both countries to bring about political change through street power. And though the old tradition of mass movements seems to be waning in India with the decline of the left, the fighting spirit in Pakistan has shown little sign of abating, much less dissipating.

Ceaseless campaigns against military and other usurpers of democracy have toughened the polity in Pakistan, whereas India’s increasingly adulterated parliamentary democracy has worked as hemlock to dull its political sinews.

Arundhati Roy was spot on last week, when she said those that sought to bring change through democracy in India ended up getting changed by it. It was a clean shot at the fiendishly long tenure the left enjoyed in West Bengal. That greatly contributed to its decline, not to a wider acceptance of its lofty ideals.

If the political systems in the two countries are busy conquering their own people, that too with the military resources they have accumulated to target their cross border foes, then the chances are that the India-Pakistan peace dialogue is a red herring to distract from the fire at home. The real fight for peace with justice is being waged within the borders of both countries and there is no harm if the peaceniks begin to discuss it.

This means that future conclaves should exchange notes on how to save Pakistan from the Taliban, and the Americans. Likewise with India — how to save the country from its fascist trajectory, aided and applauded, implicitly and overtly, by the international community?

There is one final question to be resolved before we start ushering in Indo-Pak bonhomie. Is there a possibility that both countries could plunge into serious fascism, say of Hindu and Muslim denominations? That could bring another form of peace — a pact between a Hindutva Hitler and a Muslim Mussolini. Do we want that?

My fear is real, rooted as it is in the rise of the corporate-backed Narendra Modi in India and the internationally sponsored search for the good Taliban in Afghanistan, and by implication for Pakistan as well.

The way secular states are being dismantled to be replaced by religious ones in the Middle East, my fear may not be overly misplaced. After all, there is palpable allergy among the neo-colonial powers to secular governance, and the impulse for this could lie in the reality of Israel.

That country offers an early example in the 20th century of a religious state being created and foisted with international consent, which needs perennial protection from secular ideologues that question its anachronistic evolution. But that’s another story. The fact is that our world is not averse to replacing secular states with religious ones. With this knowledge, let’s get back to India and Pakistan peace.

It will most probably not come about by pious resolutions. If anything has moved at all towards an agreeable change between the two countries, no matter how tardily and incrementally, and how incomplete it may be, it is the tiny breathing space the Kashmiris have got for themselves.

And they have got it not by our seminar hall resolutions, nor from the charity of the two states that claim to be its real benefactors, but very emphatically by Kashmir’s own blood-drenched struggles. That’s a most useful lesson the peaceniks may wish to heed.

The armies, the bureaucracies, the politicians don’t have a significant stake in perpetuating peace between the two countries.

Since the 1990s Pakistan was subverting all such initiatives with the help of its cronies in India. More recently, India has picked up the habit.

Even without provocations as grave as the Mumbai attack, its bureaucracy has torn up small-step agreements initialled by the two heads of government.

What chance do journalists stand, or retired officers with self-importance, to impose their will on the entrenched system about ways to resolve Kashmir, or Siachen, or even the issue of visas?

If there is a promise of a slight relaxation in the visa regime the impulse has come from the exigencies of the states, not the people. A powerful nudge from business lobbies that now run the systems has done the trick, but mostly for themselves.

Let me frame the argument in another way. The anti-war campaign came up in the United States on the back of the civil rights movement. That’s a good enough hint for us. Let’s restore the dignity of the Baloch in Pakistan, the tribespeople in the northwest, revive the security of its religious and ethnic minorities, of peasants and ordinary workers.

In India, pull the troops out of Manipur and Kashmir, end the plunder of the habitats of the tribespeople, give back the dignity to the vandalised minorities.

With that task completed, peace will not be a mirage between India and Pakistan. Chewing the peace cud in seminar halls is a convenient habit, not a strategy for real peace, as some nice peaceniks who met in Delhi recently need to be reminded.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.