‘Is one type of violence necessary or sufficient to abolish the other type?’, asks Johan Galtung (Violence, Peace and Peace Research), one of the leading names in the field of peace research. For this short write up, it would be technically impossible to form opinions. I have no suggestions to offer either, but some meaningful points that need to be pondered over by those who matter.
The conflict of Kashmir needs no introduction and only those with acute political myopia deny what remains one of the intractable conflicts in the world. From its accession to India, internationalization of the dispute, promise of plebiscite (and then the denial of it), high and low intensity wars between the two claimants to the current times, Kashmir has tread through the crests and troughs of failed negotiations, highs and lows of violence, and rampant use of subterfuge. Violence has permeated the fabric of society in such a way that no amount of dead and no volume of destruction seems to be enough.
Militancy that arose in the decade of 1980s, and then lost its sheen in the subsequent decades, is now resurgent with a new and rejuvenated face. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, that was once declared to be wiped out (Times of India, October 19, 2011), is getting record-breaking number of recruits in the current period. In 2018 alone, till May, 81 youths have joined the militant ranks. (Firstpost, June 3, 2018). Al-Qaeda that was non-existent in the valley has now announced the formation of its cell known by the name of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind headed by a local youngster Zakir ‘Musa’ Bhat with pan-Islamist leanings. Lashkar-e-Taiba which had cut down on its operations in Kashmir, is now kicking in the valley with many youngsters offering themselves as recruits. Young people often believe violence to be the only alternative left.
How has this state of affairs come into being? Why has militancy rejuvenated in such a short span of time? Firstly, state response has been to start the cycle of violence in which militants are killed, civilian protesters arrested, beaten, and worst fired upon, properties destroyed, and curfews imposed. On the part of government, there has been no sign or mood of any negotiations or anything to offer to the people. They believe that they are winning it by using the muscular approach when they clearly are not. The statistics and the figures of rising number of militants, and increasing support to militants from the locals, goes to show that whatever extent of force is used by the state, it would be requited with the equal amount of force by those who are its victims. ‘The ultimate weakness of violence’, to quote Martin Luther King, ‘is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.’ The logic of violence is never sustainable, more so for a state fighting the sentiments more than the people.
The approach of denying the genuine demands and choking of peaceful methods of protest is bound to create a situation where people see no alley more useful than that of the violence. The state has for its own satisfaction, and for the consumption of public, indulged in the construction of the Other as evil with no legitimacy of goals and with whom they would never negotiate. The adage that ‘To He who has a Hammer the World looks like a Nail’ fits well with the thinking of the state’s security policy sleuths who believe that the vast security paraphernalia might be used conveniently and with a surety of success. Nothing could be as mistaken and far from the facts on ground as this. As shown above, the violence that has been employed by the state has not been able to stop the spiral that seems now to be self-sustaining, rather it has geometrically multiplied the sentiment of secession in the valley by sticking to the policy that has never proven itself to be worthy of a try. Probably, as shown by one of the famous military historian van Creveld (The Transformation of War), this failure is because the state in all conflict zones, as in Kashmir, loses the monopoly over the use of violence. And when violence is used by both the sides, as Charles Tilly (The Politics of Collective Violence), one of the well-known names in the studies on violence, also argues, the more they try their violent means the more polarized the two sides become leaving no scope for a compromise.
All these points towards a pessimistic state of affairs where everything seems to be beyond redemption. It may not be totally wrong to say that the present conflict is not going to be solved anytime soon given the rigid attitude that the state has gotten itself into. That the violence used by the non-state actors (militants let’s say) would achieve nothing is obvious and doesn’t need a special mention; it only serves as a symbolic means to showcase the dissent that was choked in its peaceful form. Militancy would thrive, no matter how many are killed and no matter how much force the state brings to bear upon it. However, as is said no past resembles the present and no future resembles the present.
So, what should be done so as the future of Kashmir and the Kashmiris in no way resembles the present for better, what exactly should be done to spare the future generations from the scourge of this undeclared war? As I alluded to in the beginning, I have no ready-made suggestions that I can serve on platter, but some points that need logical and cool-headed approach. I can, however, wind up this write up with a learned suggestion by Galtung himself, with whose question I started this write-up. He argues that there is no necessity of violence either on theoretical, empirical or axiological grounds. To those who argue about the indispensability of violence, like the arguments that we often hear from the security experts, Galtung offers this that even if violence ‘could be seen as indispensable up till today, on empirical and/or theoretical grounds, this would be one more good reason for a systematic search for the conditions under which this indispensability would disappear.’ No amount of dithering, and of course no amount of force can achieve what can be achieved by the pro-active and sincere search for peaceful resolutions. Nothing else has ever worked, nothing else would ever work. With ‘pessimism of the intellect, and optimism of will’, borrowing Gramsci’s expression here, we can hope against all hopes that state takes some lessons from the history and kickstarts a sincere process of resolution of this longest impending conflict.
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