The magic of words
We must believe that words have efficacy. More importantly, we must hope that people believe what they say. War is an easy word, and drumming for war makes the war mongers feel that they have a job to do. Soldiers are people who have families, and while soldiering on is something they do, occupationally, for love of the country, the war mongers see them as fodder in war. The second world war was fought to end all wars. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasake left the molten shadows of men and women on the kerbside as they ran.
Water wars are the worst, for our common humanity becomes lost as we view the ‘other’ as the enemy. We always blame someone else for our troubles. Colonial water sharing devices are out of sync with modern needs, and egalitarian motives. Across the border, the Pakistani enjoyment of lands is represented through 200 families owning most of the land. As in India, when land redistribution occurred, the wealthy families gave away unproductive lands to the cultivator farmer, and kept the better acreage. So the ways in which we understand how tribals represent the force of an illegal marauding army which in India we call “terrorist”, is placed back in terms of how terrorism manipulates emotions of border people. The line of no return faces us very soon in terms of how we think of every day questions of blocking water to Pakistan, which the present government thinks as practical.
These are mighty rivers, which cross the borders of China, Pakistan and India. We have seen how floods over run North East India, when dam work across the border releases excess water. If we block the Indus, Punjab will be flooded and while boundary lines are political, river basins are not. The arsenal that Pakistan develops is nuclear. If they bomb us, they too will die. We do not live in isolation from one another. If the emotional encroachment in Kashmir over years has been so huge, it is because the local people have been singled out for attention by terrorist infiltration and for martyrdom, by specialised training in camps. We have to be very clear that the presence of the army in border areas is a natural phenomenon. The case for territorial supremacy in India is a question of history. The British could never suppress the emotions of people of the North West or the North East of India, and over decades, the Indian government was able to provide a sense of solidarity to tribal communities in both areas to invest their sense of belonging to the presence of the Centre. Federalism was seen to be the answer to these multi sited loyalties. Kashmiri merchants following their trade routes arrived in all parts of India, without feeling the necessity for secessionism. If we look at the protracted battle between the Centre and the State, comprising Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, we must presume that Kashmir is a part of a larger entity, and should it receive it’s Azadi, then it will be surrounded by segments of the state which remain loyal to the subcontinental image of India.
The map of India presents it’s own logic of subcontinental identity. Terrorism can never promote democracy, as Paul Wilkinson argues in “Terrorism vs Democracy” ( Routledge 2001). The armoury of guerrilla warfare is time tested, with successful results, and the price that the civilians have to pay is huge. Where the state practise of terrorism gets in the way of diplomacy, we have to understand that the grammar of mediation must come from other legitimating institutions, such as ambassadorial functions of surrounding countries. Without State support, the idea of freedom and autonomy, regarding the right to work and travel may well be taken away from us by parochialising interests which sees war as the first option available. Why should we think that people across the borders of our country want to die? They would be the first victims, and evacuation would create more wounded, more zones of loss and privation.
Citizens’ forums have a great part to play in both India and Pakistan. Their role is primary in avoiding war. Unless we identify our share of common interests, the soldiers whom we value as true patriots will die terrible deaths in war, or in post war camps. Anyone who has been to Kargil, knows that the heroism of our soldiers cannot be disputed. Even now, the stones leach blood. To put the army to dysfunctional use, by shooting and killing citizens in Kashmir, who think differently from us, is a terrible act of finality. It is true Gorbachov and Rasisa Gorbachov died in penury and singularly difficult circumstances, but let us not forget the first lessons of the 1990s, the lessons in dialogue.