…and then Kashmir will smell sweet [Part 3]

Dialogue is the way forward.

BULLET

let there be freedom for soldiers too

By Neeraj Bhushan

…continuing from the second part.

A Golfer in action at Srinagar's famous Royal Springs Golf Course. Photo by Arshad Hussain.
A Golfer in action at Srinagar’s famous Royal Springs Golf Course. Photo by Arshad Hussain.

In a latest, India’s permanent representative to the United Nations Hardeep Puri told The Hindustan Times newspaper on November 1, 2012 that the ground reality has changed in the valley and Pakistan should not keep on harping on Kashmir.

Interestingly, ‘Tehelka’ magazine, in its August 2010 issue, had carried an article by Zahid Rafiq who wrote: “As for the Indian soldiers, most of them are poor villagers from the plains who end up living inside the lonely sand bunkers in Kashmir. They face stones and then take the lives of Kashmiri boys. Concertina wires surround their own lives, and it manifests in their high suicide rates and fratricidal killings in Kashmir. If the Indian State treated them not merely as pawns of nationalism but as dignified citizens, it could be freedom for the soldiers too. India can neither shoot its way out of Kashmir nor can it buy out the sentiment. And as for buying time, it has been 63 years already.” Point well made.

Suhasini Haidar
Suhasini Haider

And now let’s also see a startling angle to the Kashmir issue as presented by Suhasini Haider, Deputy Foreign Editor of CNN-IBN, in whose opinion “getting to the truth in Kashmir is like the dance of the seven veils.”

But there are moments that will startle you with their clarity. Like listening to 31 year old Rafiqa, a housewife, at a protest in Srinagar’s Rambagh. Amidst chants of ‘Azaadi’ she says, “Yeh masla goli se nahin, boli se hal hoga,” to my surprise. [Dialogue not the bullet is the way forward.]

Society That Pakistan Is

It’s time Pakistan should also think beyond a society that it has been – going round in circles for over six decades. According to BBC’s M. Ilyas Khan, “The story of Pakistan is one of remorseless tug and pull between the civilian and military rulers on the one hand, and the liberal and religious forces on the other.” Such descriptions need change, face-lift… and this can happen by actions. I, for that matter, believe that the action is in Kashmir. Bold steps need to be taken, for the people, for humanity, for peace, now.

A child sorts prized saffron flowers at Pampore on Srinagar-Jammu highway. Photo credit Mubashir Khan / Greater Kashmir newspaper.
A child sorts prized saffron flowers at Pampore on Srinagar-Jammu highway. Photo credit Mubashir Khan / Greater Kashmir newspaper.

Tufail Ahmad, Director of the Middle East Media Research Institute’s South Asia Studies Project, though, has a word of caution for those living on the either side of the Kashmir border: “In recent years, anyone who is not a Muslim in Pakistani society – or groups of Muslims who are not considered to be Muslim socially and religiously or under Pakistan’s law – have been facing a sustained campaign of hate and religious persecution by Islamic groups and individuals, including government officials, legislators, judges, lawyers, police officers and clerics, who interpret law on their own terms and enforce it with the objective of making Pakistan a purer-than-ever Islamic nation.”

Seized as we are with this issue that needs to be resolved in the larger interest of the mankind and the civilization, a slogan emanating from a television commercial also caught my mind as well as the people living in the streets of Kashmir — “Hoyenga, Hoyenga, Jee Hoyenga, Aaney Waley Saloon Mein Jee Hoyenga, Kashmir Ka Hal Nikelenga! [Solution of Kashmir issue is definitely on cards, one of these days!]” (Click to see video)

To this, Arshad Hussain, Sr. Editor of ‘Greater Kashmir’ daily, says this campaign by Greenply is aimed to take a humorous look at the future to show the long lasting nature of its plywood, but public at large in India have for the first time come across a campaign run on commercial lines that has taken note of Kashmir as an issue that needs resolution in future.

Yes. We do not need fighters – whatever you call them militants or terrorists – rotting in training camps. They too need suitable employments and decent lives. Also, we do not want people to live-and-die in refugee camps – Kashmir is everyone’s home. Remember, neither iron bars nor stone walls make a cage but thinking makes it so. Let’s think in the right direction for our Kashmir to smell sweet.

[To be finally concluded in the next part]

_____________________________________________________

Excerpts from an Aljazeera report dated Nov.1, 2012: Faces of the waning war in Kashmir:

“Scars aren’t friendly, especially if they never go away,” he said, pointing to his artificial leg, which now substitutes the one he lost in an ambush when he tried going back to Indian held Kashmir.

He had trouble finding a wife as the tag of being a fighter in Kashmir was increasingly associated with “terrorism” by some. No one wanted to marry their daughter to someone who had once held a Kalashnikov. It was early in 2000 when Ahmed found his wife, a Pakistani local in Muzafferabad. They fell in love, and she fought and left her family to marry him.

But they did not live happily ever after. Abandoned by the state, he says he is denied jobs, despite his refugee status which should have given him a better chance of government employment due to a quota system. When he goes for interviews he says employers still categorise him as a terrorist and he never hears back from them. “Sometimes I struggle to hide my past, but it’s difficult to explain the broken leg.”

One of the identifier of ex-fighters is their scars. Because of these problems, he says he hasn’t been able to get enough money to lease an apartment or to properly educate his son.

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