A Just Peace In Kashmir? Reflections On Dynamics Of Change

Published on Countercurrents.org, by Richard Shapiro, 07 August, 2009.

What are the various roles that diverse constituencies must play to facilitate political processes that undo militarization and subjugation in Indian administered Kashmir? How can systemic structures that institutionalize violence, cultural annihilation, economic impoverishment, and political disempowerment be countered through non-violent, ethical resistance? What alliances are necessary to allow hope for overcoming cycles of oppression and breaking with histories of domination? How can international, national, and local actors and institutions work together to disrupt socially unnecessary suffering and ameliorate the conditions of existence? What forces must cohere to enable a just peace to emerge in a democratic Kashmir in the foreseeable future? … 

… Kashmir is the longest standing disputed area in the United Nations, the most militarized spot on earth, and a drain on the hopes for prosperity, peace and freedom for people throughout the subcontinent, and the world. There is no moving toward peaceful coexistence between India and Pakistan, no stabilization of the region, no possibility for global nuclear disarmament, no hope for forms of development that prioritize sustainability and cultural survival over militarization, urbanization, and middle-class consumerism, no space for the impossible healing through mourning/memorializing the trauma of Partition, without granting self-determination to the people of Kashmir.

The realization of that which is demanded by rationality in service of justice and emancipation is always against the odds. In relation to Kashmir, a more peaceful future requires at least four interrelated movements: (1) Massive, non-violent, ethical dissent within Kashmiri civil society must continue and expand, attentive to alliances that build stronger relations between men and women, youth and adults, various faith communities, urban and rural, rich and poor, facilitative of inclusive forms of polity that enable a diverse, pluralistic movement for freedom. (2) Leadership must form a unified coalition that activates and learns from the multiple constituencies that make up Kashmiri society. Divergent desires and imaginations regarding the future of Kashmir should be encouraged and discussed, outside the search for homogeneity or conformity. A Kashmir free of subjugation should enable multiple forms of life through participatory democracy, just governance, and economic practice promoting health, education, and individual and collective prosperity. Natural resources, like water, should be both safeguarded, and utilized for sustainable development. Cultural heritage should be understood as an inheritance of all Kashmiris to fashion a unique society nurturing hospitality, innovation, and multicultural polity. (3) Education and mobilization to shift public opinion in India must be undertaken throughout civil society to expand pressure on the Indian state. Citizen delegations from the various states and communities of India must visit Kashmir to learn first hand about the atrocities, resistances, hopes, and concerns prevalent in Kashmir. Such delegations must bring their new understandings to their neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and places of worship to facilitate discussion and reflection that expand the voices of those who demand that illegal and immoral action in Kashmir done in their name immediately cease. Institutions in India must sponsor delegations from Kashmir, composed of diverse peoples who constitute Kashmiri society, to share the realities they have suffered and the need for alliance toward justice. Hindu faith communities must forge relationships with social justice movements in civil society in Kashmir to oppose Hindu majoritarian dominance and insist that the Indian state demilitarize the state of Jammu & Kashmir, become accountable to international agreements, rule of law, and human rights as the first step on the road to affirming the right of Kashmir to self-determination. Universities and the press must play a strong role in addressing the history and present of Kashmir to empower students and the citizenry of India to participate as informed members of a democratic republic, whose resources and conscience are systematically misused and violated by their government. (4) International solidarities from citizens, governmental and non-governmental organizations, students, workers, professionals, public intellectuals, faith communities, and all interested parties must be organized to educate, inform, advocate, and mobilize for the liberation of Kashmir. International institutions must be both utilized and strengthened as legitimate sites able to hold nation-states legally accountable for their actions. Research, education, and publication on the reality of present-day Kashmir and its modern history must be supported by and within universities, think tanks, and civil society forums. Campuses must become sites where students mobilize themselves to exert public pressure to ethically resolve the situation in Kashmir. Resistance in all four ’sites’ must struggle to establish alliances, clarify goals, mobilize resources, deconstruct desires, and carve out space where different forms of polity and community, promoting ethical dissent, may live.

To commit to these practices secures no guarantees. The process must draw from the resolve of Kashmiris to struggle for justice and strengthen this resolve through principled alliance that breaks the isolation and despair that accompanies any people subjected to brutal mistreatment. The multiple legacies that inspire and haunt us must become the very sustenance that, through sharing, nurtures our struggle. Allow me to conclude by drawing from a source common to the three Abrahamic traditions, and of universal relevance in the present, Deuteronomy 16:20, Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue. (full long text).

(Richard Shapiro is Chair and Associate Professor, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco).

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