My definition of nationalism is what Rabindranath had described – ‘Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high’. For me nationalism does not mean ‘my country, right or wrong’. For me it means – ‘my country, to be kept right when it is right, to be set right when it is wrong.’
So if India has made what I feel is a plethora of mistakes in Jammu and Kashmir, it is my duty as a citizen of this country to bring that to the table, to discuss it openly, so that the civil society and governments can together engage with what has gone wrong in Kashmir.
Why is it that in 1965 when you had people from Pakistan crossing over to the Indian Kashmir side, people actually handed them over to the Indian army, and the same people in 1989 and 1990 when insurgency broke out, were out on the streets shouting – “Hum kya chahte hain? Hum chahte hain azaadi!” ?
What has been responsible for the change in this mindset? Can this be blamed on Pakistan? There is no doubt that Pakistan has training camps, Pakistan has been arming the insurgents, but is the cause of the fire only external? Can we reduce the problem in Kashmir only to a proxy war?
The changing face of conflict
There has been dramatic change in the nature of conflict in the 21st century. Contemporary conflicts are no longer about wars. It’s about struggles for life and livelihood, over competing and contending lifestyles brought about by huge recessions, globalization, struggles over water, food and environment. It is no longer an industry fought with nuclear science or with fighter bombers, but it is also actually fought with petrol bombs, with shrapnel, with mines. It’s not only fought by soldiers in uniform, it’s also fought by ordinary people – non-state actors. It is no longer a fixed battlefield. Where is it now being fought? In the gallis and mohallas, the mountains and forests. And there is no clear battle line. There is no separation between combatants and non-combatants. The rules of war do not apply here. Most of the people who are killed are not just soldiers, they are also non-combatants. The nature, the texture, the context of contemporary conflict has changed. And what we see now is a sort of a no-war-no-peace kind of situation which is neither here nor there.
And because of this everdayness of conflict, because it’s so pervasive, peace building cannot happen exclusively in the smoke-filled anterooms of technocrats and experts. The idea of citizens engaging in peace building is an idea that we need to stand by.
Jammu and Kashmir: competing nationalisms
In many ways Jammu and Kashmir represents all the complexities and characteristics of this new post-Cold War conflict. Insurgency and counter-insurgency in any part of the world sets into motion a cycle of violence that is difficult to break. But there’s another layer of complexity that is added to the already complex problems of Jammu and Kashmir and that is the internal plurality and different identity politics within the geographical space that we call Jammu and Kashmir.
This now becomes space for competing nationalisms. There’s Indian nationalism, Pakistani nationalism, there’s Kashmiri nationalism, there’s sub-regional aspirations, Jammu, Ladakh, the pastoral communities, the Pahadis, the Gujjars … and their political aspirations are not the same. So how to bring people to the negotiating table when there is no consensus on what the end picture is going to be?
What is conflict analysis?
Following the Second World War, peace and conflict studies was seen as a branch of international studies. Conflict Studies in the 60s and 70s reflected the dominant security architecture of the Cold War. Threats to security were defined primarily in military terms and always in terms of external parameters. Nation-states were of primary interest.
Now let’s turn our attention to the way the problem in J&K was framed during 1947, the time of the Cold War. I am drawing your attention to this to show you that the global dominant discourse shapes the way in which we frame the conflict, and the way you frame the conflict will also open up or constrain the possibilities for mediating and finding solutions.
In 1947, the Kashmir issue was defined as a real estate problem between India and Pakistan. It was defined territorially. The internal diversity of Kashmir was not taken into account.
Now in order for India to feel safe, a large number of troops and paramilitary forces were sent into Kashmir to protect the territory. But those troops and paramilitary forces were making the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and particularly the women, feel unsafe. When we asked them in Kashmir what makes you feel unsafe, they said ‘men with guns, whether they are security forces or militants, make us feel unsafe.’ Sometimes the protection of the territory of the state seems to accentuate rather than address the safety of the people…
The 1980s was also a period where there were conflicts, emanating from within their own territory of so many states - Kosovo, Palestine, Congo, Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Chechnya, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Columbia, Sudan – the list goes on and on. And the Kashmir conflict has to be seen in the context of this changing nature of conflict. The specific cultural and contextual nuances were captured in the new vocabulary of conflict analysis. For example – a new category came into being and that is the concept of IDPs – internally displaced persons. They haven’t crossed international borders so they can’t be called “refugees”, but they are living in refugee-like conditions in miserable camps.
Violent conflict often results from the traditional preoccupations of States to defend and maintain their interest and power. Many factors and conditions have made post-colonial and post Cold War societies particularly prone to violence and warfare. And wherever you find that the longstanding grievances are exploited by political demagogues, the scene is set for violence.
A distinction needs to be made between manifest and latent conflict. What is latent conflict? Latent conflict can exist in a relationship where parties believe that their aspirations cannot be achieved simultaneously, but it need not necessarily manifest itself into violence. Sometimes when the parties are employing their powers to defeat, neutralize or eliminate each other, then you have an outbreak of manifest conflict. Rather than looking at latent conflict and manifest conflict as two separate categories of conflict, you might want to consider them as part of the same continuum.
Timelines and mapping
Conflict analysis is not necessarily about learning new things about the conflict; it is about understanding the same thing in different ways. So, it helps to identify the main actors, main issues, main factors, the scope, the earlier attempts at the resolution of the conflict. It takes you through the phases of the conflict. It tells about the balance of power and the state of relationships.
One way of looking at conflict analysis is by creating a timeline. It helps us understand the history of the situation as well as the current events and you kind of get a shared understanding of the conflict. If you just give one benchmark that is important – 1947. What does 1947 mean to young Indian, students? What does 1947 mean to Pakistani students of the same age group? What does 1947 mean to students of Srinagar University who are residents of Jammu and Kashmir? Now you’ll see how interesting the perspectives are because the same event which touched the lives of the same people are constructed and perceived so differently.
The idea is to get a shared understanding of certain events. How do others react? How to understand that my reacting doesn’t cancel out your reacting, my view doesn’t cancel out your view?
The other conflict analysis that is very interesting, for the young students specially, is conflict mapping. This is essentially a visual technique. Now when you’re doing this visual technique, representing the larger and more powerful actors in larger circles and less powerful actors in smaller circles and try to map out power relationships between the related actors, it identifies all the major stakeholders and tells you about who should be sitting at the table, and who should be invited to the table.
Frameworks of conflict
Conflict prediction: the name itself is self-explanatory. Your aim is to save lives, to save time, save loss by actually pre-empting a conflict. The key phrases here are early warning and early response. One of the critiques of this technique is why do you want to prevent conflict all the time? Sometimes, it is necessary to escalate the conflict, provided it is not done in a violent, dysfunctional way.
Conflict management: the basic assumption here is that conflict follows patterns, human beings are basically rational, so therefore you can anticipate the ways in which the conflict will happen and therefore, design ‘interventions’. So there’s a range of approaches to prevent conflicts from spiralling. It does not rule out use of force.
Conflict resolution: conflict resolution looks at a range of non-violent approaches – negotiation, mediation, facilitation, etc. These tools are usually used by governments. And what is the result of conflict resolution? You’ll find a whole lot of peace agreements. And before India can reach a peace agreement, there is a fresh outbreak of violence. Obviously there’s something that we’re not addressing.
Conflict transformation: it changes the question. Conflict resolution is asking you what is it that you’re ending? Conflict transformation is asking what is it that you’re building? So the entire architecture of the question changes.
Conflict is a catalyst of positive change sometimes. Conflict transformation integrates the emotional and psychological aspects of peace building with the more substantive structural aspects of peace building. And it believes that not just state diplomacy but also engagement of civil society and people at all levels are to be a part of the transformation. And the transformation has to happen at different levels – at the level of individuals, at the communities, social structures, state. It assumes that in a highly atomized and globalized world, we need human dignity, respect, affirmation – these are universal values. And whenever you’re denied this, people are pushed into a vortex of lies. In this context I would also like to bring to the table the writings of Johann Galtung who wrote several decades ago, but whose perspective is relevant today. He said that there is a difference between negative peace and positive peace. When the direct violence has died and there is a lull, sometimes it is because of violence fatigue. That is negative peace. Bringing about a positive peace is a very, very difficult task. It is not just about ending violence, but also that certain structures of society which was violent but was not apparent. For example, poverty, discrimination may not have resulted in violence but it represents certain forces of violence.
Peace building is a complex web of processes that incorporates different roles, strategies and interventions; that integrates management, resolution, transformation, prevention; that employs a different range of processes and a range of actors as well -- multi-track diplomacy. Peace building has developed as a response to all the problems of society – dysfunctional violence, poverty, crime, racism, violence against women, ethnic, ideological and class forces, etc. And this is why I’ve been emphasizing on right from the beginning – “everydayness of peace building”.
It’s no longer a concern of formal negotiators. Peace building seeks to prevent, reduce, transform and help people recover from private and structural violence. I won’t underestimate the importance of negative peace. When you are in a politics of violence, the first thing you do is actually stop the violence and then talk about positive peace. Strategic peace making happens when resources, actors and approaches are co-ordinated. This kind of peace building implies that peace builders have to be politically strategic at all points of time even when facing their work with a set of values. Such a model is not just for post conflict society but for all societies as a way to prevent violence and satisfy human needs. Please note that I am saying “prevent violence” and not “prevent conflict”
Peace building has many dimensions. It values human needs, justice, human security, human rights, but it is not enough to have just these values. You also need relational skills – self-reflection, active listening, appreciating inquiry, dialogue skills, negotiation skills, mediation skills. These are extremely important tools of peace building, but if you are looking at skill building as peace building then it’s wrong. You also have to look at structural causes of conflict -- unless you do the research or analyse the conflict, you will never be able to identify the unmet needs of the people. You require research, conflict analysis, emotional skills, comittment, passion about certain values. It is only when they come together that it will be a culture of peace building.
I would like to end this session by looking at the role of civil society in peace building in the context of Jammu and Kashmir. And I would like to bring to the table a very interesting concept called the ‘public peace process’ (PPP). Harold Saunders wrote ‘Public Peace Process’. This is a system where citizens outside the government can actually design steps to change conflict relationships in ways that create capacities to build upon processes for peace building. PPP is based on the assumption that conflict is not just a clash between institutions. It also has an important human angle. This emphasizes citizens as actors in politics. PPP acknowledges that there are certain tasks that governments and states will do and formal negotiation and mediation is definitely important in the resolution conflict. But at the same time it also affirms a larger political process that is citizen driven. The conceptual framework of PPP is built around what we called sustained dialogue -- systematic dialogue amongst small groups of representative citizens who are committed to change. This is not a coffee table conversation, neither is it a formal negotiation. It involves a conversation and a five stage process which he has outlined – 1) coming together about a problem. 2) mapping a problem. 3) setting a direction, 4) scenario building and 5) acting together.
And I will end with talking about an informal network called Yakcha, who have engaged very proactively in peace building. Yakcha is a network of Hindu and Muslim Kashmiri professionals based in Delhi who work with children and the youth of J&K. The idea of the network was formed in Delhi where a whole lot of Kashmiris used to meet (both Hindus and Muslims) and they started talking about shrinking spaces for free expression, especially back home, polarization between Hindus and Muslims who actually had a long history of co-existence in J&K. So a series of meetings were held and they decided to actually open up more spaces for expressions and go back to Kashmir to do that. And they named themselves Yakcha and it means coming together. And they used multiple formats for engaging with young children. So they used theatre, film making, art, photography, creative writing, etc. And in 2003 they set theatre workshops in three settings – one with the Pandit camps, and then they also worked with Yakim Trust in Srinagar and then since then they have been in organizing it in Delhi, Jammu and Srinagar. This is one example of how civil society can engage in building bridges in a highly militarized area.