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EDITORIAL: 1-15 December 2000

Give peace a chance!

Pakistan knows it, India recognizes it and Kashmiri militants concede it: Pakistan is too feeble to even consider a military option in Kashmir; for all its might and ‘pro active’ policy India has failed to break the backbone of the militants; and militants know that they can never overwhelm the Indian military machine. The end result is a terrible impasse which is hurting only the common people of Kashmir whose lives, trade, tourism, education, handicrafts, lie in ruin. Can or should this be allowed to continue for ever? Only a man with heart of stone can say ‘yes’ to this question. Someone, somewhere, has to take the initiative. Militant outfits are too numerous, on purpose, to preempt any single approach. The All-Party Hurriyet Conference (APHC) is too scared of militants’ guns to take any bold stand. Anyone who knows the ground situation in Kashmir today confirms that militancy is now in foreign hands which are driven by idealist or mercenary considerations and these people have no regard for the local people, their sensibilities, priorities and interests. They obey their paymasters in Rawalpindi and Muzaffarabad. An earlier ceasefire and dialogue between the government of India and Hizbul Mujahidin collapsed because of foreign pressure despite strong local yearning for a respite in the decade-long suffering.

It is a fact that Indian Muslims have not supported the Kashmiri militancy and militants hold this against us. It is utterly hard for Indian Muslims to find any interest for the community in what is happening in the wounded valley apart from protesting against the human rights violations perpetrated against our brethren in faith there and we have not been lacking behind in this respect. To be honest, the current scare about the ISI and efforts to somehow link Indian Muslims with it have a lot to do with the militancy in Kashmir. 

Ahmad Bukhari, Imam of the Delhi Jama Masjid, is the first Indian Muslim leader to openly show interest in solving the Kashmiri tangle and has played some role in recent developments which have culminated in the government of India’s bold and unprecedented step of declaring a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan with the possibility of extending it further if all goes off well. No doubt this is in response to the ground situation, army fatigue as well as the pressure from outside especially the Organization of Islamic Conference’s recent decision to appoint a representative for Kashmir and to send a fact-finding mission to the troubled state. Some outfits, including the APHC, have welcomed this move while others have rejected it. It is time to grab this olive branch not only to give the poor Kashmiri a respite but also to start a dialogue to settle this vexed issue which has blocked the progress of the Indo-Pak subcontinent for over half a century and has contributed to the atmosphere of animosity towards the other in both India and Pakistan. As JKLF chief, Amanullah Khan, said recently, Kashmir should be ‘a bridge of friendship between India and Pakistan instead of being a poisonous bone of contention.’And this cannot be achieved without dialogue. What better opportunity to start this long-awaited process than to grab the olive branch your supposed ‘enemy’ is offering. Allah has ordered Muslims to opt for peace if the enemy seeks peace (Qur’an, 8:61). Will the Kashmiri militants and their leaders pass this test?

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