Home > 2019 > Kashmir: Setting the Priorities / My Earliest Recollections

Mainstream, VOL LVII No 46 New Delhi November 2, 2019

Kashmir: Setting the Priorities / My Earliest Recollections

Tuesday 5 November 2019, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

In 1967, that is, fiftytwo years ago, N.C. visited the Kashmir Valley for a few days and held detailed discussions with a wide cross-section of opinion-makers and political personalities of all shades there. On his return he wrote a series of pieces on Kashmir in Mainstream. The following is the fourth and last instalment of the series ‘Special Report on Kashmir’ and was published in this journal’s November 18, 1967 issue. It is being reproduced now that Kashmir is once again in the news. The first three instalments of the series “Kashmir in Focus”, “Sheikh Abdullah, What Next?”, and “Wanted: Not Drift But Statesmanship” were reproduced in the Mainstream issues of September 28, 2019, October 19, 2019 and September 26, 2019 respectively. This is the last instalment. It was also carried in this journal’s April 6, 2019 issue.

Kashmir: Setting the Priorities

Any discussion on Kashmir can hardly afford to leave out the political role of Dr Karan Singh. A young man of erudition and culture, Dr Karan Singh in his personal life has little semblance of the feudal stock from which he comes. With his doctorate thesis on the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, Dr Karan Singh appears to be cut out more for academic life than the hectic strain of a political career. However, eighteen years as the Governor of the State, he has come to acquire a knowledge and assessment of Kashmir politics which is very much his own and he seems to be conscious of it.

During his last tenure of office as the Governor, there was quite a lot of excitement because of an interview that he had granted to London Times elaborating his views on the constitutional set-up of Kashmir. The interview itself was frowned upon by the New Delhi authorities at the time since it seemed to infringe upon the constitutional propriety that a Governor is expected to maintain.

However, political repercussions to the Karan Singh plan, as it has come to be known, flowed from the plan itself. He suggested that the Valley should be made into a separate State and Jammu and Ladakh should be merged in the contiguous Himachal State forming a Vishal Himachal.

The moment the plan was released, it produced very adverse reactions. Sri Sadiq himself characterised any proposal to slice off the Kashmir Valley as a move inspired by the Western powers. What was meant was that Sir Owen Dixon had made this suggestion with regard to the proposal to hold the plebiscite: he had restricted the idea of plebiscite only to the Valley saying that this alone was the disputed area; the fate of the other areas could be settled by negotiations, according to the Dixon Plan. The critics of the Karan Singh plan say that once the Kashmir Valley is made into a separate State, it would embolden secessionists and turn it into a stepping-stone to the dislinking of the Valley from the Indian Union.

After this hostile welcome, the Karan Singh plan did not get much publicity in this country. In a sense it was shelved but it has never been buried. Talking to Dr Karan Singh, I could gather the arguments that he has in support of this plan. (It is to be noted that although Dr Karan Singh himself has not been active in publishing it openly, he has not abandoned it and is eager that it should be given a trial.)

First, he seems to hold that in any complicated issue the correct way of dealing with it should be to localise the ailment; that is, restrict the area under dispute. In this way the Valley has a claim to be treated on a special plan. Secondly, it is refuted on behalf of Dr Karan Singh that the creation of a separate State out of the Valley would encourage the secessionists since such a State itself would be very much a part of the Indian Union. By this logic, Dr Karan Singh’s supporters argue, the establishment of Nagaland should be considered as encouraging the Phizo-secessionists and a stepping-stone towards letting the Naga areas opting out of the Indian Union.

The supporters of the Karan Singh plan—and they are quite a few particularly in Jammu—hold with certain cogency that the present State of Jammu and Kashmir, as its very name suggests, is an artificial creation. It reflected the expansion of a Maharaja’s dominion and not the product of a natural evolution, nor is it based on ethnic or linguistic considerations. In fact, they say there is no other State in India which has got so much of racial heterogeneity as the present State of Jammu and Kashmir.

I found that Sheikh Abdullah’s followers are not very much worked up about the Karan Singh plan. According to them, it is based not on linguistic considerations, while Dr Karan Singh has said nothing about the status of the Pak-occupied Azad Kashmir area; should it form part of his Valley State of Kashmir or should it form a separate entity? Dr Karan Singh’s reply to such criticism is that he was not actually redrawing the map of Kashmir along linguistic frontiers. If that was to be done, then there were many areas inside the present Valley such as Gurez where non-Kashmiris constitute the majority. He says that he is suggesting nothing more than a sensible constitutional re-arrangement. If in the process it helps to stabilise the politics of the Valley, it would be an additional gain and he seemed to feel that his plan would help to minimise many of the present tensions of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

In this connection one has to refer to the recent Jammu agitation in the course of which demands for a better deal for the Jammu people were raised. This preceded the agitation of the Kashmiri Pandits. It is interesting to note that the Dogras, who constitute the majority in the Jammu region, are not particularly enthusiastic about the demands of the Kashmiri Pandits for a larger share in government employment. The Leader of the Opposition in the J and K Assembly, while sympathising with the Pandits having to face police repression, added a rider that his party would not be interested in backing the claims of the Pandits with regard to a higher quota in government service. The Gajendragadkar Commission, which will go into the question of regional imbalances in Kashmir, will naturally have to take up the question of the Jammu people also, and it looks as if the Karan Singh plan has in a way been able to create a base for itself in the Jammu region.

Will the Karan Singh plan satisfy Sheikh Abdullah and his supporters? This is a doubtful question because what Sheikh Abdullah is demanding is not just a constitutional re-arrangement beginning with the present set-up, but, essentially a political rethinking by which the Kashmiri people’s sense of identification with the rest of India could be realised; and also to make it durable, an understanding with Pakistan should be worked out.

However, I noticed this time that there is much less of denunciation of the Karan Singh plan than there was when it was first mooted. Whether Dr Karan Singh’s elevation to the Central Cabinet will give him an opening for canvassing support for his plan is not yet clear. The fact that he is engaged in trying to seriously appraise the situation and to grope for a way out is considered by many as a significant indication of his readiness to participate in any negotiation for bringing about a settlement in Kashmir.

No generalisation of the Kashmir situation is possible, least of all for an outside observer. However, three points have to be borne in mind, and they should set the priorities so far as the Kashmir problem is concerned.

First, the need for a proper understanding with Sheikh Abdullah and his supporters. Instead of harbouring the illusion that a detained Sheikh has lost much of his popularity, it would perhaps be necessary for New Delhi to work out a strategy by which Sheikh Abdullah’s standing and competence could be harnessed in the interest not only of Kashmir but of the country as a whole. It must not be forgotten that Sheikh Abdullah is one of the few outstanding leaders still amongst us since the days of the freedom struggle, and if he is provided a wider horizon on this side of the Banihal, it would be all to the good of the country as a whole.

This enjoins that when he is released, as he must be—the sooner the better—there should be a concerted effort to win him over and not to repeat the disastrous line allowed to be followed by Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed in 1958 in trying to provoke and corner him. And in this task, the Left forces have a special responsibility, since they can help to bring Sheikh Abdullah back into the mainstream of the democratic movement.

Secondly, there should be an attempt to offer to the Kashmiri people the maximum amount of autonomy in consonance with their remaining within the Indian Union. If such terms could be offered to the Nagas, there is no reason why a similar treatment should not be meted out to the Kashmiris. Actually, the principle of maximum autonomy was writ large in the Delhi Agreement, which even conceded a separate State Flag for Kashmir. But the Delhi Agreement was envisaged as a tentative understanding, and it is time that the principle of autonomy for Kashmir is worked out in detail through free and frank negotiation with the leaders of Kashmir. Perhaps a round-table with leaders representing all shades of Kashmiri opinion may help.

In this connection, one has to recall what Nehru had said in 1952 in all solemnity in Parliament: ”So while the accession was complete in law and in fact, the other fact which has nothing to do with the law also remains, namely, our pledge to the people of Kashmir—if you like, to the people of the world—that this matter can be reaffirmed or cancelled or cut out by the people of Kashmir if they so wish. We do not want to win people against their will and with the help of armed force; and if the people of Jammu and Kashmir State so wish it, to part company from us, they can go their way and we shall go our way. We want no forced marriages, no forced unions like this....

“So, we accept this basic proposition that this question is going to be decided finally by the goodwill and pleasure of the people of Kashmir, not, I say, by the goodwill and pleasure of even this Parliament if it so chooses, not because this Parliament may not have the strength to decide it—I do not deny that—but because this Parliament has not only laid down in this particular matter that a certain policy will be pursued in regard to Jammu and Kashmir State but it has been our policy...

“But whether it is a pain and a torment, if the people of Kashmir want to go out, let them go because we will not keep them against their will however painful it may be to us. That is the policy that India will pursue, and because India will pursue that policy the people will not leave her, the people will cleave to her and come to her. Because the strongest bonds that bind will not be the bonds of your armies or even of your Constitution to which so much reference has been made, but bonds which are stronger than the Constitution and laws and armies—bonds that bind through love and affection and understanding of various people......”

While the context has changed since 1952, the need for winning back the confidence of the Kashmiri masses cannot be minimised. And if this is done boldly and with imagination there is little ground of pessimism about the possibility of solving the Kashmir problem. In fact, this would help to consolidate better relations with Sheikh Abdullah and his followers, just as a rapprochement with them will help to win back the confidence of the Kashmiri people.

Thirdly, in dealing with the Kashmir question there should be more determined efforts to establish better relations with Pakistan. If the cold war between superpowers could be reduced, there is no reason why the cold war between India and Pakistan should be kept up, and in this respect the responsibility of India for trying to reduce the cold war tension is as much as that of Pakisan. In some respects, one is tempted to say that India, as the senior partner in the subcontinent with greater command of resources and experience, is expected to show a greater degree of statesman-ship than perhaps is possible for the Pakistani leaders continuoulsy cooped up with a sense of complex in dealing with India.

Such a move itself would help to settle the Kashmir problem just as much as the solution of the Kashmir problem itself will in its turn help strengthen the better relations between India and Pakistan.

However, the wider question of Indo-Pak relations has to be dealt with in greater detail and can be the subject of another round of discussion not necessarily to be tagged to any report on Kashmir.

 (Mainstream, November 18, 1967)

My Earliest Recollections

After N.C.’s demise on June 27, 1998 three pieces were recovered from his notes as evidence that he had started writing his autobiography. Since November 3 this year happens to be his 106th birth anniversary, we are carrying the

following piece (written on March 5, 1990) on his birth and childhood.

What’s the earliest memory I have about myself? I have tried to look back to catch a glimpse of what could possibly be the earliest scene I can remember about my life.

I don’t remember anything about my birth and infancy, about the place where I was born. That was in a winter morning in November 1913 at a town in Assam called Silchar where my mother’s uncle was a prison doctor. My mother told me later that I was born early morning at about 5. I don’t know who were all there to receive me into the world, but I was told later that the arrival was smooth, without a hitch. My complexion was slightly dark—certainly darker than my mother’s and my father’s both of whom were fair. So I was called ‘Kanu’—the pet name of Krishna. One of my uncles was an admirer of a great Bengal scholar of those days and after him, I was named ‘Nikhil Nath’. That was perhaps all that I could gather about my first hours in this world.

My mother used to say that as a baby, I used to be quite a problem at night as I could cry for milk at the middle of the night and my full-throated angry howl would wake up the neighbours. And a relation who was rather obsequious to the Raj, would remark that it was good we were not living in sahib-para—the locality of the sahibs—as they would not tolerate this nightly howl by the Bengali baby. My mother used to recall another incident about my full-throated bellowing. The family had gone to the Tagore mansion at Jorasanko to watch Rabindra-nath’s Valmiki Pratibha in which the poet himself took part. As soon as the curtain was up and the bearded old man appeared on the stage, I roared sitting on the lap of my mother who had to rush out of the hall and had difficulty getting back home all by herself carrying the baby, as my father and my aunt stayed behind as they were ardent votaries of Tagore.

Otherwise I was a healthy normal baby with a large head and bristling hair. No problem about food as I was and have continued to be fond of milk. Every afternoon, I used to have long outings in the pram with Jagabhai who was the all-purpose factotum in our cosy little home.

My earliest recollections centre round the small house at Amherst Street in Central Calcutta. You had to reach it from the main road by a winding brick-laid lane through which no carriage could pass, only rickshaws could enter. The room in front was my father’s study-cum-sitting room. Behind it was a narrow open space and you reached the two dingy rooms and a narrow verandah which served as the dining place with small wooden stools and the meal laid out on the floor. By the staircase was the tiny little kitchen where my mother prepared all our meals. Upstairs there were two rooms, one with my father’s bed and the other belonged to my mother, where my aunts whenever they would come could park themselves. Any other guest would be sleeping in my father’s study downstairs. Next to us was the playing field of St. Paul’s College, where students would be playing. One would notice a dark-skinned young man would be playing with the boys as if he was one of them. Years later, he turned out to be my teacher in Presidency College—Kuruvilla Zachariah, a shy person with big eyes and ears, a bachelor at that time who became a real guru to me.

It was war-time (1914-1918) when I was growing up to be a boy. Khaki uniforms were popular, with a Union Jack stitched on the shoulder, and I remember I got a boy howitzer. A nursery book of alphabets all dealing with the great war that the British were supposed to be winning—D stood for Dreadnought, J for Jellico, U for U-boat, Z for Zeppelin etc.

Aping the Adversary

It is surprising how intelligent people in politics sometimes take up positions which should logically belong to their adversaries.

The Muslim League in 1940 picked up the so-called ‘two-nation theory’ which a bunch of extremist intellectuals had first coined to back up their demand for Pakistan. Other parties in India rejected it. The Congress made it clear that it did not accept the theory itself though it agreed to the partitioning of the country on the basis of the very same two-nation theory. By implications, Pakistan is supposed to belong to the Muslim nation, and therefore there could possibly be no equality between the master community, the Mussalman, and the subject community, the Hindu, in Pakistan. Hence, the rulers of Pakistan were party to the forcible exit of millions of Hindus from Pakistan, the larger number from the west than in the east—despite Jinnah’s inaugural address to the Pakistan Parliament on the very morrow of the partition in which he had said that in the new state of Pakistan, all citizens would be equal irrespective of community, race or creed—a speech which was quietly given a rather indecent burial by those who ruled Pakistan.

This idea of dividing the people according to their community identity, is now taken up, of all the people, by the BJP, which claims to be an implacable adversary of Pakistan. In its stand on the large body of people crossing into India from Bangladesh in recent months, the BJP has no objection whatsoever to the Hindu migrants, but wants the Muslim migrants to be thrown back into Bangladesh. The leaders of the BJP are intelligent people, at least most of them. They know perfectly well that this continuous exodus of Bangladeshis into India is due to the fact that their country is one of the worst poverty-stricken countries in the world. In fact, Bangladesh is included in the UN categorisation, in the LDCs—the Least Developed Countries which are entitled to special care. The BJP leaders know all this. They could have raised the question of Bangladeshi exodus as a regional and international phenomenon—an excellent issue for the SAARC to take up. Instead, they have made it an exclusively communal issue, to damn the Muslim community.

And justifying this clamour to force the Muslim migrants back into Bangladesh, they have raised a hair-raising theory, namely, that these Muslim migrants from Bangladesh settling down in the border districts contiguous to Bangladesh, are changing the demographic pattern of these districts, and in another ten years, these would thus be Muslim-majority districts of India, which the Bangladeshis would demand as part of their country on the strength of the two-nation theory and so we would be forced into another partition of this country. The plain and simple fact is that a Muslim must not be treated with trust under the BJP lexicon, and so has to be thrown out of the country.

Incidentally, the Akhand Hindustan slogan, which the BJP’s political ancestor, the Jana Sangh, had raised, is now quietly given up. It may be due to a realistic understanding that an entire state can hardly be expected to be liquidated at the call of the BJP; but this abandoning of the slogan to undo the partition of 1947 might be due to the realisation that in an Akhand Hindustan, there would be many more Muslims to be tackled than in the partitioned India. For, Akhand Hindustan would mean not only the liquidation of Pakistan but Bangladesh as well—which, if realised, would mean an enormous increase in the number of Muslims to live with. Obviously, the party which is getting het up at the exodus of several lakh Muslims from Bangladesh, would be aghast at the arrival of several crores, posing a threat to the ideal of Hindutva.

If we look carefully, the swift demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6—which the BJP has, for all practical purposes, welcomed, as nobody among its leaders barring Atal Behari Vajpayee has expressed even a word of regret at this violation of the pledged word by the party’s Ministry in UP—is in keeping with the style of violent bigotry which they ascribe to Emperor Babur’s lieutenant Mir Baqi. By the official BJP stand, Mir Baqi had committed a sacrilege by destroying a place of worship of the Hindus and built another structure at that very spot, meant for the worship of Muslims, namely, the Babri Masjid. This was supposed to have taken place five hundred years ago. Now in the year 1992, the kar sevaks, at the call of the BJP, arrived at Ayodhya and swiftly followed the very same procedure of Mir Baqi which the BJP leaders have always condemned, namely, replacing by violence the place of worship of one community by another place of worship of another community. What Mir Baqi did five hundred years ago has been faithfully followed now by the kar sevaks following the BJP call—this, like Mir Baqi, destroyed a place of worship to build another belonging to a different community. Mir Baqi would have understood the glory of Sadhvi Rithambhara’s ecstasy in the afternoon of December 6, 1992.

Another anomaly in the BJP propaganda—which must be awkward for the leaders of the party with a modern outlook—is the campaign that the Muslim community is furiously increasing its number because it permits a man to marry and keep as many as four wives at a time. By this device, the BJP leaders in their propaganda say, the Muslim community’s demographic position will soon change and thereby presumably India, or a good part of it, will form into a Muslim-majority region—that is, ripe for another Pakistan. I can understand a Christian leader working up such a spectre, but coming from devout Hindu leaders for whom every word in the scriptures and epics is sacred, it is odd to hear about the danger of polygamy. Because, most of the Hindu gods and kings had more than one wife. In fact, they had many more than four—quite often scores. Lord Ram’s revered father, King Dasarath, had as many as four wives, and it was because of his promise to one of the four, that he had to banish, Ram, and died heart-broken. It is worth noting that the ancestors of the BJP leaders in Parliament, those who were like-minded, opposed the Hindu marriage legislation in the fifties. For the BJP leaders, polygamy should not be a taboo to be run down. So, why pick on the Muslims for their religion permitting four wives at a time?

The BJP leaders strive to assure the Muslim community that under their dispensation, the minorty community would be looked after and not persecuted. They even claim that the Muslim community on its own would respond to such assurances from the BJP, but it is the Congress and the so-called pseudo-secularists who have been spreading poison to vitiate and mislead the Muslims to look upon the BJP as their enemy. In proof of their claim, the BJP leaders often publicise the point that wherever a State has come under BJP rule, the incidence of communal rioting has spectacularly gone down. At the same time, not a single BJP leader has even mildly criticised the Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s vitriolic call for pogrom against the Muslim community. Rather, when asked, the BJP leaders claim that the alliance of the BJP with the Shiv Sena persists and would remain. BJP leader Advani visited Bombay after the Shiv Sena’s pogrom campaign in January which ended up in a horrendous outburst of mob violence along communal lines.

Lal Krishna Advani, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi, Govindacharya and many others in the BJP leadership are mature politicians. Do they seriously believe that the Muslims would feel safe under their dispensa-tion after having seen the BJP sticking on to its alliance with the Shiv Sena, the designer and executor of the first genuine pogrom of an entire community in this country?

Grant for a change, Joshiji, that the Muslim has at least a morsel of common sense. After finding you in the Shiv Sena’s company, would any Muslim in his senses feel comfortable under your care?

(Mainstream, April 24, 1993)

Time to Breach the Wall

The last few months have witnessed the deterioration of Indo-Pak relations to the point of almost eye-ball-to-eyeball confrontation. Tempers have been stoked high and the fiercest propaganda bombardment has been going on between two neighbours born out of the same motherland.

The measure of this high-pitched tension was provided on the one side by the Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s frenzied diatribe against India over the Kashmir issue, and by the disgraceful conduct of the authorities in Bombay forcing the cancellation of the Pakistan Consul General’s official reception on the National Day of our neighbouring country. The plea that the responsibility for the shocking incident lay with the Shiv Sena does not in the least exonerate the conduct of the Maharashtra Government unless it confesses that it has handed over the fate of the metropolis to a gang of political goons.

The disconcerting fall-out of that shameful incident has been the Pakistan Government’s decision to close down its Consulate in Bombay. If responsible quarters in the Capital feel, as they informally indicate, that this move on the part of Islamabad is to prepare the ground for reciprocal retaliation by forcing the closure of the Indian Consulate in Karachi, then one gets an idea of the enormity of mutual animosity that has been permitted to develop between the governments of the two countries.

It is precisely this dangerous state of the present phase of Indo-Pak relations that underlines the urgency of active intervention at the level of the public that has become imperative. It will be short-sighted to be content with the thought that since both the countries are today ruled by elected governments, they know what’s best to do to meet the situation. the flaw in this argument lies in the fact that unlike other foreign-policy theatres deciding on the country’s international relations, Indo-Pak relations are unique and there is no parallel really with our relations with any other country. In fact, Pakistan, by objective logic, is hardly a foreign land for us. Apart from the common bonds of history, social and cultural mores that bind the two peoples, the fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of thousands upon thousands of Indian citizens who have got near and dear relations in Pakistan. And the same is true of an equal number of those living in Pakistan.

And how do we treat the near and dear ones of the citizens of this country? Over the years the authorities in both the countries have spent their energy, resources and ingenuity in building up a structure of mutual quarantine. For the citizens of the two countries, a special type of visa is issued which imposes the strict condition on the visitor to report regularly to the local police, and movements restricted only to the particular town or district specified in the visa itself. Tourists from no other country have to put up with such ignominy; only suspected criminals are to adhere to such restrictions.

What is amazing is that the governments of the two countries have mutually consented to impose such restrictions knowing fully that a very large percentage of those who come with such a visa do not care to report or go back, and it is humanly impossible to trace the truant because of their ethnic and cultural identity with our population. And exactly the same predicament prevails on the other side of the frontier, in Pakistan. Moreover, it is common knowledge that all along the frontier, stretching over thousands of miles, smugglers trespass with impunity.

No Maginot line nor Berlin Wall can keep the people of the two neighbouring countries in total incommunicado and yet the barriers that have been set up by the common consent of the governments of the two countries betray almost a diabolical determination not only to keep the people of both the countries physically apart with the utmost minimum of communication, but also to ensure that they are kept in the dark about the life and living, the perceptions and outlook of the two neighbours. With no country in the world have we ensured the perpetuation of such ignorance about each other. Newspapers from one country are not transmitted to the other, though in both the countries one gets journals from distant parts of the world. Very few newspapers in India get papers from Pakistan, and vice versa. Some of the newspapers keep correspondents in Pakistan—the number has dwindled to an almost token presence today—but their despatches are confined mostly to items about Indo-Pak official circuit or those that inflame passions against each other. By and large, a reader of the Indian press comes to know very little of what the public in Pakistan is thinking about their own problems, about the internal developments that beset the Pakistani people, about the issues relating to other countries as seen from Pakistan. The electronic media has been spreading the same poison and only the foreign satellite channels provide us with occasional glimpses of one another. In other words, the authorities in both the countries have done their best to build up the image of their immediate neighbour as a monster—a Frankenstein, Dracula and King Kong, all rolled into one.

What is intriguing is that the two governments at times decide to relax the rules. Several times decisions were taken that newspapers of the two countries should be available to each other, and yet nothing has been done. Books of scholarship, exploring into the early history of the two countries—their common history—are hardly available to even scholars. While seminars and conferences are held in which participants come from both India and Pakistan, the number of such get-together is far less than those held with participants from, say, the USA or the UK. Perhaps the only wholesome item that has still been retained in this drive to preserve goodwill towards each other is the holding of mushairas. No doubt wholesome, but how few of this subcontinent are covered by such a gathering of poets?

In this unhealthy environment of mutual antipathy, it is the third party that gets the upper hand. There was a time when Pakistan’s friendship with China was a subject of unrelieved suspicion in India. Perhaps the same was true for the Pakistani public about India’s close relations with Moscow. And after the disappearance of the Cold War, both the countries seem to be looking up to the USA, each trying to plead with it against the other. We get het up whenever there is news of Pakistan receiving more arms from abroad, and it must be the same within Pakistan with regard to India in the perception of the public in general. It is but inevitable that if the two neighbours, so intricately bound to each other by history and geography, prefer to wallow in distrust and anger bordering on insanity, in such a situation, there is nothing surprising if any third party tries to exploit it to its advantage.

The time has come to break this vicious state of ignorance and hatred that blocks our common path. Even for breaking the chronic ill-temper at the official level, it is imperative that concerned citizens at all levels come forward and start a nationwide campaign for more news, more under-standing of each other’s problems, more inter-action, more interface. There has to be an emphatic assertion at the level of the citizen for such contact, such interaction.

Yes, Kashmir is no doubt a sore point. But it will do both us and Pakistan a lot of good if we know how each of us looks at the problem. The situation in Kashmir or in India or in Pakistan will not be worse if we seriously try to get over the barriers that divide us. There is no real defence for either of us by massive military build-up. The real defence lies in changing our mindsets. Nowhere is it more true than in the case of our two countries, that conflicts and wars begin in the minds of men. And it is there we have to turn the focus of the concerned citizen at all levels—the media practitioners, academics, professional groups, the NGOs in hundreds.

The time has come to pierce the dam so that the flood will help to sweep away the bitter deposits of hatred and bloodshed—let us live as two countries governed by the same destiny.

(Mainstream, April 9, 1994)

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