‘If there is a paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this!’, and that was Kashmir many, many years ago. But as I write this, we have heard the horrific news – an explosive-laden car was rammed into a CRPF convoy, killing at least 40 personnel in Pulwama, and injuring several others.
What is worse is that the suicide bomber who drove the black vehicle loaded with the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was a local Kashmiri youth. What drove 22-year-old Adil Ahmad Dar to give up his life, and take so many others, is a question that should haunt us. Why are Kashmiri youth feeling so hurt, distraught and alienated; where did we go wrong, how did we fail them?
Worse, if we love Kashmir, why not the Kashmiri youth? Why is the anger being meted out on Kashmiris as two college principals in Dehradun have stated that they will not admit any more Kashmiri students? Several Kashmiris in various regions are requiring police protection.
The Shiv Sena and the BJP have cited Hindutva and Pulwama, and have come together to flex muscles. Many television shows and social media users have become shrill, demanding retribution, retaliation and revenge.
But can we just come together and take a leap in imagination? Several hundred years from now, it might well be a world without borders when people will look at our collective ability to spill blood for territory as something naïve, deluded and downright primitive.
This land is not my land or your land, but nature’s bounty, and if the Siachen glacier were to melt with global warming and climate change, it would make a mockery of the innumerable amputees that were frostbitten guarding it.
Do not think for a moment, gentle reader, that I make light of the sacrifice of the armed forces. I only ask: is their life not too precious to end up in coffins? Is youth not a blazing beacon to the future that it should end up as a suicide bomber instead? The mothers of Kashmir want a peace where they do not feel invaded by rampant searches and worry themselves sick as to whether their kids will return home safely. They have had enough of curfewed nights and patrolled days, the crunch of boots mixed with the shots of gunfire and blood congealing on ice, freezing hearts.
A military solution between two nuclear powers is a game of mutually assured destruction: should India bomb Lahore, Amritsar will be affected; and should Pakistan strike (it has a deliberately unambiguous nuclear doctrine of using a first strike option in case of conventional war, given India’s conventional superiority) then billions of human beings on the subcontinent would be annihilated.
Instead I ask you, gentle reader, to look forward to a world without borders. In other words, let’s start dialogues with the Kashmiri youth, and listen to what they really want. Not just the government, let volunteer groups engage with the hearts and minds of the youth that we seem to have estranged, and let us put our money into what they dream and desire.
Let us have talks with Pakistan. Nothing makes India with its heritage of ahimsa and satyagraha look weak; in fact, we should regain and recapture that lost space of non-violence that we held during our freedom struggle and its aftermath. When Webb Miller of the United Press witnessed the way British soldiers hit satyagrahis at the Dharasana salt works with lathis and their refusal to retaliate, he wrote that any moral superiority that the West had assumed, was lost today. It is a real heritage; we can retrace the footsteps of ahimsa.
And let us get the international community to join us, we need international solidarity to reign in Laskar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad terror groups, we cannot do it alone.
The United States of America, as it prepares to withdraw from Afghanistan, needs a peaceful region. Should it go back to favouring Pakistan or will it negotiate to end terrorism? With China, with its geopolitical status and territorial ambitions, we will have to negotiate too, but through bilateral and multi-state dialogues.
Terrorism is not a national issue. It crosses borders, and impinges on everyone. There can be no more safe havens was what was said after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre. Why not today?
And finally, gentle reader, the man that dies, whether Indian or Pakistani, is a precious human being who leaves behind a scarred family that clutches onto memories and memorabilia as any victim of the horrendous Partition that killed over a million lives will testify. The Partition was an imperial geo-political game in which millions on the subcontinent paid a horrific price; can we learn from it?
Even when a single human being dies because of terrorism, a bit of humanity dies. Let’s stop the circle of unreason, let us just have peace; for, gentle reader, there is no thing called a just war anymore!
The author is an award-winning author and film director.