‘Only Kashmir is a ray of hope in the time when the subcontinent is in darkness’ were the words of MK Gandhi during the partition that wrenched the sub-continent apart in 1947, when communal harmony held there against the tide of mutual carnage that was vexing other parts of India
Now, after 69 years that ‘ray of hope’ is waning. Kashmir remains a burning issue. For the past three months the streets of Kashmir are brimming with unrest and protests. The vicious cycle of violence has already taken 88 lives while around 100 people have been blinded with pellets lodged in their eyes by Government forces. More than 12,000 people have sustained injuries accounting for 130 injured people every day.
Mainstream politicians in Jammu Kashmir and New Delhi have not done enough to try and stem this rising tide of violence. Where Hindutva and Islamist groups have held number of protests, not one major political group has held peace rallies to stop the violence.
The scenes of carnage are not a new phenomenon in Kashmir. The harsh truth is that since the agreement to divide colonial India into two separate states - one with a Muslim majority Pakistan and the other with a Hindu majority India - the Kashmir dispute has become a tool of violence between the two countries.
Since, 1947 India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the territory, while border skirmishes between military forces stationed on either side are recurring incidents. The recent Uri attack in which 18 Indian soldiers were killed by the militants allegedly coming from across the border is afresh.
Many believe the best way to resolve the Kashmir conflict which directly affects the peace and stability of India and Pakistan is through listening to Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violence.
Political analyst Professor Gul Wani said that Gandhi - an apostle of peace and non-violence - probably could not have allowed what is taking place in Kashmir.
“India is using all its military might to suppress the genuine aspiration of people. Using violent measures is not going to yield any results. I don’t think Gandhi would have allowed it,” he said.
Gandhi not only theorized the notion of nonviolence, he adopted non-violence as a philosophy and an ideal way of life.
His non-violent philosophy played a pivotal role in reshaping the ideology of the leader of a militant group Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Yasin Malik who shunned guns in 1994 and declared a ceasefire. Malik renounced violence and adopted a Gandhian non-violent struggle for right to self-determination.
He expressed a desire for a democratic approach involving the true representatives of Jammu and Kashmir to solve the prolonged Kashmir quandary.
In one of his interview, Malik said: “I am no more a militant. In fact, I left the gun soon after my joining the struggle, and now I believe in non-violence. I am following Gandhi and he is my inspiration”.
Gandhi believed that a conflict can be creatively resolved only when peace is taken to be a positive concept rather than a negative one. He rejected outright the use of violence as a means of conflict resolution.
Blanche Watson quoting Gandhi in the book ‘Gandhi and Non-violent Resistance’ also corroborates the effectiveness of the Gandhian method of using non-violence against violence in a similar manner.
He writes, “Repression has never worked. I challenge anybody to point me to a single episode in either ancient or modern history, which proves that repression has even once achieved the end to which it has been directed. The English failed in America,....it failed in South Africa after the Boer War, It failed in Ireland yesterday.....it will fail in India tomorrow. If repression succeeds in anything, it is in advertising the cause of the enemy”.
However, some accuse Gandhi of successfully preventing the Maharaja of Kashmir from declaring independence and blame him for all the ills that Kashmiris face today. A noted Kashmir based columnist Abdul Majid Zargar says that Gandhi played a shadowy role in the politics of Kashmir.
“He was successful in preventing the Maharaja of Kashmir from taking an independent decision and thus paved the way for a forceful accession of Kashmir resulting in creation of a perpetual conflict,” Zargar wrote in his column.
Zargar says when Gandhi visited Kashmir from 31st July to 2nd August 1947 he had a closed door meeting with Maharaja Hari Singh that changed the equation in India’s favour.
“Soon after Gandhi left Kashmir, the Prime Minister of Kashmir, Ram Chandar Kak, an ardent supporter of Kashmir Independence, was dismissed on 11th of August and replaced by Janak Singh and then by the Indian loyalist, Mehr Chand Mahajan. Gandhi obtained the jewel for his Country, but the people of Kashmir have been suffering ever since,” Zargar writes.
However, there are many references that have quoted Gandhi making a reference to his impending Kashmir visit in his prayer meeting on 29 July 1947 in Delhi, stating, “I am not going to suggest to the Maharaja (Ruler of Kashmir) to accede to India and not to Pakistan.
The real sovereign of the state are the people. The ruler is a servant of the people. If he is not so then he is not the ruler. This is my firm belief, and that is why I became a rebel against the British – because the British claimed to be the rulers of India, and I refused to recognize them as such. In Kashmir too the power belongs to the public. Let them do as they want.”
Whatever may be the case, the fact remains that Gandhi was a true believer of non-violence, who launched massive campaigns across the country against social injustice. His philosophy and political thought will remain relevant for all times to come.
On the birth anniversary of Gandhi, and most importantly when Kashmir is witnessing its worst turbulent times, it is imperative for both India and Pakistan to do away with the violence and solve the Kashmir dispute peacefully to once, and again make it a ‘ray of hope’ in the sub-continent.