The tamasha project is also sponsored by the Jang newspaper in Pakistan, which, according to reports, is a corrupt, venal and also virulently anti-India outfit. The fact that notable personalities in the Indian film world and in the media, and Times of India have co-sponsored the project should not mislead anyone. The hope for peace is there in the minds of every citizen of both countries, but this is not aimed at that. In reality, it seems to be a smoke and mirrors exercise, designed to fool the public in India, that peace with Pakistan is really at hand.
IN the opinion of this writer the Aman ki Asha project is the effort of the Pakistani Punjabi elite who see the writing on the wall and want to make sure they have a comfortable berth in India. The peasants, the farmers, the tillers of the soil, the weavers, the carpenters, the artisans etc. will be left behind to face the music. The Road Map to Peace is a somewhat dubious venture also.The fact that they both happened in the space of a few days in January is no coincidence.
The tamasha project is also sponsored by the Jang newspaper in Pakistan, which, according to reports, is a corrupt, venal and also virulently anti-India outfit. The fact that notable personalities in the Indian film world and in the media, and Times of India have co-sponsored the project should not mislead anyone. The hope for peace is there in the minds of every citizen of both countries, but this is not aimed at that. In reality, it seems to be a smoke and mirrors exercise, designed to fool the public in India, that peace with Pakistan is really at hand. That people simply have to sit down and talk and exchange visits and the desired outcome will be Peace!
Here is what Jang had to say on Jan 7, 2010 :
“We greatly appreciate this initiative of the intellectuals, political leaders, human rights activists, NGOs, journalists and people from different walks of life, including I K Gujral, former Prime Minister of India, and Kuldip Nayar, a former member of the Rajya Sabha, who are two of the hosts of this conference.”
Veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan seems to have fallen for the ploy, but of course, it must be remembered that his daughter-in-law, the redoubtable Aishwarya Rai is slated to play Mumtaz Mahal in the Ben Kingsley film on Shah Jahan. Bollywood, it would seem, has fallen in a big way for Aman ki Asha. The intrepid Shah Rukh Khan has been visiting international capitals, New York notably, to spread the message of peace. And even Amir Khan speaks of visiting Pakistan since he has relatives there, and of course, the two countries have a common language and culture, so says Amir.
Do they ? Is that why the Quaid-e-Azam said categorically that the two countries are different in everything from language, culture, religion, civilization etc. and on the basis of which he started the monstrous Direct Action of 1946 which killed thousands of Hindus and eventually led to the killing of Muslims by the Hindus, and the mass exodus of thousands more across the subcontinent? In a bizarre way he is right. Hindu India (with its minorities) is nothing like Pakistan. For starters. Sanskrit is the fountainhead of all of India’s languages, including Hindi, with its sprinkling of Persian, and the South Indian languages with their mixture of Dravidian and Sanskrit. Urdu, on the other hand, is Arabic and Persian.
And as for history, India is ancient, several millennia old, since the known history of the sub-continent, and Pakistan has only recently been carved out of India (1947) and its religion and history go back only to the coming of Islam after the 8th century AD in Sind, and still later in the 11th century in north India.
Amir Khan no doubt speaks Urdu, Pakistan’s official language, and so do I K Gujral, and Kuldip Nayar, both Indians originally from the Punjab (undivided India), and now the sponsors of the Road Map to Peace. The Indian public should also be reminded that Gujral, during his brief stint as Indian PM dismantled RAW (Research and Analysis) of Indian intelligence, operating in Pakistan, and even disclosed the exact physical assets to the Pakistani government (allegedly). This was intended as a confidence building measure ! Many blame this act for the events leading up to the Mumbai terror attack of 2008. Whether deliberate or miscalculation (as many have speculated) Gujral’s present enthusiasm for the Peace Conference raises eerie memories. Both he and Nayar accompanied Vajpayee the BJP Prime Minister, to the ill-fated Lahore Resolution of 1999, although both were and are staunch opponents of the BJP.
The Indian public knows only too well that the reaching out to peace with Pakistan in 1999 and that the much publicized brou ha ha around the Vajpaye visit to Pakistan were only a smokescreen for the Nawab Sharif-Musharaff team to conceal the start up of the Kargil war. The rest is history.
The full title of the present effort is ‘Indian and Pakistan Conference: The Road Map to Peace.’ The conference was held in New Delhi.
Artists, human rights activists, some politicians, and other members of Indian civil society were participants in this Conference which put out its Declaration, and which indeed should be scrutinized carefully. This feel good document no doubt has some genuinely earnest people behind it, who desire peace. But as one discussant in a recent NDTV sponsored programme on whether India should have peace talks with Pakistan, put it: One cannot really see the road ahead since Pakistan has done nothing about punishing the culprits responsible for 26/11. Or done anything about dismantling the terror infrastructure or stop cross border infiltration.
Another discussant in the NDTV programme pointed out that one does not know who India should discuss peace with, since Pakistan seems to be disintegrating, and further even if Pakistan pulls through, the civilisational infrastructure seems to be lacking in Pakistan.
The fact that Mani Shankar Iyer of the Congress, during the NDTV discussion, used the exact same phrase used by the Road Map to Peace, is extremely revealing and points to who some of the movers and shakers of the effort are. Here is his statement that dialogue should be uninterrupted and uninterruptible! The exact same line of the Declaration put out by the Road Map to Peace Conference.
This would suggest that the Manmohan Singh Government is preparing the Indian public for some concessions to be made to Pakistan in return for that country’s agreeing to help the US in its war on terror in Afghanistan. What could that be? Autonomy for Kashmir?
A second Partition? Journalists such as MJ Akbar have said :
“Perhaps this subcontinent needs one last touch of surgery. The price of Partition in Punjab and Bengal was horrific, but it brought peace. . .”
(‘Path to peace runs through Kashmir’ blog by M.J. Akbar in Times of India, January 3, 2010).
‘Last touch of surgery!’ Akbar’s cold blooded analysis will not sit well with the majority of the people of India.
But let us look at the contents of the Declaration. Apart from the usual theorising about dialogue and peace, economic cooperation, trade links, visa regime, nuclear disarmament, cultural and media exchange, the opening of consulates in each city etc. the more specific recommendations should give the Indian public pause.
(1) Kashmir is the core issue. There should be demilitarisation. Repeal by India of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Withdrawal of troops. Ensure Article 370 is permanent. Allow Kashmiris to live and work in Pakistan.
It must be pointed out that there is no mention of the 375,000 Kashmiri Hindus who were forcibly evicted from Kashmir and only after many were killed in the most horrible manner in 1989 (including the sawing of bodies, gouging of eyes, rape and torture etc.). These Kashmiri Hindus are waiting to be repatriated to their homeland. This repatriation of refugees has been standard practice in many countries. These refugees who live in squalid conditions in India are waiting for justice. Why doesn’t the Declaration raise that question?
(For a moving account of what happened on Jan 19, 1989 to the Kashmiri Hindus see Tarun Vijay’s ‘Deportation of a Nation’ in Times of India, January 17, 2010).
(2) India has to make concessions on water resources. The Indus Treaty must be renegotiated, with equitable sharing rather than division of waters!
Why, any reasonable person would ask, should India negotiate with a neighbour whose actions have so far been hostile ? And what is the guarantee that such a concession would be reciprocated by friendly action?
(3) Siachen, Sir Creek and Wuller Barrage must be immediately negotiated. Again, why would India be interested in such an exercise? True, in Siachen the military expenditure is hefty. The lives of soldiers are precious.
But with Kargill still fresh in the Indian public’s mind, and the ever continuing Terror attacks and Pakistan’s generally hostile attitude and actions, why would any country want to negotiate?
The ineluctable conclusion is that, apart from the theoretical wishful thinking of the Road Map to Peace, the real aims are two fold:
To make life easy for the Pakistani elite and prepare the ground for their return to India.
Secondly, to prepare the Indian public for concessions.In the opinion of this writer, both must be rejected firmly.
(The writer taught Political Philosophy at a Canadian university and can be contacted at www.haindavakeralam.com)