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Let’s say no to war

by Kashmir Times, 17 January 2009

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January 17, 2009

Editorial

Democratic forces in India and Pakistan must speak out loudly against war mongering

Noted civil rights and peace activist Justice Rajinder Sachar has rightly took exception to the ill-conceived statement of the Army Chief General Deepak Kapur, that "military action against Pakistan was open", describing it as "dangerous". The former chief justice of Delhi rightly pointed out that the Army chief had "crossed the parameters of his duties and has no right to discuss military options." In a democratic system it is the prerogative of the political executive to decide about options and policy matters. The role of other agencies of the state like the bureaucracy and military is only to implement these policies. In no case they are supposed to publicly speak on policy matters. It is unfortunate that for the past some time senior bureaucrats and Army generals have been constantly speaking on policy matters, particularly in respect of India-Pakistan relationship or terrorism. Such statements by them are indeed alarming enough to be ignored. While the impropriety of such statements by the Army chief and senior bureaucrats is beyond doubt what is equally a matter of concern is the provocative statements being made by the politicians in power and war cries being raised by the hawks and other political vested interests and faithfully echoed by the large section of the media both in India and Pakistan. While anger over the Mumbai terror attacks is understandable it needs to be realized that war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours is no answer to it. The democratic forces in the two countries must refuse to be consumed by jingoism and sabre-rattling, fear and war-mongering unleashed by the horrific Mumbai terror attacks. While the frightening war cries need to be silenced it is also important to ensure that the democratic rights of the people are not further curbed in the name of fighting terrorism. That is the agenda of the terrorists and there is no reason why the saner elements in the two countries and political establishments fall into their trap.

It’s time for the democratic forces both in India and Pakistan to assert against the frightening war cries being raised by the nuclear armed political establishments and parroted by a large section of the media in the two countries. An appeal "for solidarity for sanity in our neighbourhood" signed by the concerned citizens in the two countries has rightly called for unity of the democratic forces across the borders, shrugging off their defensive silence to raise their strong collective voice against war mongering. The consequences of such war rhetoric are deepening fear and insecurity all around. In such a climate the people’s democratic rights become a casualty. The draconian Unlawaful Activities Prevention Act, amended recently and the establishment of the National Investigation Agency, which usurps the rights of the states, are the cases in point. Such draconian laws, as our experience in Jammu and Kashmir and North East shows, are always abused and misused to curb the democratic rights of the people. Terrorism and political violence flow from injustice and denial of democratic rights to the people. The menace can be eliminated not by further curbing these rights and letting loose a reign of terror, fear and intimidation. For fighting the monster of terrorism it is imperative to push forward the peace process between India and Pakistan, instead of abandoning it and strengthen the people-to-people contacts between the two countries. Unfortunately, instead of abolishing the restrictive and cumbersome visa regime for facilitating free movement of the people across the borders further curbs have been placed to restrict such contacts. Instead of talking at each other through the hawkish section of the media the two countries must talk to each other through diplomatic channels both for fighting terrorism and pushing forward the peace process. The dialogue process must continue as the issues that divide the region and have all the potentials of fueling conflict can only be resolved through such a process. The people of Jammu and Kashmir have suffered most due to the prolonged conflict between India and Pakistan and they shudder over the prospects of another war between the two nuclear powers. Let’s say no to war, politics of hate and exclusion which breed political violence. Let peace be given a chance.