Old trails, new roads
The challenge before the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is to transcend religious differences and accept that an all encompassing cohesiveness is the key to solving their problems, says JYOTSNA SINGH.
The land of monasteries ... Ladakh ...
DO the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh have a significant degree of empathy that binds them together? Or have they been forced to live together in an unbalanced relationship because an ambitious warlord established his hegemony over vast tracts of land some 150 years ago?
In the context of the hopeful tone of the Indo-Pak talks, the people of the three regions of the State of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh may try to begin to create an environment in which they map a new agenda for themselves. At present very little interest is being evinced by any one in one region, in the genuine aspirations of the other.
In trying to find an opening for discussion let us try to look at the issue from the viewpoint of "management". In his seminal work "Small is Beautiful", Schumacher suggests that the best way to make the most of resources is to, "Think globally and act locally". It is a beautiful concept, "embracing as it does, the seemingly paradoxical notions of a borderless world with a neighbourly involvement in development". I have been told that Schumacher was in fact invited to India by Nehru to discuss the modus operandi of the first Five-Year Plan. When he presented his ideas involving local water management, small dams and regionally viable industry, he was laughed at. The "planners" and leaders of the time were enamoured of the Soviet model based on the opposite ideal of "Huge is Wonderful".
... and Kashmir ... there must be an acceptance of ethnic, cultural, linguistic and geographical bonds.
If we extend these notions to the realm of geo-politics we might consider the question of the viability of a more federalised system of governance for this enormous country. In the re-organisation of the States that was put in place at the time of independence, some thought was given to ethnic-linguistic factors. But there was a lack of fine-tuning. Perhaps the time has come to redress this failure. Some recent developments have already taken place in this direction; the newly formed states of Uttaranchal, Jharkand and Chattisgarh have emerged out of a need for more regionalised governance to address their specific problems. The talks with Naga elders may be fraught with tension but attempts are being made by both sides to keep the dialogue going.
The challenge for the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh is going to be one of transcending religious differences and accepting that ethnic, linguistic, cultural and geographical cohesiveness is the key to finding lasting solutions to their own problems. Solutions can only be found if each of the three regions is able to develop its own resources. But this must not be at the cost of the other or if there is a bias towards one or the other region on the part of the government.
I am by no means underestimating the importance of religious faith in the context of social or personal life. However, I believe it is important to place a slightly different emphasis on the issue when it comes to a focus on development. It might be worth looking at the fact that the non-Kashmiri speaking people on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) have little in common with the residents of the Valley. That most of the Muslims residing elsewhere in the subcontinent believe they have little in common with the aspirations of the Muslims in the Valley. That even within the State, people differ in the perceptions of regional aspirations. It is a fact that people of all faiths share the common problems of each region. They must also share in the finding of solutions.
It is crucial that more people begin to engage in dialogue both intra-regionally and inter-regionally. The Indo-Pak talks stressed the importance of involving the people of the State in finding lasting solutions. Many more people must be involved in this process. Can we hope for an increasing openness, a growing empathy and, finally, perhaps difficult but not impossible a mutual regard that allows enough space to and for each other to grow?
Send this article to Friends by