February 2002 News

Cultural Revolution for J&K

14 February 2002
Ajeel Cow
Times of India

New Delhi: Both Indians and Pakistanis believe in performing rituals so that the souls of the dead may rest in peace. But neither country has atoned for the murder of two million people during partition, says eminent philosopher Ramachandra Gandhi. In an interview with Ajeel Cow, he speaks about Mahatma Gandhi, truth, non-violence, India, Pakistan and the Kashmir conflict: How far is the idea of non-violence still valid in today's politics? I think the idea of non-violence is as valid as ever before. In fact, even more so in the context of today's politics. Truth is self-restraint, not the luxury of avoidable violence. Politics which legitimises and glorifies violence cannot sustain human civilisation or the miracle of life on earth. In reality, however, truth often seems to demand violence. How would you, for example, deal with the India-Pakistan relationship against this background? India and Pakistan, as undivided India, attained freedom through non-violence. Today they are nuclear powers. A country of 400 million people was torn asunder by partition, a living reality was vivisected, in Gandhi's words. In the process two million people were slaughtered quibbling over the exact figure does not diminish the scale of the evil. Do we even remember the loss of these lives? These people were neither Hindus nor Muslims nor Sikhs, neither Indians nor Pakistanis, but children of ageless, indivisible Mother India, caught in a holocaust of politically engineered hatred. Crucified like Christ, killed like Gandhi, for no fault of theirs. We mourn, and rightly too, the slaughter of six million Jews in Nazi Germany. Have we ever mourned our own two million, led like lambs to the slaughter-house? Partitioning India was no less violent than the act of dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Have India and Pakistan apologised to each other for allowing such a massacre? Have we repented for this crime? Both Indians and Pakistanis believe in the sacred duty of performing rituals for the dead, so that their souls may rest in peace. However, we in India and Pakistan, cannot claim to have performed the last rites for two million brothers and sisters of ours, because we are responsible for their murder. Without atonement for this heinous crime, we cannot pray for peace for the souls of our victims. So what should we do? How will this reminder of duty to the dead help us find a solution to the conflict in Kashmir? First, let us look at some incon- venient facts. It was not until the 1970s, I think, that Pakistan became constitutionally an Islamic state. Non-Islamic peoples and their sacred sites and heritages in Pakistan automatically suffered a diminution of status. They may or may not always be treated badly by the state, but the fact remains that constitutional violence has been done against them, their cultural and political rights curtailed. Pakistan, as a result, has no right to claim the spiritually diverse territory of J&K, because that would plainly mean subjecting more people to constitutional violence. Not only people but the entire non-Islamic spiritual heritage of the area would suffer the violence of unequal respect. Especially after the Bamiyan vandalism, spiritual and cultural heritages which belong to humanity as a whole cannot be allowed to be threatened by state-established religious and cultural hegemonism. That is India's strongest argument against Pakistan continuing to covet Jammu and Kashmir. This argument will not be available to India if it becomes a Hindu state, or if haired of religious minorities and historical vengefulness are encouraged by Hindu fanaticism, which resulted. for instance, in the demolition of the Babri Masjid and its aftermath of communal violence. Is this not a Utopian perspective? What action can be taken that will bring the present dangerous situation under control? I suggest that within existing sovereignties, that is without upsetting Pakistani administered Kashmir or Indian administered Kashmir, a cultural parliament be established for the territory of J&K as a whole. Half the members of this parliament would be from J&K, and half from the subcontinent as a whole. In addition to being a part of India and Pakistan politically, J&K would then also be, culturally and spiritually, a piece of subcontinental territory. This symbolic resurrection a mode of cultural unification divided India will be the beginning of atonement for the sacrifice of two million innocent lives serve the people and the environment and all the heritages of the region on behalf of the subcontinent as a whole. Not by replacing or supplanting existing legislatures and sovereignties, but by supplementing them with the spiritual and moral voice of more than one billion human beings, whose unity is much older than their present alienation. Such an arrangement will not be a refusal to accept the reality of Pakistan, but serve to restore a measure of dignity to the tragedy of partition. Do you believe such a proposal would be accepted by the peoples of India and Pakistan? The people of our subcontinent have a highly evolved spiritual sensibility. Their desire for atonement for the holocaust of partition cannot be weaker than the desire of some for ceaseless vengeance and territorial aggrandisement. Providence has brought Hinduism and Islam together in this great land so that the whole world could benefit from their peaceful coexistence and creative cooperation. What is your response to the demand for an independent Jammu & Kashmir? The long-suffering people of J&K have an opportunity of facilitating a miracle of atonement and reconciliation. reflecting a unique dimension of the life of our subcontinent, within existing political boundaries.This will be true jehad. Fake jehad was most dramatically unmasked by the recent terrorist attack on India's Parliament House, revealing the refusal of elements in Pakistan to accept the reality of the eternal, inclusive civilisation of the subcontinent, which is what is represented by the Indian Parliament, but which is equally the heritage of the peoples of Pakistan and Bangladesh. Pakistanis must condemn this self-destructive act encouraged by sections of their ruling establishment. Was Gandhi responsible for partition? Gandhi chose not to start an unending civil war to prevent partition, because that would have cheated India Hindus, Muslims and others of independence, the right to reverse the process of racism started by European expansionism during the last few centuries. Had he been allowed to live, Gandhi would have sought to heal the wounds of partition, not by undoing it, but by reconstituting it in ethical and spiritual ways. This is the unfinished tasky of subcontinental independence.


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