War Hysteria and Beleaguered Working Class in South Asia
Nayyar N Khan
With continued violence in Jammu Kashmir and a heightened threats of terrorist activities, mistrust between the two rivals and a threat of another serious military confrontation between India and Pakistan remains high. Territorial claims by both the neighbors over the Jammu Kashmir State sparked two of the three major Indo-Pakistani wars in 1947 and 1965, and a limited war in 1999. Although both countries had succeeded in maintaining an insubstantial cease-fire since 2003, they repeatedly exchange fire across the contested Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu Kashmir. There was an increase in high-profile cease-fire violations beginning in July 2014, and artillery shelling and small arms fire continued through late 2016 and intensified in 2017 to mid-2018. 2017-18 shelling at LoC left dozens of civilian dead, hundreds wounded, schools closed for over a year, properties destroyed, crippled life and mass migration along both sides of LoC in Jammu Kashmir. Both sides accused each other of violating the cease-fire and claimed to be shooting in retaliation to attacks. After intense agitations across LoC and internationally by Kashmiri diaspora, human rights and peace groups, Pakistan army offered another cease-fire to India on May 29th 2018.
With new government in Pakistan, hopes for reconciliation and meaningful dialogues with India emerged but before even agreeing for composite dialogues, the diplomatic quarters began beating the same old war drums in both the countries. It is unfortunate that India and Pakistan have always been on the brink of war since the partition of one land into two countries. Once again war mongers on both sides are creating war hysteria. This is an undeniable fact that people living in both countries share common bonds in arts, history, literature, traditions, culture, languages and share a common civilization. Having so much in common to celebrate and co-exist in a serene mode, why war swords are always looming there? Is there any possibility of sustainable peace in one of the culturally rich and diverse region of the world or war hysteria would always be one of the merchantable article of trade? It is one of the fundamental question to be reciprocated by the key political stakeholders residing in both countries that what actually went wrong soon after partition; the people who lived together for centuries became each other’s enemy by simply accepting an artificial line on the same shared land? These and many other such questions can be asked by any apprehensive eyewitness of the South Asian region, where the resentment between the two major players has undesirably affected the ability of the region as a whole to attain its true prospective, unlike, for instance, the improvements made in the ASEAN region. The unrelenting skirmish and tautness in the liaison between the two countries, whose enmity has a nuclear aspect as well, cannot be to anyone’s benefit. For the past decade or so, their variances have surpassed their common borders and have also played out in Afghanistan. The biggest beneficiaries of this protracted conflict have been the fanatical elements in both countries and, more recently, the non-state actors (NSAs). The NSAs ostensibly have the capability to mess up and wreck any effort towards resolving the outstanding issues between India and Pakistan at will, by enacting a violent incident, as has been discussed and identified in Spy Chronicles. Major world and regional powers have also stimulated their geo-political interests by playing one country off against the other from time to time.
The tensions between India and Pakistan are deeply rooted in their common history. Their fiasco to reconcile their differences eventually stemmed in creating an unending war hysteria in both countries. The partition itself was the result of a legal and constitutional process approved by both the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League. Unfortunately, however, the actual partition was accompanied by mindless blood-letting and enduring hostility consequential to grievances about the work of the Radcliffe Commission that was assigned with the demarcation of the frontiers of the two states. The shambolic formula espoused by the British for determining the fate of the Princely States, strewed the seeds of the unending conflict over the ownership of Jammu and Kashmir.
Now the entire South Asia has been shadowed by the overwhelming trepidation of security concerns, cross-border conflicts and poor connectivity. The fragile condition of the one of the densely populated region in the world has made it one of the least cohesive in the world besides having common bonds across the international borders. Firstly, India and Pakistan being two nuclear rivals and key states of the region have always been on forefronts since their creation in 1947. Secondly, political religions have always been leading dynamics in classifying the geo-political tendencies while valuing the Indo-Pak relations. Although India claims to maintain her secular traditions but in practice religion was one of the stimulating components that wedged the Indian politics. While Pakistani politicians, on the other hand have consistently failed to identify the common “Political Nomenclature”. Instead of looking for the common bonds to strengthen the democratic character politicians have always preferred to take refuge under the imported umbrella of identification and sadly ignored the true sentiments of the struggling masses.
Due to the endless war hysteria created by the ruling elite, today, the oppressed working class of entire sub-continent has been condensed to the animal- mode- of- existence. And even this very existence is warranted only if they remain loyal to the doctrine of ruling class. “South Asian Democracy” under the present Machiavellian physiognomies means nothing other than the process of legitimizing the plunder and suppression of the oppressed by the oppressor and ‘peace’ means obedience, servitude and quietness of the oppressed. The true peace in the sub-continent and emancipation of masses from the economic and ideological exploitation cannot be achieved until the working class of entire region do not unite against their common enemy, the oppressing class and her mechanisms. Therefore, the real struggle lies not between the masses across the borders; it is against the ruling class across the region. While it is an undeniable fact that freedom to exercise free will and creating the system of their own choice is a fundamental right of the people of Jammu Kashmir, it is equally important for the masses of India and Pakistan to understand and recognize that the struggle for the right of self-determination, while local in form, is non-local in content as the conditions of oppression and exploitation of Jammu Kashmir also provide basis for the unending exploitation of the masses across the Indo-Pak borders. The prevailing colonial and bourgeois exploitation must end to safeguard a collective better tomorrow.
The working class of Jammu Kashmir being under the direct colonial oppression, on one hand, lacking control on its resources and on the other hand encompassing the essential topographies in common with that of bourgeois society of its oppressors bears the worst form of exploitation. Subsequently, the swelling redundancy, grinding poverty, diseases, hunger and starvation have stripped off its corona from the majority of masses in entire region. The laborers, students, elderly, women, children the peasants and daily wage workers across sub-continent find it difficult to rise above the animal level of existence and it is a distant dream for them. The working class of the region is sinking steadily into the bottommost strata of society and their scarce capital does not suffice any more to earn them and their families an anticipated prospect. The new generation, in particular students, find themselves in a society that is incapable of amply providing them a space for their ingenuity, vision and drive. Quality education that should have been a basic right of all citizens has become a commodity only rich can buy. Rather than serving as a means to overcome inequality, the current crippling education system reinforces it. Furthermore, the lack of proper employment and the opportunities to earn decent living has compelled the young graduates and skillful individuals to migrate and find jobs abroad. This ‘brain drain’ is a clear magnitude of the inherent inefficiency of our system. In short, majority of masses do not have access to basic human needs despite their never ending struggle and they are forced to live with heavy burden of life while seeing no hope in near future. Consequently, today our society has reduced to anything but a decent society. The poverty levels in both Pakistan and India are now resting at an identical yet alarming 29.5 per cent level, meaning thereby that every third Pakistani and Indian is literally fighting every hour just to beat hunger and looming starvation.
Human history is full of endless struggles and lessons. Among countless lessons in the evolutionary phases, there is one distinctive lesson that can be drawn by going through the pages of hitherto history and it could be summed up as “if the people are to co-exist peacefully and respectfully and advance their life, they must be free of any kind of oppression and enjoying equal standards in rights.” Going deep down the pages of history we also come to know that as long as the mistreatment and exploitation of one class by the other exists and the majority of human race living in a particular region is deprived of fundamental rights and prospects to develop in a free environment without fear; the slogans of democracy, peace and justice are absurd and hushed and bunkum hotchpotches. And this is the basic point, the working class and poor masses of India and Pakistan need to focus on, in order to progress and develop collectively. Having identified South Asia as an epicenter of terrorism and religious extremism, the poor masses living in the region must have an interest to ask a question to those institutions responsible for world peace and security to work with India and Pakistan in ensuring regional stability, preventing nuclear weapons proliferation, and minimizing the potential of a nuclear war between India and Pakistan.
Either one of them is at the wrong side of history or the ruling elite in both the countries considers it a profitable business to keep one of the thickly populated region in chaos. Ultimate victims of this unending war hysteria are the poor masses and working class in both countries. For a lasting peace, the working class in both countries should build the counter strategy to affectively challenge the failed narratives of either state. Otherwise, war-mongers would once again be winning by fueling and igniting the clashing tools.
Nayyar N Khan is a US based human rights activist and freelance journalist of Kashmiri origin. His area of concentration is International Peace and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached @ email@example.com. He tweets as kashsoul.