Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The ‘Boundaries’ and the ‘People’

The message that boundaries cannot divide the hearts is the most appropriate one
Rekha Chowdhary
'Khushamdeed'(Welcome)! Mazhab Nahin Sikhata Aapas mein Bair Rakhna (Religion does not teach hostility between people)! Sarhaden Zamin Baant Sakti hain Par Dil Nahin (Borders can divide the land but not the hearts)! Dosti, Yeh Dil Mange More ! Love and Faith survive the Day! Aao Ham Dil Milayen (Let us bring the hearts closer)! Friendship keeps growing globally, everyone loves it! This is what the signboards say in Chakkan da Bagh, at the zero point in Poonch where on Monday people cross the Line of Control from Indian side of Kashmir to the Pakistan administered Kashmir and vice versa and on Tuesday and Wednesday trucks cross. The LoC, at this point becomes the LoF - 'Line of Friendship', the LoP - 'Line of Peace', and a new LoC - the 'Line of Commerce' - among the multiple new names given to this line during last few years. From Monday to Wednesday, at this point one can see the 'territoriality' of the Kashmir dispute getting dissolved and the people becoming visible. It is at this point that the hostilities between the two States seem to be totally unjustified, irrelevant and irrational. What seems to be rational is the message of love and friendship. Interestingly, this is the place where the ‘reality’ of humanity and human relations is officially asserted by the State and the ‘constructed’ divide is rejected. Whether that divide is created in the name of the religion or the nation – it is seen to be artificial. Most important of all, the ‘boundary’ is seen as artificial and unnatural. The message that boundaries cannot divide the hearts is the most appropriate message. If there is any doubt about that one can see the emotional scenes at the Zero point when people come from the Rawlakot side or when they leave. For one person who is coming or going, there are many more who are there to welcome or to see off. These are the divided families who are now part of two different nations. There is a story after story about the brothers and sisters having not met each other for as many as sixty years, about an aunt or uncle not seeing the young nephews and nieces, about a grandfather or grandmother not having got the opportunity to be close to their grandchildren.... These are the close relatives, the blood relations who have now become the citizens of two different nations - divided by boundary and distanced not merely by the miles between them but by mutual hostility of the two nations - India and Pakistan. Living just few miles apart, they would not be able to see each other, and if they did meet, they would have to take circuitous route facing all the difficulties and obstacles. Many died without meeting their close ones....Not only those who have their relatives but many more who have roots in their ancestral lands, want to cross the LoC. They see in the opening of the routes and the bus service between Uri and Muzafarabad and between Poonch and Rawlakot - a hope and for them the slogan - Sarhaden zameen baant sakti hain par dil nahin - is not a slogan but a reality! They are nostalgic about the places they have left behind and a mere mention of their ancestral place makes them emotional. Their emotions for these places persist even when they carry with them the memories of painful time of their displacement – not only the loss of the land but also the loss of their close ones; the bloodshed and the hatred that accompanied the partition of the State. For these people who have been living with the reality of the LoC for last six decades, the opening of the borders, since 2005, has been the most crucial development. They are the ones who can understand as to why the border needs to dissolved and why the boundaries need to crossed. For them, it is not difficult at tall to understand the concept of ‘irrelevance of borders’. The concept of ‘irrelevance of borders’ remains as the most innovative and the most practical response to the complex issues which underlie the protracted conflict in and over Jammu and Kashmir. It not only makes it possible for the people to meet across the LoC but also provides a way forward to the conflict resolution. It actually makes a paradigm shift to the understanding of conflict and conflict resolution process. The conflict has so far remained complex and intractable due to its location in ‘nationalistic’ paradigm which automatically creates non-negotiable and competitive claims. This paradigm also places premium on ‘territory’, ‘borders’, ‘boundary’ and ‘sovereignty’. ‘People’, in this paradigm are totally invisible and do not count at all. The concept of ‘irrelevance of borders’ without touching on these ‘sensitive’ issues like ‘territory’, ‘boundary’ and ‘sovereignty’ , shifts the conflict to a new paradigm in which people not only become visible but also take a central place in the conflict resolution process. Standing at the LoC and reading all these slogans officially posted by the State, actually makes one understand as to what is this model of conflict resolution. ‘Aao Ham Dil Milayen’! It is an appeal from the state to people – to come forward, to do what the state cannot do – to unite and do away with the hostilities. It is invoking ‘humanity’ as the most important value. It calls for friendship between people, communities and nations. ‘Dosti, Yeh Dil Mange More’!!

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