Views from Srinagar
THE Art of Living founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in the “South Asian Forum for Peace” conference, in Jammu, on Wednesday said “90 percent of the people in Kashmir want peace” – also implying that 10 percent of population does not want peace. He further said in the conference that “solution to Kashmir issue will only come from Kashmiris themselves.”
What solution is Sri Sri Ravi Shankar alluding to? As per the media reports, he has been in news in the backdrop of Kashmir issue many times in the recent past.
When he says solution has to come from Kashmiris, then he must also know that Kashmiris have spoken loud and clear in the last over four months. But if Ravi Shankar prefers to view it as the voice of “not so peaceful” 10 percent of the population then he is not only not-neutral but also ignorant of political reality in Kashmir.
Ravi Shankar has been instrumental in bringing a five-decade-old civil war in Colombia to an end. He has been credited with initiation of a peace process between the Government of Columbia and FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) rebels.
On his visit to Columbia in June 2015, Ravi Shankar pitched for the Gandhian non-violence principles to the leaders of FARC in an effort to bring peace to Columbia, which had faced many hurdles in the past. For his efforts he has been conferred with Colombia’s highest civilian award in June 2015. His neutrality must have played a greater role in establishing the much-needed peace in the South American country. But as far as Kashmir conflict is concerned, he is not being nonpartisan when he dubs 10 percent of Kashmiris as “not peaceful”. Mahatma Gandhi whose non-violence principles Ravi Shankar preaches had seen a ray of hope in people of Kashmir in 1947 when Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims butchered each other at the time of partition of India.
Why is it too difficult for Ravi Shankar to realize that dubbing 10 percent of Kashmiris as inimical to peace can result in more attacks on people of Valley outside. Few days back, a local Kashmiri student was beaten in a college in Chandigarh for being ‘among those not so peaceful 10 percent’.
It is statements like these that incite more hatred against people of Kashmir, which come as a result of ignorance and unawareness of the political realities of the State.
Ravi Shankar may be barking up the wrong tree. His efforts could serve a better purpose if directed at India and Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue as per the wishes of people. Otherwise vilifying 10 percent of people for not being peaceful in Kashmir does more harm to Kashmiris as a whole than any good. Any Kashmiri he might have met in the state or for that matter at his conference recently held in Jammu would have told him about the demand to right to self-determination for Kashmiris.
Ravi Shankar is not the only one vilifying a section of people in Valley. A new trend has been catching up centered on Kashmir politics. Every other incident, be it the protests on roads or students who wrote their 10th and 12th class exams, is being expressed in numbers and percentages to describe the situation in Kashmir.
The first politician who described the situation in Kashmir in terms of ‘percentages’ was Peoples Conference President and a minister in the present government, Sajad Gani Lone, who on NDTV tried to assert that only 5 percent of people were protesting on roads and thus creating trouble, otherwise everything else was hunky dory in Kashmir. Lately, the number of students who wrote their 10th and 12th class exams was also expressed in terms of percentages to describe the situation in Valley.
This reminds me of an interesting story about Emperor Akbar and his witty minister Birbal. Emperor Akbar was once walking with Birbal in his garden, where crows were flying all around. Noticing the crows around, Akbar thought of asking Birbal a tricky question. “How many crows are there in our kingdom, Birbal?” he asked. Birbal thought for a minute, and said, “There are ninety five thousand, four hundred and sixty three crows in your kingdom, Huzoor.” “How do you know that for sure?” Akbar asked. “Get them counted, Huzoor, you will find the same number.” Birbal said. Akbat said, “If there are less than that, then?” Birbal answered immediately: “That means that the rest of them have gone on vacation to some neighboring kingdoms.” “And if there are more than that, then?” asked Akbar. “Then it means that other crows have come to visit their relatives in our kingdom, Huzoor,” Birbal replied. Akbar was very pleased with the answer and gave him a suitable reward.
If we apply the Birbal logic on “5% of people protesting on roads” equation, one might have to consider the percentage of women of the entire population who don’t protest on the roads, as they are no match to police and other paramilitary forces.
Then one might also have to consider the population aged above 50, infants, toddlers, kids below 10 years, sick on a particular day who may not hit the roads for being weak and not able to withstand the forces’ might. One might come to a figure where these 5% may actually be representing a larger population.
No wonder Birbal’s logic applied to humans sounds absurd and does not make much sense. In the same way, stating that only 5 percent of population in Kashmir is on roads and ignoring the real issue may be leaving the logic altogether.
The local politicians and now the Art of Living founder Ravi Shankar seem to be relying on the same logic and wit ignoring the real issue that is hurting the people of Kashmir. One can only wonder where these numbers come from.
It could be that it is very convenient for Ravi Shankar and for that matter other politicians to express the situation and events in numbers and percentages, so because they will have never to prove these numbers and “percentage equations”.
It does not bother anybody as far as counting of the crows by Birbal is concerned but when it comes to real people, one ought to be little careful with percentages and numbers. There even a single individual or an eye counts.
Kashmiris are historically peace-loving people. They want peace like anybody else, but peace is also primarily a byproduct of justice, realization of political rights and personal liberty. Kashmiris would be eager to know what Ravi Shankar makes of that.
But if Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is pitching the idea of submitting to the oppression as one’s destiny, then it altogether invites a separate debate.