From the trenches

By Aditya Rangroo

War and warriors have been glorified heroically in ballads through the ages. Dying for the cause of one’s country regardless of its consequences on the either side of the firing line is considered the ultimate sacrifice. A soldier’s profession is regarded as noble. The perception is that any protest against war is unpatriotic. The death of enemy combatant is celebrated and the casualty of civilians is a ‘collateral damage’.

After the year 2004, there has been an unprecedented surge in conflicts all over the world, Congo War (comprising nine African nations), India (persisting Kashmir, Assam, and Naxalite insurgency), Algeria (Muslim fundamentalist insurgency), and Myanmar (ethnic minority insurgency) are some of the examples.

United Nations Organization was formed after World War II to protect humanity from the scourge of war in future because two wars in our lifetime had shown us what great suffering wars brought to mankind.  But unfortunately instead of eradiating the war, all that we see is that more conflicts have appeared after the formation of the UN than before it.   World peace has not been stabilized.  World superpower and its nuclear allies all have established their military bases at different parts of the globe. It is done in the name of providing security and democratic dispensation to weaker nations.  Ironically, it is termed war for peace.

Horrors of war are beyond the count of dead and mutilated bodies. This is beyond the debate about who the victor was and who the vanquished; whose artilleries won and whose fascist agendas triumphed. Millions of people who are not even remotely connected to the politics of war, who just happen to be in the wrong place at a wrong time, are the real victims. Scores of young men on the battlefield never return home, aggrieved families are helpless, war-torn internally displaced people are homeless, and there is deprivation and destitution for them and others.

War torn countries request for aid for the sufferers. The aid comes in large quantities. The question is whether it reaches the really needy persons? No doubt some data is provided about the sufferers but is that reliable.? The sufferings of ordinary citizens are far beyond the reckoning of policy planners. In Sudan, people have been wronged by their own government. Rebel militia vowed to protect them from the tyrant government. These people cannot leave their country; they have lost their property, and their will power is shattered by the losses they have suffered. Their loyalty towards their own country is mistakenly taken for granted.

Why is it that a few countries in Europe are privileged to receive attention on priority basis during war times, while African and Asian nations suffering far worse, go unnoticed? In India, a longstanding conflict has been raging over Kashmir between India and her neighbour.  At international level, the discussion is focused on infiltration across the line of control. Enormous amount is spent by the parties concerned in protecting aggression from one or the other.

There has been armed insurgency in that Himalayan region since 1990. The Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir was ethnically cleansed of its bare three per cent Hindu population. The entire religious minority community was forced to leave its home. They are called Kashmiri Pandits who happen to be the indigenous group of inhabitants of that far off land. They became victims of atrocities perpetrated by Muslim the fundamentalists. Three hundred thousand of these internally displaced persons are denied their proper nomenclature and are dubbed as “migrants”. They are refugees in their own country, independent India. Twenty years have passed by when they were extirpated from their homeland and still they are living in refugee camps. The United Nations report on Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement states, “internally displaced persons are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.”

Notwithstanding this definition, the Indian government refused to give them the legal status of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). The only reason for disregarding the UN recommendation was that the Indian government is unwilling to tell the world frankly that the exodus of a small religious minority from Kashmir is the result of staunch communalism in that country.  Not only that the Indian National Human Rights Commission, the so-called neutral body, too, declined to concede the affected people the nomenclature of internally displaced persons.
 
India is a signatory to the UN Human? Rights Charter yet at the same time it is the foremost among the violators of the charter and the proof is its treatment of the extirpated minority. This is very different from countries with largest IDP populations as in Iraq, Sudan, Columbia, Turkey and the DRC where an IDP population is almost over one million. 

The point is that the governments and bigger world bodies like UN and its satellite organizations conduct talks at a level where the problems of the affected civilians is rarely addressed in reality. Big powers have politicised human rights and humanitarian issues. If that was not the case the ground situation in Afghanistan and in Iraq (destroyed by US armed forces) should have been different.

Status quo situation is suiting the interests of big powers. Therefore the sweep complicated problems under the carpet. The affected people do not have a voice strong enough to make the right noise to the world community.  It is natural that prolonged disappointment and negligence will breed discontent and the disgruntled people could take up arms to fight for their rights. How can peace prevail when problems are not addressed and wilfully ignored? Hence we find turmoil in civil societies. Humanity goes in for a toss, as individualism precedes the welfare for greater good of the community as a whole. In such disappointing times, the old who suffer die with grieved memory, and the young are forced to live with a passive vendetta against their own people.

Today, in every country there is a section of population that live their lives on edge, hoping against the hopeless. Few out of them, succumb to injustice inflicted on them, few die fighting against that injustice, few young choose to forget the inconvenient truth and handful few represent the affected in the mainstream and ultimately end up becoming part of the perpetrators. War is not merely statistics of bludgeoned head and hearth; it is a graph of deteriorating human life that is increasingly being devalued all over.      

(The writer was a Journalist with Press Trust of India, and currently studying MA Media and Globalization from Nottingham Trent University, UK).

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