Pakistan-India People's Forum for Democracy Joint Convention
The Pakistan -India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy held its annual convention in Bangalore on April 6.8.2000. This was the fifth joint convention of this organisation formed in Delhi in March 1994 which held its first convention in Delhi in February 1995 followed by a second convention in November 1995 in Lahore. The third convention was held in Calcutta in December 1997 and the fourth convention was held at Peshawar in November 1998. The organisation was formed at the initiative of people's movements, women's organisations, human rights organisations, mass organisations and committed individuals to start a dialogue between the people of India and Pakistan.
The Pakistan -India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy believes that the politics of confrontation between India and Pakistan has failed to bring any benefits for the people of the two countries. The two peoples increasingly want genuine peace and friendship and want help in easing communal and ethnic tension in the sub-continent. They strongly believe that the governments of Pakistan and India must agree to an unconditional no war pact immediately without yielding to any political pressure. Further, PIPFPD believes that a democratic solution to the Kashmir dispute is essential for promoting peace in the subcontinent.
Background: This year's convention took place against the disastrous impact of the Kargil war last year which has degenerated into a bitter cold war with lots of violence and slayings of innocent civilians, the most despicable instance being the recent slayings of 35 Sikhs in Anantnag district in Jammu and Kashmir. Internally, there has been serious set back to democracy in both the countries with the military takeover by Gen. Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan and the continued attacks on minorities in India and increasing restrictions on freedom of religion and targeting of personal freedom with respect to speech, attire, or religion.
The Bangalore convention selected five current issues, which affect peace and democracy in the subcontinent:
Workshops were conducted among the delegates from the different walks of life; reports were presented to the plenary on the outcome of the discussions. Here is the substance of the deliberations:
1. Militarization in the subcontinent: Due to a number of factors, including the increasing nuclearisation of the subcontinent and the coming to power of militaristic, right wing governments, India and Pakistan have witnessed a steady rise in the level of jingoistic rhetoric. The BJP government has recently launched an "offensive" strategy to contain "counter insurgency operations" and had sought to justify it on grounds of "hot pursuit", "limited war", and even covert and economic destabilisation of Pakistan. In Pakistan too, a similar bellicosity prevails. The consequences of such gross irresponsibility will be ruinous, especially for Pakistan, which is on the verge of an economic collapse, and whose problems will certainly spill over into India. Equally disturbing is the emergence of a militaristic approach to problems of internal political economy. With steady erosion in democratic institutions to resolve popular grievances, the Indian State is steadily turning political problems caused by uneven regional development and unequal socio-economic relations, into civil war-like situations. The government is actively deploying the army and para-military forces against aggrieved people who are being coerced into submission.
2. The Kashmir Conflict: The Kashmir issue is not a legal issue or a territorial issue between India and Pakistan but a political issue to be solved by the people of Kashmir themselves. For this to happen, the government of India must halt its military campaign which is imperiling the life and liberties of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It should particularly stop the use of rape as an instrument of war. Equally the government of Pakistan must exercise all possible control and restraint over the mindless violence of the Mujaheed and Jihadist groups. Above all, it is essential to rebuild Kashmir Civil Society whose foundations have been destroyed by the war like situation created by the two belligerents in Kashmir.
3. Globalisation and Regional co-operation: Like the rest of the world, South Asia began to consciously integrate with the global economy, at the behest of multilateral financial institution like the IMF and the World Bank. The new global trading arrangements made it imperative for India and Pakistan to open up their markets to international monopolies that control world production and trade. To Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) accompanying liberalization have led to sharp cutbacks in food subsidies and in public expenditures on social sectors. All this has worsened income distribution and increased poverty. In this climate of unfettered globalisation, it is imperative to forge a joint struggle against the common threats to the economy and polity of India and Pakistan. The economies of south Asia have several complementary features and provide for possibilities of close economic and business cooperation and forging of a joint front against International oligopolies and global finance capital.
4. Religious intolerance: It is not an accident that the fifty-year-old Indian Constitution has become the target of the so-called "review" by Hindutva forces. The framers of the constitution were inspired by the doctrine of toleration, which they regarded as the only way to foster unity in this society full of all kinds of diversities. The doctrine of toleration in the Indian Constitution is also supported by the polytheistic religious traditions influenced by the Sufis and the Bhakti saints. Predictably, this syncretic, popular strain of Indian religions has come under attack from the Brahminised, upper caste version of Hinduism projected by Hindutva. A similar story is taking place in Pakistan where extremist religious political parties are wooing groups and have even inducted them into policy making. Their brand of religious fundamentalism and intolerance is not only aggressively communalising the Pakistani polity and civil society, but are also imperiling the rights of women by introducing discriminatory and harsh and punitive legislations against women in the sacred name of religion.
5. The Crisis of Governance of India and Pakistan: India and Pakistan are passing through a critical phase in the entire area of Governance. In Pakistan, the subversion of the constitutional order ushered in by the military take over for the fourth time in its history has once again proved the fragility of democratic structures and the decisive role that the army plays in the polity. In India, there has been a shift in the political ethos from that which produced a constitution exposing democracy, secularism and socialism to a new a mindset, a fascist one. This has strengthened and reinforced the repressive machinery of the state, centralization of power, intolerance of dissent and enactment of laws, which infringe the rights of the citizens, guaranteed by the Indian Constitution.
Bangalore declaration adopted on April 8, 2000: The Pakistan India People's Forum for Peace and Democracy in its fifth joint convention held at Bangalore on 6 April 2000:
-- A. Rehman, Chairperson, Pakistan Chapter; Admiral (Rtd.) L. Ramdas, Chairperson, India Chapter
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(PUCL Bulletin, Aug 2000)