Edit/Op-Ed

WHY SHOULD COLONEL RAIS HAVE TO DIE?

Dr. Sandeep Pandey

The picture of Colonel M.N. Rai’s daughter bursting out while saluting her deceased father who sacrificed his life while fighting terrorists makes one think did Rai have to really die? Why are our leaders not able to solve the Kashmir problem and our border problems with Pakistan and China so that our soldiers and officers (and for that matter even that of Pakistan and China) do not have to die every other day?

In October 2014  two slums in Lucknow were displaced by the administration because the CM was to visit one and the Lokayukta wanted the other to be removed. Scheduled caste community of stone cutters and Muslim percussion instrument dholak makers mostly lived in the slums. They were given houses by the state government body District Urban Development Agency in a central government scheme Basic Services for Urban Poor. Over 150 families who had come to Lucknow from the villages, where they lived as landless artisans and found it difficult to make both ends meet, were living in makeshift structures which were not insulated from vagaries of weather, suddenly became the happy owners of flats which cost Rs. 1.62 lakhs to make for the government, by paying about ten percent of the amount.

One day in January 2015 a dholak maker was charging his mobile phone by taking an illegal connection from an electricity line. A stone cutter asked him to remove the illegal connection. In the process of removing the connection there was some sparking which fell on the child of stone cutter. What ensued was an unpleasant scene where lathis rained from the stone cutters’ side provoking an equally violent response from the dholak makers. Some wise men and women from both communities intervened to bring the conflagration to an end but not before several people from both sides had their heads and other body parts split.

Wise men and women decided to call a meeting to sort out the issue. After pouring out their hearts to accuse each other, when it was asked to find a solution, person after person suggested that stone cutters be segregated from dholak makers. Under the influence of the atmosphere created by the religious fundamentalists in the country some openly asked for separation of Hindus and Muslims. A question was put to them at this stage. Did the origin of the trouble have anything to do with their different identities? The answer was obvious no. Then another question was posed. Will the segregation of communities solve or aggravate the problem? A wise man Mohammed Salim was quick to realize the truth and responded that segregation will increase the animosity between the communities.

India and Pakistan were created on the basis of two nation theory. Hindus and Muslims were thought by some to be two separate nations which could not exist together. India chose to remain secular. But the separation did not end the woes. It was probably the beginning. Today India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons which can cause mass destruction. The enmity has multiplied many times over. A lesson was to be learnt from the history.

The daily wage earners soon realized their folly. The stone cutters and dholak makers decided to live together. There are dholak makers living amongst stone cutters and stone cutters living amongst dholak makers. It was decided that people who rained lathis will apologize and pay for the cost of treatment of the persons whom they hit and take them to the hospital for treatment.

Is it not possible that India and Pakistan find a solution to the Kashmir problem? Needless to say the Kashmiri interest will have to be kept in mind. In fact, the Kashmiris should be at the centrestage in deciding a solution. They should find a solution for themselves. And Kashmiris should include Kashmiri Pandits who have mostly left but would like to return. There is no reason if India and Pakistan create a conducive atmosphere why the Kashmiris cannot arrive at a solution which is in their best interest.

Once the Kashmir problem is solved there will be only a few issues like river water disputes left to be resolved. A number of Indian and Pakistani citizens living in border areas will be very happy if the pestering problem is permanently solved. Once normalcy is restored slowly the two countries can withdraw their armed forces and create an atmosphere in which it may be possible to live without them. Similarly, it may become possible one day to denuclearize the sub-continent.

As civilized nations we have no choice but to move in this direction if we are not to keep losing the precious lives of our citizens like Colonel Rai. Why should people like him or the J&K police constable Sanjeev Singh have to die and why should families like theirs have to be deprived of their beloved members? And we should not forget that two more lives – that of militants – were also lost in this incident. They were human beings too. They have families too.

Some people like to join the jingoistic cry and like the idea of other people sacrificing their lives and becoming martyrs for their country. They should be asked would they like to become martyrs? It is easy to eulogize distant martyrs but quite a difficult thing to offer one’s own life.

Why should people have to die anyway? We should endeavour to build a world in which there will not be any need for anybody to become martyrs. All people should be able to live their life fully with enjoyment. Values like liberty and fraternity should be realized for all. Let us work towards an enmity free and arms free world.

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