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DEALING WITH SECESSIONISTS

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By Masood H. Kizilbash

In the last 70 years, according to Ahsan I. Butt, author of Secession and Security: Explaining State Strategy against Separatists, there have been 163 civil wars. The sheer number of uprisings, which were either ideologically or ethno-nationalist based, has motivated political and social scientists to undertake empirical research of the phenomenon and come up with their theories. Butt confines his research to ethno-nationalist secession movements as, according to him, “about half (75 out of 163, or 46 percent) secessionist movements led to full blown war” and “are the chief source of violence in the world today.”
The author laments that the theories of others cannot explain the phenomenon because of their entire focus on domestic factors. Accordingly, he develops his theory on the international system which exerts pulls on domestic policies as well as leads to shifts in the balance of power. Butt builds his theory on two independent variables — the likelihood of future war and third-party support — to explain the extent of response by states to threats of secession. According to his theory, when the perception of future war is high and border change not acceptable, the extent of a state’s response — ranging from policing and militarisation to collective repression — will depend upon the level of third-party support to the threat of secession. In reverse situations, when the likelihood of future war and border changes are acceptable, secessionists are offered negotiations and concessions.
To test his theory, he selects ethno-nationalist secessionist movements in seven countries: Pakistan (Bengal and Balochistan); India (Assam, Punjab and Kashmir); the Ottoman Empire (Armenia); the Middle East (Palestine); Czechoslovakia (Slovakia); Scandinavia (Norway) and the United States (the secession of six Southern states from the union, which is commonly called the American Civil War).
Butt forcefully argues that secessionist movements between 1971 and 1977 in Bengal (former East Pakistan) and Balochistan were dealt with under the security threat of India and, as such, acquiescing to border changes was anathema. The difference in the state’s response depended only on the extent of third-party support given to each movement. In the case of Bengal, the level of response turned from Hindu-specific to outright massacre as Indian support to the movement turned into direct Indian army attack on Pakistan. However, state response to the movement in Balochistan remained limited to policing and militarisation between 1973 and 1977 as, except for some moderate support from Afghanistan to the movement, the global and regional powers — particularly Iran — were supportive of state action.
The author extends the same argument to the Indian state response in Assam between 1985 and 1992, Punjab between 1984 and 1993 and Kashmir between 1989 and 1994. In the case of Assam, Butt argues that Indian response remained confined to policing primarily because of lack of external support to the movement that had been spearheaded by the United Liberation Front of Assam. As regards Punjab, the author claims that the movement was started by rural Sikhs who demanded concessions which were accepted by Rajiv Gandhi in 1987 because Pakistani support to the movement at that juncture was muted. However, when the third-party support became more robust, a harsher strategy of militarisation was adopted.
As for the movement in Kashmir between 1984 and 1994 triggered by fraudulent elections in 1987, Butt ascribes it to the Indian perception that Pakistan was behind the rebellion and the Indian state acted “as the theory proffered in this book would predict, with heavy-handed repression, with both emotional and materialistic effects of high third-party support operative.”
The Ottoman Empire’s responses to Armenia’s secession received an accommodating response from the Young Turk Movement in 1908 with the promise of administrative reforms. However, after the outbreak of World War I, Turkey joined the Central Powers. Russia, being in the opposite camp, gave strong support to the Armenians. Because of this third-party support, the Ottoman Empire switched from negotiations to genocide in 1914-15.
Turning to the Middle East, the author describes how, after its creation in May 1948, Israel used repression to drive Palestinians out to the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Both Palestinian territories fell to Egypt and Jordan. After the Six-Day War in 1967, in some of the territory where Palestinians lived and which was not incorporated into Israel proper, Israel continued to exercise administrative authority and occupy the land for settlements. A mass uprising known as the first intifada took place in December 1987 to liberate Palestinian land from illegal Israeli occupation and to establish an independent Palestinian state. As there was no third-party support, Israel’s response was confined to policing.
However, after the 1995 Oslo Accords signed between the Palestinian Liberation Organisation headed by Yasser Arafat and then prime minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, were renounced by Rabin’s eventual successor Benjamin Netanyahu, and the second intifada erupted in 2000 — after the failure of talks at Camp David arranged by then American president Bill Clinton between Arafat and Netanyahu’s successor Ehud Barak — the Israeli response was a militarisation strategy. The Palestinian struggle again had no third-party support, but Butt believes that this strategy was adopted because of deep security concerns in Israel because of the rise of the religious and nationalist settler lobby in Israel.
The author cites two cases of amicable settlement that led to a “velvet divorce.” One was Slovakia’s secession on Jan 1, 1993. According to Butt’s theory, this was made possible since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the unification of Germany and the end of the Cold War rendered the region’s environment wholly benign. Similarly, Scandinavia experienced a peaceful separation when Norway and Sweden became independent states in 1905. This was facilitated because of the non-belligerent posture of both parties, eschewing security threats to each other, and their common policy of keeping away from international power politics.
Although the author’s theory is confined to empirical research of secessionist movements based on ethno-nationalism, he extends his theory to explain the declaration of secession of six southern American states from the union on March 4, 1861 as well. The formulation of a constitution and formation of the confederate government in February 1862, resulted in the outbreak of war because of the fear within the northern states that there would follow a “recognition of [the] Confederacy by the United Kingdom.” He bases it on qualitative data gathered by him and subsumes under it the causes of division on the issue of abolition of slavery and the sharp differences on economic policy between the union and southern states.
Although Butt develops his security theory of secessionist conflict based on international factors, he does not analyse the much bigger question of the abnormal increase in secessionist conflicts since 1946. Is this acceleration further inspired, supported and rooted in former American President Barack Obama’s policy of ‘Smart Power’, which was put in place in 2010 to take secessionist movement to fruition? Is it fuelled by the geo-politics of the world powers who possess plentiful resources, sophisticated weapons and advanced cyber technology to dissolve and create states consistent with their aims — a practice resorted to before and after the two World Wars?
The author holds the view that secessionist movements are started by sub-nationalist minority groups in any state. This assertion does not apply to Bengal (East Pakistan) in the ‘old Pakistan’ which constituted a majority ethnic group. Was it because of the fact that, since the very inception of the country, the West Pakistan leadership — in league with the establishment — had decided not to hand over the reins of government to Bengal and used all types of machinations to keep Bengal away from power?
As for the current conflicts in Kashmir, Palestine and Balochistan, the author’s third-party support theory falls short of explaining the continued repression by India and Israel respectively and a conciliatory policy in Baluchistan by Pakistan. At the conclusion of his book, Butt dwells at length on the subject of the uprising in Kashmir after the killing of HizbulMujahideen ‘commander’ BurhanWani in 2016; India responded with collective repression rather than the mild response of policing despite the absence of aggressive third-party support from Pakistan. Similarly, Israel’s policy of “collective repression” in Palestine from May 14, 2018, cannot be explained by Butt’s theory. As for the current uprising in Balochistan, Pakistan’s response has been comparatively mild despite indications of support from India and Afghanistan, as evidenced by Indian spy KulbhushanJhadav’s arrest and Indian Prime Minister NarendraModi’s public statements extending full support to the Baloch movement.
Secession and Security: Explaining State
Strategy Against Separatists
By Ahsan I. Butt
Cornell University Press, US
ISBN: 978-1501713941
308pp.

 

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Opinion

Theology of Presence

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Amir Suhail Wani

“O you who believe! Remember Allah With much remembrance”: Al Quran

To believe is to be in a state of presence. Presence, though not the climax, but is, one of the most cherished states and authentic manifestations of belief. To let God stay far away in the realm of abstraction and beyond-ness not only dilutes the spirit of worship, but it brings under scrutiny the very notion of belief. Religion, in its finest form, aims at invoking in man the spirit of presence, so that the believer may feel and experience the himself in presence of divine and may thus be able to envision a living and existential relationship with his creator and his object of devotion. Religion, even in its basic etymological connotation invokes the sense of “connectedness and attachment” with the object of devotion. It is in the very essence of man that he wants to be greater than what he is and when submitting before the divine, the individual, finite and subjective ego undergoes an existential, psychological and spiritual transformation of unique nature which expands its contours beyond those of physical perimeters. In any act of worship, the subject envisages the object of devotion as infinite and it not only pays homage to that infinite by bowing to it, but it very much desires to expand its own finitude under the radiance of that eternal infinite. This is what is meant by the philosophical benediction that “make me Thou, not an it”.

 

This human urge of finding means of self expansion by submitting before the divine is the greatest expression of human will and self sacrifice. But this spirit is rendered meaningless and antithetical when religion, in its state of decline, reduces to mere theology. In this reductionism, God remains no longer a living reality in the life of believer. He is rather replaced by a set of axioms and statements which fail to stimulate and satisfy the deepest spiritual yearnings of man and this deepest spiritual yearning is nothing but an aspiration to come in living contact with the divine and transcendental. Islam and for that matter most of the religions strongly condemn the deistic notions about God for it leaves absolutely no scope for religious indoctrination and creates an unimaginable void in the realm of Transcendence. It is in response to nuances like these that the notion of presence assumes multifold importance. It is not only prayer but our entire life that demands, by virtue of its spiritual dimension, that we live perpetually under the spell of divine. Thus religions teach us not merely to pray and thus make prayer a part of our life, but they come to turn our entire life into a sort of prayer. This transformation of life itself into prayer is what has best been embodied by Islamic teachings which reiterate time and again that all acts shall be done according to the law/s prescribed by God and at the beginning and end of each of our activity, the name of God shall be invoked. Not only this, the orations we recite at various instances from entering a washroom to starting our prayer are nothing but a beautiful way of making God a perpetual and living presence in our lives. None of our activities shall be divorced from Transcendent and while we are bodily constantly engaged in acts of world and matter, our heads, hearts and souls shall be perpetually turned to the divine. This act of remembering God in world of forgetting paves the way for “discovering God through material representations”. The highest form of this discovery is prayer and within prayer itself it is dua that marks the height of living relationship between God and believer. The purpose of prayer, as has been narrowly appropriated lately is not merely to make God change his mind and to bring our naive desires to fruition. Prayer is in fact the testimony of our living and real time relationship of servitude and dependency on God. Thus when God asserts “If My servants ask you regarding Me, I am indeed Near. I answer the call of those who call upon Me when they call. So let them answer My call and let them believe in believe in Me–in order that they be truly guided.”, he makes us understand in most emphatic and explicit way that he is very much existentially related to us and responds to our prayers. This response to prayer shall not be seen as the fulfilment of our prayers in material realm (which is true on its own), but it shall invoke in us the existential quest and inspire us to awaken our slumbering spiritual sensibility so that we may truly feel that God is indeed responding to us as our creator and as an object truly worthy of our devotion and worship.

This notion of presence has been subjected to double irony. The religious centric people lost sight of this appeal and dedicated their energies in confining and codifying God in their formulae of logical atomism. They rigidly tried to fix God in their self made definitions made out of untenable language as if trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. While as the role of this intellectual cum theological process can’t be belittled, but their overemphasis on making God comply to their abstractions and creating an unsurpassable chasm between the creator and creation surely set them on too rigid a path. The aftermath of this theorization of God not only created uncompromising hostility among different religions, but within the same religion it gave birth to unending clashes, unforseen intolerance and created such shameful examples that served the purpose of latter day anti religious forces. The second threat, and that is more dangerous, to this “theology of presence” has come from movements like new age spirituality, occult practices and pseudo spiritual shopping malls. Whereas traditional religion and traditional metaphysics taught us to see this world as a reflection and reverberation of transcendental realm, the new age spirituality has tragically represented the divine realm as an “extended expression” of human realm and this immanent universe. This has been sort of shifting the frame of reference and with this shifting of frames, the meaning of spirituality and metaphysics is inverted on its head. This misplaced mysticism and consumerist spirituality is far dangerous than no spirituality at all. In absence of spirituality, one may set out to discover the genuine and true spiritual traditions, but the presence of fake and pseudo spirituality creates a halo effect around man and his genuine thirst and quest is buried under the garb of this “materialistic spirituality”.

There are no palatable solutions to this malice that has invaded our religious obligation of perpetual presence and taught us to be satisfied with rituals without knowing their meaning. What one can do is to read, if one can, the religious scriptures and try to get to the roots of these scriptures. Look out for commonalities among scriptures and try to make a sense out of these commonalities. Another suggestion is to read the authors like Rene Guneon, Frithjof Schoun, Martin Lings, William Chittick and others of their class. What is special about these authors is that they speak about traditional metaphysics in contemporary idiom with an insight that is both inspiring as well as awakening. Finally we must note and note it seriously that life is not a profane activity sprinkled with events of sacred prayers, rather life is sacred as a whole and the existential realisation of this axiom is fundamental postulate on which all religions stand.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: amirkas2016@gmail.com)

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Kathua verdict: fact, fable and fiction

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Shabbir Aariz                                   

Finally some relief has been accorded to the family of the victim, Asifa by the trial judge Mr Tejwinder Singh by convicting and punishing the guilty. But it is too little if not too late. The investigating agency has undoubtedly done a commendable job in piecing together the evidence against the odds and succeeded in obtaining conviction for criminal conspiracy, gang rape, poisoning and murder of 8year old Asifa on 17th of January 2018 in Rasana village near Kathua in Jammu. Rape is the fourth most common crime against women in India. The National Crime Records Bureau of India suggests a reported rape rate of 2 per 100,000 people, much lower than reported rape incidence rate in the local Indian media. However, Times of India reported the data by National Crime Records Bureau unveiling that 93 women are being raped in India every day. Every year 7,200 minors are raped as the statistics suggest without unreported ones. Rape is, surprisingly a weapon of punishment in India. In 2014, in Jharkhand village elders ordered the rape of a 14year old. The husband of the woman who was assaulted sexually was told to carry out the rape. As the woman’s husband dragged the girl to a nearby forest, villagers only looked on. Earlier West Bengal village reportedly ordered the gang rape of a 20 year old woman for falling in love with a man from another community. Even in case of Kathua, two BJP ministers stood in favor of the accused. Sexual crimes being committed with impunity not even sparing foreign tourists led to issuance of rape advisories like women travelling should exercise caution when travelling in India even if they are travelling in a group, avoid hailing taxis from streets or using public transport at night. India feels like it is going through an upsurge of sexual violence against children and after several incidents including Asifa’s, received widespread media attention and triggered public protest. The Prime Minister condemned it and UN Secretary General, Antonio Guiterres said “guilty must be held responsible” describing the incident “horrific”. This led the Government of India to reform its penal code for crimes of rape and sexual assault. As such India’s cabinet approved the introduction of death penalty for those who rape children. The executive order was cleared at a special cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Modi. It allowed capital punishment for anyone convicted of raping children under the age of 12. India’s poor record of dealing with sexual violence came to fore after 2012 gang rape and murder of a student on a Delhi bus. The four men involved were sentenced to death. The Supreme Court maintained the death sentence of the convicts; Akshay Thakur, Vinay Sharma, Pawan Gupta and Mukesh. Rejecting their appeal Justice R Banumathi said the men committed “a barbaric crime” that had “shaken society’s conscience”. It is worthwhile to mention that the death penalty to the said persons was given in the year 2013 while as the executive ordinance came in April 2018 after Asifa’s incident and of a 16year old girl in northern Uttar Pradesh by a member of BJP, Kuldeep Sengar (ironically, victim’s father was arrested and thereafter killed by the Kuldeep’s supporters.) Prior to 2012, there was no single law specifically dealing with children as victims of sexual offences. Then came Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act in 2012, India’s first comprehensive law to deal specifically with child sex abuse and surprisingly the number of reported cases of child abuse rose by nearly 45% the next year.

The new amendments enable a court to hand out a death penalty to someone convicted of raping a child under 12, even if it does not result in death. In countries like China, Egypt, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, rape is punishable with nothing short of death by hanging, beheading or firing squad. Despite the changes to the law and arming Indian courts, there is reluctance to carry out the death penalty. Is there anything wrong with the collective Indian psyche that deters even courts from putting curbs on sexual crimes against even minors? One feels disgusted for the punishment not being exemplary in Asifa’s case when on trial crimes like gang rape and murder were proved. The court was saddled with the law and verdicts of Supreme Court where death penalty awarded was not interfered with and also its observations emphasizing the gravity of such crime with its impact on the society. Do the laws also have a fiction value? When do we really implement them? Is something more needed to shake society’s conscience? It is more likely that the convicts in this case will go in appeal to the higher court against the judgement. The verdict of the lower court also calls for a counter appeal by the prosecution seeking enhancement of punishment to death of the convicts.

 

(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at:  vaklishabir@gmail.com)     

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Let’s Become Environmental Protectionists!

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Dr. Shahid Amin Trali

It’s very alarming to find the unending disturbances to our environment. Man’s foul play with the nature is not going well with the present as well as our future. The environmental problems are mounting towards a bigger trouble in future but we are yet to recover from deep hibernation/sleep mode. This menace of pollution has existed for centuries but increased at an alarming rate after industrial revolution in the 19th century. Pollution is one of the biggest global killers, affecting over 100 million people. The world’s population is ever increasing and the treasures of the resources are getting overexploited.

 

There is greater need that we must promote better and efficient use of resources. Mass production of plastics, which began just six decades ago, has accelerated very rapidly—most of it in disposable products that end up as trash. If business goes on as usual, plastic pollution will double over the next thirty years. That would mean there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish. Plastics have several health hazards, both for humans and animals. Not just that, it is detrimental for the environment too. We must encourage the reduction, recycling and re-use of wastes as raw material for new products. Our younger generation is highly creative and all they must be given is ample support and opportunities. We must promote ‘Jugaad’ creation, the idea of using the waste to make something novel and save resources. We need to set examples from our home places and re-use what we would easily throw away and conserve for a future.  What we cannot recycle let us try not use them. Let’s promote paper products as they break down better in the environment and don’t affect our nature as much.

Learning to be more environmentally friendly is not that difficult task than we think. We must start by living with a greater awareness of the resources that we use in our daily life.  For example we must turn off the lights as soon as we leave a room in our homes and offices or even schools and colleges.  We must be environmental friendly when it comes to building our homes and buildings. Trees are necessary for us to survive. We must plant small trees around our home, don’t cut them unless it’s necessary, work with local environmental groups to plant more trees and educate others about the beauty and benefits of trees.

Water needs to be conserved. Few ways to conserve water are – take short showers, keep the running tap close while we brush our teeth, recycle water in our home, use water saving appliances etc. More good ways to contribute will be consume less energy, buy recycled products, and create less waste and many more. We must refrain from open burning as backyard trash and leaf burning releases high levels of toxic compounds. We must use public transit as much as possible. Let us walk more and drive less to conserve fuel and prevent auto-emission. Let’s use bicycles and scooters for shorter distances to save resources.

Cleanliness leads to cleanliness. We can easily find that a dirty place adds to its dirtiness. When we come across a fresh place, we think twice before turning it bad and dirty. It is sad when we think for our clean homes and hardly care for the roads, hospitals, educational institutions, offices, markets etc. Our mindset has to undergo a big overhaul that our public property is our own property.

India is one of the three worst offending countries when it comes to environmental performance. Corporate leaders have started joining the race to save the planet. Being environment-friendly, eco-friendly, going green are huge claims referring to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies that inflict reduced, minimal, or no harm at all, upon ecosystems or the environment. But the attempts need to be strong and concrete. Small and medium sized companies in particular generate a lot of pollution and need awareness and support policies to safeguard the environment.

Individuals, organizations and governments need to join hands to protect our environment.  Let’s educate others about the significance of living an environmentally friendly life. The more we will share an awareness of the richness of the environment, the more we can do together to protect it. Environmental love and care must receive an all time attention and priority. Let’s go beyond the model building exercises for safer environment and turn them into reality. Organizations must appreciate and reward the employees for their environmental care.

The Philippines recently has taken a unique and wonderful initiative. The island country passed a law under which every student there has to mandatorily plant ten trees in order to get their graduation degree. The law if it is implemented properly will ensure that over 175 million trees will be planted every year. The law will be applicable for college, elementary, and high school students as well. Our education system must owe greater responsibility towards environment and find some unique strategies to safeguard it. Let’s go green and pledge to protect our environment. (The author is Assistant Professor, ITM University Gwalior, Youth Ambassador, International Youth Society. He can be mailed on: dr.shahidamin15@gmail.com)

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