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The ‘better half’ of the CBMs
Pioneering visit of the women’s delegation across LoC marks a good beginning
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Significance of women’s participation in peace building and resolution of post-conflict issues has been recognised world over. Yet in the South Asian region there is less than marginal evidence of any such awareness. Closer home, it is almost a negligible factor within the ambit of India-Pakistan relationship. Still closer, here in the conflict-ridden Jammu and Kashmir there are feeble attempts at putting together some sort of assembly of womenfolk comprising various segments of the society. However, it would be too early, if not presumptuous, to subject any such arrangement through the test of its representative character. There are numerous impediments, social, political, administrative and even attitudinal, in the way to fostering conducive culture for significant participation of women in the peace process. Keeping these inherent constraints in view, the just concluded maiden visit of a delegation of women from J&K to Pakistan Administered Kashmir on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC) deserves due appreciation.

The week-long visit sponsored jointly by the AJK-based Women For Peace Organisation (AJKWFPO) and India-based Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation (CDR) was aimed at forging a broad consensus towards strengthening the fragile process in and related to Jammu and Kashmir. Cross-LoC visit even by individuals and divided families are subjected to unduly harsh ‘security and intelligence’ verification on both sides. The visit of the women’s delegation was no exception. At times these restrictions are so frustrating that the intending visitors prefer to stay back than pursue their objective. Having gone through the mill, as it were, the women’s delegation from here to Muzaffarabad appeared to have succeeded in breaking some fresh ground towards promoting the desired objectives. There is no doubt, however, that if the so-called intelligence apparatus had not intervened in clearance of the visit the delegation would have benefited from the contribution of those who were left out from the list.

Notwithstanding that hitch, It is indeed significant that the delegation’s first ever visit across the LoC has turned out to be a worthwhile exercise. The free and frank manner in which the women participants exchanged ideas over some of the crucial issues is likely to pave the way for greater interaction between them. The conference at Muzaffarabad has come out with a consensus statement over several issues having a direct bearing upon the course of peace process as well as on the human rights front. Issues like those relating to the victims of the conflict, families of the disappeared and the youth stranded on the other side of the LoC came to be discussed in detail with both sides formulating a common approach towards seeking early solution to these and other problems.

These small steps need to be viewed in the larger perspective of the peace process in general and the cross-LoC confidence building measures (CBMs) in particular. CBMs need to be reinforced and consolidated. In fact it is high time to take the process forward and enlarge its scope so as to benefit maximum number of families and individuals. The recommendation of the women’s conference held at Muzaffarabad in this regard lends force to the popular demand that while the basic dispute is being pursued at appropriate levels consolidation of CBMs should not be left in the limbo. The proposed visit of Hurriyat leaders to Pakistan later this month at the invitation of the Government of Pakistan is a positive development, especially as New Delhi does not seem to be unfavourably inclind towards the move, unlike in the past.

Over half a century long conflict, aggravated by the armed insurgency in 1990s, has inflicted deep wounds upon popular psyche in Kashmir. Victims of the conflict have been crying for justice. Dignity of life is still a dream even though everybody who is anybody is eager to claim credit for restoration of ‘normalcy’. It is appreciable that these and other humanitarian issues figured prominently in the Muzaffarabad conference. In any case, it was just that proverbial first step in the right direction and needs to be appreciated in that spirit. However, its ultimate achievement would be judged by the follow up on this wish list.
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News Updated at : Wednesday, November 14, 2012
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