Saturday, April 23, 2011

Constructing Grounded Conversations In Ethical Democracy

please read this Blog entry from the bottom up (scroll down)
Chithra KarunaKaran says:
April 22, 2011 at 9:34 pm

Dear Respected Abbas Akhtar,

I agree with you about the General’s soft power approach to win friends and influence people. It’s very appealing.

However, I also want to be ***extremely wary*** of any institutionalized power (aka Army, legislators, courts) of the sovereign democratic Nation-state that can and will usurp the People’s Power.

I have met and worked with Aam Koshur every day in the Valley, ordinary people like you and me. We care about our friends and neighbors and are peaceful in our daily activities.

I want such people to lead civil society, not a general.

The enormous resources now used by the Army can instead be diverted to the People.

Our fiscal resources are finite, not infinite. Why should the Army command such massive resources? The resources are PUBLIC WEALTH, these resources belong to Aam Koshur.

Abbas Akhtar, you said:

“We must strengthen his hands to strengthen the hands of Awam”

I respectfully disagree.

Instead I say, We must strengthen Awam, so that the Army can be kept, in check, as a purely protective force on our border, not on our streets and not in our homes.

I would never accept an explanation of “mistaken identity” if my son was the target of an Army sting operation.

I wonder if Hasnain’s own son would be the target of a “mistaken identity.”
Of course not.

Only a poor woman’s despairing, disempowered son, who never received social justice opportunities, would be the target of “mistaken identity” by the Army.

People’s Power, supported by the government, and by the uniform Rule of Law is what we are all trying to build throughout our fragile and corruption-ridden democracy. Our democracy is a work in progress.

Power resides in the People. Our people are finding that they do have power and they are using that power, slowly but surely. The power of knowledge, information, discussion, non-violence to demand their rights to human dignity, free from the manipulation of unelected as elected politicians and free from state-sponsored violence.

Let us strengthen Our People Power, (not our army) by giving our People education, healthcare, housing and employment opportunities. They are enormously capable of speaking in their own voice to demand their rights and perform their responsibilities.

People’s Hearts are Not Weapons. My heart is not my weapon. Our hearts feel emotions based on experience in our daily lives and through memory of past experiences.

Our Brains and Minds are not owned by the sovereign Nation-State or by any Army.
We are each capable of thinking independently and making our own choices, for the Greater Collective Good.

The People want social, economic and civil justice opportunities. That is the basis of our Power.
No general can give it to us, because People already have the Power.

So, Power to the People and let the Army take its direction from the People, not the other way around.

Thanks for your kind response. I appreciate it.


Chithra KarunaKaran says:
April 22, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Abbas Akhtar I quoted you but the quote was deleted because I used carets. Something is wrong with the format, it does not allow the use of carets:

Here’s the quote I disagreed with, from your reply:

“We must strengthen his hands to strengthen the hands of Awam”
Abbas Akhtar says:
April 23, 2011 at 5:59 am

Dear Dr KarunaKaran

The insurgency in Kashmir needs to be studied from the concepts of Conflict Initiation, Conflict Stabilization, Conflict Termination and Conflict Resolution. To be able to intellectually engage at all these levels the US COIN doctrines in Afghanistan are relying heavily on the Indian experience. Power and Love are two important instruments of managing terror unleashed by Pakistan. They are laundering money to seduce our youth towards gun running, drugs and terror.

The administrative machinery in Kashmir is now on the same page to counter this menace. If army goes to the barracks, these divisive forces will get a boost. It is with this backdrop that Gen Hasnain is turning the tide of popular support in Kashmir.

You may read this

Chithra KarunaKaran says:
April 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Dear Respected Abbas Mukhtar,

Hope you still got my main point about PEOPLE POWER.

We need all stakeholders involved in the process, including Kashmiris across the LoC.

The geopolitical ‘seema’ has not succeeded in piercing a painful line across our hearts!
We still feel Kashmiriyat.

The Army, no matter which country, is a “vested interest” not necessarily a “stakeholder”. Having Force is not the same thing as having a stake.

I have love for General Hasnain and especially for my Fauj, but I also understand that coercive Force is their attribute.

Coercive Force is NOT the attribute of People Power. I am committed to that.

Because civil society is relatively weak in Kashmir (compared to Kerala, Tamil Nadu or West Bengal), it is easy to see PEOPLE in the great state of J&k ceding (giving up) their power to the Army and seeking guidance from it.

It is a mistake the create a “Kashmir Exception” in the Indian nation-state and say the Army belongs there.

The Army does not belong there, except at the border, to protect the sovereign nation-state. ***I reject AFSPA outright***.

Also Abbas, you have not directly addressed my enormously important point that VAST RESOURCES are expended on the Army in J&K.
Those same vast resources could feed, clothe and educate every woman, child and man, on BOTH sides of the LoC!!!
I know they are MY sisters, brothers and children.

As one who has lived taught in the US and in many parts of the world for 35 years, I am fortunate to be able to make a comparative analysis between democratic models.
If you have lived only in one place it is impossible to do so.

I would not want India to follow the US Militarist Capitalist Democratic Model. In this model people have broad freedoms and protected individual liberties.
But that is not the same as having a society built on ethical practices of local and global Social Justice.

The Indian sovereign democratic nation-state model is ***attempting***, not yet succeeding, to be built on Social Justice.

The Gandhian model of Ethical Democracy, I am happy to note, has guided the national leaders of Indian geopolitics for six decades, though it is not explicitly stated. In contrast, the US nation-state is expansionist, opportunist, exceptionalist and triumphalist.
It is the antithesis of the Indian nation-state model.

People Power in Kashmir fits the Indian model, not the US model. If the Army gains the upper hand, it will be closer to the US model.
Which one do you want?

Every Aam Koshur I have lived with and met and served wants the Indian ethical democratic model. It is equally Gandhian and Koranic, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Christian & Indigenous pantheistic Human Ethics.

Now in 2011, we are Winning Hearts and Minds through civic engagement, including right here on this discursive template and in the schools, hospitals, shops and streets of the Valley and everywhere in India.

Satyameva Jayate — To Truth goes the Victory. Not to you or to me, but to Truth itself.

Dr. Chithra KarunaKaran
City University of New York [CUNY]

Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice [blog now funded by CUNY]


Abbas Akhtar says:
April 22, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Dear Dr KarunaKaran

I am deply impressed with your judgement that awam is The Force. Having seen General Hasnain work on the same theme such as Heart as the Weapon and “Awam aur Jawan, aman hai Muqam” We the youth of Kashmir are truly inspired by the General and his approach to empower the people of Kashmir. We must strengthen his hands to strengthen the hands of Awam. Its been a long time since we have come across a person who genuinely cares about the awam and we are grateful for that

Chithra KarunaKaran says:
April 22, 2011 at 3:03 pm

A People’s General must PROVE his Awami credentials

General Hasnain bears a beautiful, poetic name. Hope he lives up to it.

Muzamil Jaleel’s analysis in “A People’s General” is a valuable critical assessment of the modern face of the Army, with its unified strategy at confidence-building through community outreach.

General Hasnain is the human face of the modern Indian army, operating in a border state that has faced both prolonged infiltration and internal separatism. That is a dual challenge that cannot be minimized.

The sovereign multiethnic, multilingual, multireligious post-colonial democratic Indian secular state is an unprecedented work in progress. Compare India with Brazil, South Africa and Ghana, not with China or Pakistan.
Of the latter two, both of whom are unpredictable, expansionist opportunist neighbors, one is totalitarian but prosperous, the other is US-owned, unstable and terror-prone.

We the People are part of that ongoing work in progress of Indian Democracy, flawed and unequal as it presently is. But the huge voter turnout in the panchayat elections gives us hope. Civil discussion gives us hope. Propserity and stability give us hope.

General Hasnain also gives us hope. That work of democracy never ends. Vigilant public participation is the price of Democracy.

We the People are ones we have been waiting for. General Hasnain is trying to be one among us. The Fauj is trying to be one among us. They are men who have mothers, sisters and wives, daughters and sons. To dehumanize ordinary soldiers is to misconstrue their potential role. General Hasnain understands this potential to build a People’s Army.

But We the People, the Awaam, the Aaam Koshur ***cannot rely solely on rank and title and medals. We certain cannot rely on force.

We want to see the security forces at the border, ***not in our streets***, and we want civilian peace groups, example grassroots NGO’s and multiple associations of teachers, students, farmers, carpenters, shawlmakers, engineers, doctors, merchants, working in partnership with government and the courts to ensure swift justice for victims and swift justice against perpetrators, in our communities and our localities.

We need education, healthcare and employment opportunities which are the bedrock of a prosperous and therefore peaceful civil society.

That does not come from General Hasnain or the army or the police. It comes from us, facilitated by a civilian government and non-governmental grassroots groups, not the army.

Having volunteered in education for four years in Jammu, Valley and Ladakh I find our greatest leaders are our Awam, our People.

We are the Force, We are the Power.

Not the Army.
The Army, including General Hasnain, have Force but they are not The Force.

Dr. Chithra KarunaKaran
City University of New York [CUNY]
Ethical Democracy As Lived Practice


Never follow me! Engage in Social Justice locally, globally.

A People’s General

April 17, 2011 by Team SAI
Filed under internal security


The first Muslim officer to command the Army in Kashmir in two decades, Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain is attempting to bridge the divide between the Army and the people with his “heart as weapon” doctrine, reports MUZAMIL JALEEL.

This story first appeared in Indian Express 16 April 2011

ASSALAMUALIKUM. Mera naam Ata Hasnain hai.” This is how Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain, General Officer Commanding of the Army’s 15 Corps, begins his interaction with villagers in the Valley. The first Muslim officer to command the Army in Kashmir after Lt General M K Zaki, who led the force at the outset of militancy two decades ago, Hasnain took over in December 2010. He plays down his background, insisting he wants to be seen as nothing more than an officer of the Indian Army. But his name itself has set the tone for his new and challenging agenda in Kashmir, where religion and the scars of Partition form a compulsory backdrop of the political narrative.

“My heart is my weapon,” says Hasnain as he travels across the Valley to interact with villagers. “Times have changed and the Army cannot limit its role to military operations. We have to look at security in much more comprehensive terms.”

Laying out his agenda at a public interaction, Hasnain says his objective is to practise “an entirely humane” approach with a long-term perspective. “I think my force should not be seen as one with arms everywhere. Our main weapon is our heart. And that is the weapon we will carry around in our efforts to bring stability to the state all over again,” he says.

His aim, he emphasises, is “to look at how the Army can assist the state government in reaching out to the people and putting a balm on the many wounds that may have occurred over a period of time”.

Hasnain’s new “heart as weapon” doctrine and style of functioning have, in fact, changed the very contours of Army’s rules of engagement in Kashmir, a place where the uniform has generally been viewed with fear. Hasnain is trying to erase this psychological barrier and begin a conversation with the “awam (people)”: a difficult and arduous journey in a landscape where spools of barbed wire divide the troops and the people in both physical as well as psychological terms.

Hasnain’s understanding of the intricacies of Kashmiri culture, and religious and political sensitivities, and the willingness to look beyond the statistics of “kills” and suc cess of encounters, has provided the top military commander in Kashmir with the essential ammunition to launch a successful public relations exercise. The challenge, however, lies in the manner in which he will deal with larger and contentious issues, like the speedy investigation into allegations of serious human rights abuses, demands of withdrawal from civilian areas, and the repeal of controversial laws like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

At a recent public interaction programme in north Kashmir’s Handwara town, Hasnain, whose family originally belongs to Lucknow, further demystifies his new doctrine. “There is no solution for any problem by military means,” he says. “The Army in the Valley is carrying out the job of stabilising the situation. We are here to create a stable environment. We are ensuring that the local population remains with us. This can only be done through reaching out and engaging with the people.” He insisted that the Army was maintaining utmost restraint while conducting its counter insurgency operations in the Valley

“We have carried out all our recent operations in Sopore, Shopian and Tral areas without any collateral damage. We are making sure that even the houses where militants are hiding are not destroyed. People have started reposing their confidence in the army.”

Reaching out in Handwara THE Handwara meeting was important because Manzoor Ahmad Magray, a 21-year-old student from adjoining Chowgul village, was killed by troops who had laid a night ambush for militants on February 4 this year. Since this was the first such incident after Hasnain took charge, it became a litmus test on the ground for his new approach. Hasnain had reacted immediately, expressing regret for the loss of life and then ordering a court of inquiry.

“It was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity,” he says at the awami sunwai (public hearing. “We have publicly regretted this death and the Army has already completed its court of inquiry. I think the State administration too has completed its inquiry. We will make it public soon.” He said he ordered a modification in the Army’s standard operating procedure soon after the incident. “We are making sure that our troops never fire without sufficient warning,” he says.

Hasnain had invited Magray’s father for the meeting too. “We cannot bring back your child but I promise, we will ensure that justice is done,” he told him. Magray’s younger brother Dawood Ahmad Magray has already been adopted by the Army and admitted to its Pahalgam Boarding School.

Though Hasnain’s approach did calm the situation from taking a volatile turn, it is yet to be seen as to how the promise of justice is served. During his tenure as the Army’s top commander in Kashmir, Hasnain’s “heart is my weapon” doctrine will be always pitted against the scepticism that has pervaded civil ian engagement with the Army in Kashmir for the last two decades.

Hasnain has inherited a legacy of public mistrust, unaddressed issues, and unanswered questions, which will confront him as he attempts to go beyond military victories. Even the fate of inquiries into major incidents of fake encounters is yet to be known: Pathribal in 2000, Handwara in 2007, and an incident of fake surrender in 2005, when more than 50 villagers from Budgam district were kept illegally confined for six months before being made to `surrender’. Though he stresses that a Kashmir solution cannot be achieved through military means alone, it is yet to be seen as to how the army will react to any forward movement towards a political resolution.

Putting `awam’ first Hasnain, however, has made some important beginnings. His intent was known when he changed the Army’s main slogan from “Jawan aur awaam, aman hai muqam” (jawan and people, peace is the destination) to “Awam aur jawan, aman hai muqam”, thus putting people first. Hasnain also deleted `Operation’ from Operation Sadbhavana so that the “people don’t look at Army’s developmental works as part of their military operations”. This symbolic beginning was followed by a string of new measures with an emphasis on better public relations.

He started the “Ji Jinab” campaign, which aims at making jawans more courteous towards people. “I talk to the troops and explain the importance of showing respect to the people,” he says at the tea after the public interaction. “We have to be firm but respectful. Ji Jinab means exactly that.”

The Army has also launched a programme to teach Kashmiri to officers. “We want better communication with the people. We are here for the service of the people and we want that sentiment to reach the people,” he said.

Hasnain began his public interaction tours from volatile neighbourhoods and has already visited Shopian in south Kashmir, and Palhalan and Sopore in north Kashmir to “directly talk to the people”. The response has been interesting, especially as villagers come with a bagful of complaints that primarily revolve around problems with local governance. Aware of the sensitive relationship between the Army and the civilian administration, Hasnain is always accompanied by senior officials of the District Administration.

In Handwara, the public meeting was held at the conference hall of the J&K Government’s Environment and Forest Department and Hasnain was accompanied by local MP Sharief-ud-Din Shariq, deputy commissioner of Kupwara, and senior army and police officers.

Ajaz Ahmad Sofi, president of Handwara’s Traders’ Federation, told Hasnain that it was for the first time in two decades that a corps commander had visited the town and held a public interaction. He sought Hasnain’s intervention to ease the Army’s night blockade of the road connecting the town with the Rajwar area. Hasnain responded by issuing orders to lift the barricade immediately.

Advocate Nazir Ahmad too has a complaint. “Since 1947, our village is without road and electricity.” Ghulam Mohammad Mir, who introduces himself as a local People’s Democratic Party leader, highlights the issues of misgovernance in Handwara. Mir also requests Hasnain to absorb more Kashmiri youth, especially from Kupwara and Handwara, in the Army. Hasnain responds by saying that the Army has sent 30 youths from north Kashmir to Chandigarh for coaching.

Mushtaq Ahmad, a government school teacher, has come from Sarmarg village with a complaint about the construction of a road link in his area under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana in 2005. “The contractor used substandard material. We informed government officials several times but they never took our complaints seriously. Please help us”.

Hasnain’s reaction to complaints against administrative problems is guarded. He has a good rapport with the state government and he seems cautious to avoid stepping into their domain.

Asked to comment on the recent statement of J&K DGP Kuldeep Khoda that militancy was down by 45 percent in the state, he says, “Yes, there is a drop in militancy. But we never see a decline through the prism of statistics.
We look at the overall atmosphere.”

Hasnain, however, doesn’t think militancy is over yet. “As long as there are camps, there is a threat. The camps are still intact and filled with militants. The next two weeks will be important for us,” he says.
“But the Army is strong enough to prevent the infiltration as we have developed a good mechanism to stop the infiltration from across the LoC.”

On the question of why the Army hesitates to operate in Maoist-hit states while it was keen to `stabilise’ Kashmir, he says there is no comparison between the two situations. “The Maoist problem is totally an internal problem and Kashmir is an existential threat,” he says. “It (Kashmir), however, needs to be tackled carefully”.