Thursday, May 25, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Kashmir: a lasting solution

SINCE Partition in 1947, Jammu and Kashmir has become the bone of contention and a cause for ceaseless confrontation between India and Pakistan. To grab the whole of Kashmir forcibly, Pakistan’s military, in the garb of raiders, attacked and annexed nearly two-fifth of the area of the state in 1948.

During the past 53 years of its existence Pakistan has never endeavoured to maintain cordial relations with India and has made numerous unsuccessful attempts to annex Kashmir by hook or by crook. The rulers of Pakistan, whether they were elected Prime Ministers or military dictators, have kept the Kashmir problem on the top to their agenda. To divert the attention of the people from their internal problems and domestic woes, they led Pakistan to fight two major wars with India in 1965 and 1971.

Pakistan is still continuing to wage a proxy war in Kashmir for the last over 10 years which has turned the so-called paradise on earth into a hell. The dispute, even after a lapse of half a century, remains unresolved.

  The UN resolutions are lying shelved in its archives. The Simla Agreement, concluded at the end of the 1971 war, could not go beyond releasing 90,000 prisoners of war of Pakistan.

The bilateral dialogue and negotiations, carried out during all these years in terms of the Simla Agreement, could not produce any result. Even the recent goodwill gestures of India, including bus diplomacy, could not elicit any favourable response. The spirit of the Lahore Declaration was betrayed, killed and buried unashamedly in Kargil.

The rulers in both countries have failed to feel the pulse of the people. In fact, the people on both sides of the border have a strong desire for peace and amity. The partition of the country was maliciously conceived by the British on the basis of their divide and rule policy. The majority of Muslim families which migrated to Pakistan have their kith and kin still living in India. They are suffering the pangs of separation for the past five decades.

The people of Pakistan are from the same stock as that of the people living in India. They have the same lifestyle, customs and social traditions. They speak the same language and have the same type of tastes and food habits. They wear the same type of dress. Therefore, with a view of restoring peace and tranquillity between the two neighbours, the people on both sides of the border, may be allowed free movement, including that of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, by removing visa restrictions. Similarly, trade may also be encouraged unrestricted.

These steps, if taken, can demolish the walls of Partition. This can be the only lasting solution for peace in Kashmir, and shall pave the way for ultimate unification. If the Germans can unite by demolishing the Berlin Wall, then why can’t India and Pakistan? Let the people on both sides of the border rise to the occasion and force their governments to evolve such policies as may restore permanent peace in the subcontinent.


Universities & market forces

This has reference to the news item “Lord Paul heads UK varsity” (The Tribune, May 10, page 11) and in which Lord Swraj Paul, while addressing a select gathering, very rightly said that higher education was no longer an option, rather it was a necessity. He is reported to have remarked that no society can prosper unless it provides its people this fundamental entitlement, and it is obligatory on the part of higher education institutions to help the people to achieve the objective.

Ironically and in sharp contrast to this, the affairs of higher education are dictated here by those who have neither an understanding nor the interest of higher education high on their list of priorities. While it is right and proper for the general public to be informed on issues of finance and accountability where public sector institutions are concerned and the public accountability of our higher education institutions is an appropriate concern of us all, but at the same time the independence and integrity of these institutions is also important.

However, the public needs to be informed that institutions of higher education cannot be made to work properly when these have been starved of essential funds for long. The ill-informed and uncalled for interference in any university’s affairs can only damage the effective functioning of the institution .

Take for instance the way in which the issue of staff-student ratio in certain subject areas has been linked with the filling of posts in some subjects, questioning the very right of these subjects to exist at all, for if they do not flourish within the university then what is their future? The study of ancient languages, the histories and cultures of pre-literate societies are central elements in the enrichment and understanding of all societies. If these are to be erased from our collective memory on the mere pretext of a temporary fall in the number of students choosing those subjects, society will be much poorer for it.

To use the students’ number as the criterion for the very survival of a subject area is a dangerous ground, indeed. In a system which allows a free choice to students of their degree subjects, there are inevitably going to be annual fluctuations in numbers choosing a particular subject. What if the numbers of those choosing medicine or chemistry should fall? Should the staff be declared redundant.

To allow the operation of the market forces to guide the functioning of the university sector will lead to disaster. Universities are about far more than responding to the demands of the market. They are about innovation and creativity. If education is allowed to become a commodity a purely mechanistic approach to learning will be encouraged among students which will be to the detriment of society as a whole.

Education, unfortunately, has remained marginal on our national agenda. It is high time the media took the initiative to generate a public debate by inviting active academics to suggest remedies for saving educational institutions from their imminent collapse.


English in schools

Obviously, the Haryana government has taken a wise decision in connection with making English a compulsory subject from class 1. Thus Haryana is following in the footsteps of its elder brother, Punjab, which made English a compulsory subject about two years back.

After going through a news item published in The Tribune dated May 20 “BJP unhappy with Chautala over English”, one feels the intention of the President of the Haryana unit of the BJP, Mr O.P. Grover, is against the welfare of Haryanavis. Moreover, English is obligatory for higher studies.

Now the question is: “Do we really need English?” Of course, whether one likes it or not, the fact is that English has emerged as an international language.



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