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The Indo-Pak Story: Counting Down Conflicts

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By Tania Goklany:

Nick Robins in his book ‘The Corporation that changed the World’ mentions “Independence of course was a necessary starting point, for release but one that needed to be supplemented by further action to deal with the bitter lessons of empire”. One of the prolonging effects of being conquered by the ‘Great’ Britain was the beginning of disturbed relations with the neighboring country Pakistan. These two nations have been to four wars since the partition in 1947 maintaining diplomatic relations since then.

The ‘two-nation theory’ proposed by Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah gave way to the formation of the two sovereign nations – India and Pakistan. After this inevitable partition, the world witnessed the largest transfer of people from one nation to another in which about half a million people were killed. This was known as ‘The First Kashmir War’. Maharaja Hari Singh had the choice of acceding either with Pakistan or India. The biggest dilemma was that he had himself was a Hindu and had a majority of Muslim population in his state. Finally he signed the Instrument of Accession joining India. This particular state/province still remains divided between the two countries by the Line of Control (LOC) which demarcates the ceasefire line agreed upon in this conflict.

The next Indo-Pak war took place in 1965 after the ‘Operation Gibraltar’ carried out by the Pakistanis which was designed to send in forces into India in order to raise a revolt against the rule by the Indians in Kashmir. The Indian Government retaliated by attacking Pakistan. It was the largest tank battle in the history of wars after the World War II which ended with the intervention of United Nations demanding a ceasefire which led to the subsequent issuance of Tashkent Declaration.

Kashmir was spared the limelight in the next war which took place in the year 1971. It was hastened by the tensions building up in East Pakistan. India decided to intervene in the Bangladeshi Liberation /movement on humanitarian grounds. Within two weeks of fighting Pakistan surrendered subsequent to which Bangladesh was formed. This war saw the largest number of casualties as well as prisoners of war.

The next one was the famous Kargil War in which the Pakistani men infiltrated the LOC and occupied Indian Territory mostly in the Kargil region. Due to Indian military advances and increasing foreign diplomatic pressure, Pakistan was forced to withdraw its forces back across the LOC.

One of the first efforts taken towards normalization of relations was to sign the Simla Agreement by which it was decided that India would return all Pakistani personnel (over 90,000) and captured territory in the west, and the two countries would “settle their differences by peaceful means through bilateral negotiations.”Diplomatic and trade relations were also re-established in 1976. The Indo-Pak relations have also been strenuous due to the Pakistan arms purchase, US military aid to Pakistan and a secret nuclear weapon program. But in the year 1988 Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Rajiv Gandhi signed a pact promising that they would not attack each other’s nuclear facilities. The dispute over Kashmir remains a major stumbling block in the ‘peace talks’ that have ensued since then in June 1997, September 1997 and May 1998.

Terrorism is a systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion. The Indians and Pakistanis have witnessed this use of violent coercion by militant groups and political pressures by the Governments in the name of diplomatic relations and peace ties which have never lead anywhere. Kalhana in his book Rajatarangini says “such is Kashmir, the vale which may be conquered by forces of spiritual love and not by armed might”. But what has followed over these years is only to the contrary. The biggest jolt received by the Indian citizens was the attack on Mumbai in 2008 and the admission by the government of Pakistan that the terrorist attacks on the Indian metropolis of Mumbai in November 2008 were indeed committed by Pakistani Islamists offers a thin ray of hope. This proves that even after so many years and after ad nauseum talks of peace not much has been achieved avert terrorist attack like these.

Irfan Hussain, a leading Pakistani newspaper columnist, recently bemoaned that “Pakistan was the only country in the world that negotiates with a gun to its own head. Our argument goes something like this: If you don’t give us what we need, the government will collapse and this might result in anarchy, and a takeover by Islamic militants. Left unstated here is the global risk these elements would pose as they would have access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.” A state which threatens to explode and destroy everyone else on the planet unless it is pampered is akin to a suicide bomber whose message to his enemies is to change their policies “or else”. Even American interventions and call for ‘restraint’ call for restraint and ‘political settlement’ have served no one’s interest.

Despite all these conflicts and broken down talks there have been incidences in the past which have given a tiny ray of hope to the citizens of both these countries who are the actual survivors and sufferers in these conflicts. In 2001, after the Gujarat Earthquake President Pervez Musharaff sent a truckload of relief supplies to India. Also, the President called the Indian PM to express ‘sympathy’ over the loss suffered by the disaster. Also, India offered generous aid to Pakistan in response to the 2005 Earthquake. After Manmohan Singh become prime minister of India the Punjab provincial Government declared it would develop Gah, his place of birth, as a model village in his honor and name a school after him. There is also a village in India named Pakistan, despite occasional pressure over the years to change its name the villagers have resisted. Launched in 1976 the “Samjhauta Express” served as the only rail connection between the two countries. But the terrorist attack on the Samjhauta Express in 2007 shook both the countries and was condemned by them.

India took the initiative to resume dialogue with Pakistan for the first time after the Mumbai attack.The last dialogue, and the first after the attack, was scheduled for 15th of July between the Foreign Ministers of the two countries. Before the meeting the Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna announced “I bring with me the warm greetings of the people of India for the well-being of the people of Pakistan” adding that he brought “best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and stable Pakistan”, left lingering hope in the minds of both the Governments of a better and more peaceful future.

While the harsh reality is that we seem to be hoping too high for the two neighbour countries to cooperate and live in peace and harmony. It was a war of words between India and Pakistan with the Foreign Ministers’ meet between the neighbours not achieving much breakthrough. A day after the diplomatic talks happened, the Pakistan Foreign Minister has launched a personal attack on S M Krishna, alleging he was getting directives from Delhi and that India is not ready for talks. What should India do now? Should it end dialogue with Pakistan? Are Indo-Pak talks back to square one? Has the trust deficit widened after the meeting?

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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