By Gowhar Geelani
Angele Merkel, who grew up in East Germany, is today the chancellor of united Germany, both East and West. Twenty years ago, the world witnessed this reunification.
Confident Chancellor says, “the united Germany has started to reap the benefits of the reunion,” which became possible in October, 1990. In November, 1989, that is eleven months before the reunification; the historic fall of Berlin Wall took place. It was the same year an armed rebellion against the Indian rule erupted in Kashmir.
Berlin, the German capital, is always abuzz with celebrations on the anniversaries of the fall of the Wall and the reunification. Distinguished world dignitaries attend grand celebrations and important related events at Berlin’s famous Brandenburg Gate. People here celebrate the union as ‘Deutsche Wiedervereinigung’ (German reunification).
America had played a crucial role in the fall of the Wall and the subsequent reunion of East and West Germany. Angele Merkel, in her maiden speech in the US Congress in 2009, had thanked America for the same.
In a speech at the Brandenburg Gate on June 12, 1987, the then American president Ronald Reagan had challenged Mikhail Gorbachev, then the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, to tear down the wall as a symbol of increasing freedom in the Eastern Bloc. Here is what the 40th President of the United States had said: “We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Just a word of caution though. Here, no attempt is being made to draw comparisons between the cold war and Kashmir dispute. But, lessons can always be learnt from those significant pages of history that change the world for good. Fall of Berlin Wall is one such historic event nations and people can learn great lessons from!
Many South Asians living here in Germany had also seen the fall with their own eyes. Some had watched it on the television screens and few others had listened to this great news on their radio sets.
Amjad Ali, a renowned broadcaster, was one among them. Ali, originally from Lahore, Pakistan, recalls when in his apartment in the colourful city of Cologne, he saw the footage on television. “All I could utter was ‘unbelievable!’” he says. He had come to Germany in 1982 for studies. Before moving to Cologne he had been studying in West Berlin for many years. “The Wall was a symbol of terror and fear. I could touch it [the Wall] from the West side,” Ali tells me. Modern-day Berlin bears few reminders of the concrete walls, barbed wire, observation posts and the ‘death strip’ which ran through its centre until 20 years ago.
For many the existence of East Germany and West Germany was a reality. Nobody had believed or ever imagined that this will change; but it did.
Arunava Chaudhuri, a German national of Indian descent, was 13 at the time of the fall and was studying in Kolkata, India. His parents, who live in Germany, broke the news to him on phone. “Even as a child, I was politically very conscious. I made it a point to record the news of the fall of the Iron Curtain on my school note-book,” he recalls.
Had the world really changed after the fall of Wall? Well, Germany had changed for sure. “When I came back to Germany in 1990 there was a different mood here. A feeling that we are united and sort of invincible and unbeatable,” says Chaudhuri.
In an interview with ‘Der Spiegel’ Online, Mr Lech Walesa, the man who led ‘Solidarnosc’ (the first non-communist trade union movement) had said that the collapse of European Communism actually started in the Polish shipyards and that it was good that Mikhail Gorbachev was a ‘weak politician’. Mr Walesa later went on to become the president of Poland.
Good news is that not only Germany, but today entire Europe is a different world. People move, travel and trade freely in European Union (EU). There are no borders, no restrictions, no physical barriers! In Euro zone, an economic and monetary union of sixteen EU member states, a single currency, Euro; has been adopted.
But the news from South Asia is not so pleasant. In 1989, when the world saw the end of European Communism, the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Iron Curtain, and barriers and borders vanishing, Kashmir witnessed an armed uprising against the Indian rule.
Twenty years hence, not much has changed. Instead of celebrations, there are killings in Kashmir! There is a daily drama of death and destruction going on. The Line of Control (LoC), dividing two parts of Kashmir, remains there very much intact. Tall claims and big promises were made to make it irrelevant.
In April 2005, after a yawning gap of 58 years, the trans-Kashmir Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road was re-opened and the ‘historic’ bus service started to ensure that divided families could meet; but the pace of peace process between India and Pakistan tested people’s patience official site. All three Ps seem to be missing at the moment. There is no peace, no peace process and no patience.
Critics say that Mumbai blasts have contributed to the already tense relationship between India and Pakistan. The tensions are running high between the arch-rivals since.
In Kashmir, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service has been reduced to a mere ‘symbolic gesture’. Will the time ever come when like Berlin Wall, all curtains and barricades, including the Kashmir’s LoC, dividing a son from his mother, a daughter from her father and a brother from his sister will vanish and become irrelevant to make this world more peaceful and prosperous?
Barack Hussein Obama, the 44th President of the United States, is visiting India in November. Can he play the role Ronald Reagan, the 40th President of America? Can Obama create history by impressing upon India and Pakistan to make divided Kashmir’s Line of Control irrelevant in the real sense of the word? It is difficult but not impossible. Important and brave decisions are taken by great leaders. Leadership is all about taking decisions.
Can Kashmiris unite the way East and West Germans did in 1990? Let’s not stop dreaming. Let’s not be pessimists. Let’s remain positive. No bullet can kill a thought, no missile can dash a dream, no bomb can destroy a hope, no skullduggery can kill an aspiration and no wicked state-craft can destroy a genuine sentiment!
I’m ending this write-up on this famous German proverb:”Wir sollen die Hoffnung niemals aufgeben [We should never surrender hope]!”