The intentions were clear. Peace which had evaded the country of Colombia had finally arrived. Many attempts in the past had failed. But the country needed peace. The civil war which had lasted around five decades, had caused immense damage. Hundreds of thousands had died and millions were displaced from their homes.
Below is the gist of what transpired before and after the brutal civil war.
In 1948 a popular leader by the name of Jorge Elicier Gaitan, who had a mass base in rural Colombia was assassinated.
This led to unrest among the people. The unrest simmered for a long time and fanning the fire of discontent was kept going at a low intensity.
The suppression led to a full blown civil war in the 1960’s. The main participants now were the govt of Colombia and some paramilitary groups who were on one side, the left-wing guerilla group FARC on the other and some crime syndicates who exploited the situation and thrived in the drug trade.
So it became a three sided civil war. They fought each other endlessly.
The civil war resulted in displacement of over six million and in the deaths of over 220,000 people. Blame game and pointing accusatory fingers went on unabated. Many sincere attempts were made to stop the civil war, but to no avail. That is until now.
For many years, there have been many and concerted but unsuccessful efforts by well meaning individuals, nations and organisations to bring in a holistic ceasefire among the warring factions. Here are various such efforts listed in a chronological order:
- The first serious attempt at peace talks was started by President Andres Pastrana Arango in 1999. He began a series of talks with FARC leader Manuel Maulada.
- In the year 2000 accusations and counter -accusations mar the talks. In 2002 talks broke down and ceasefire ends.
- In 2004 FARC’s senior guerilla leader Ricardo Palmera was captured and jailed for 35 years.
- In December 2005 peace talks once again began in earnest in Cuba. Norway, Spain and Switzerland joined the talks and came to be known as “External rapprochement process.”
- The National Liberation Army represented the rebels of Colombia. The talks had the support of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, the Nobel Prize winner.
- However the lengthy talks that went on for many years, did not produce the wanted results of a comprehensive peace treaty and ceasing of hostilities between FARC /ELN and govt of Colombia though a joint statement issued as late as 2013 mentioned the support for a peaceful settlement.
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living and a known humanitarian, messenger of peace and spirituality was approached by a delegation from Colombia to become a part of the Colombian peace process. The time is October 2014.
- In June of 2015, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar travelled to Bogota in Colombia and Havana, Cuba to initiate the stalled peace process. For his efforts, the govt of Colombia honoured him with the highest civilian award of the nation, Simon Bolivar Order of Merit. President Juan Santos presents the award. While in Bogota, Sri Sri is visited by a UN Director and the victims of the long lasting civil war. Sri Sri then proceeded to Havana, Cuba and met with a delegation from the FARC. A hectic parley lasting three days took place and the FARC leaders are convinced to adopt and embrace the non-violent principles of Mahatma Gandhi.
- In July of 2015,the FARC leadership announced a unilateral ceasefire to end the Colombian civil war.
- In June of 2016, it was officially announced by the Colombian govt and the FARC that a permanent and bilateral ceasefire to end the conflict has been decided to take effect. FARC leader Ivan Marquez thanked Sri Sri Ravi Shankar the initiative to bring peace to a war-torn country devastated by a five decade old civil war.
- 26 September 2016 – The signature ceremony took place in Bogota, Colombia where the govt and FARC rebels signed the final treaty of a bilateral ceasefire, thus bringing an end to a bloody chapter in Colombia.
Many dignitaries from around the world including Sri Sri Ravi Shankar were present to witness the historic ceremony at the Presidential Palace, Bogota. Many years of effort at bringing peace to a war-torn country have resulted in permanent peace, which shall hopefully be soon ratified by the people of Columbia in the next round of referendum.
Kashmir: A Troubled Paradise.
23rd of November 2016 witnessed another important chapter in the peace efforts towards solving the Kashmir imbroglio. Kashmir had been the boil and seen much horrific violence. Civilians as usual like In Colombia have been the main casualties. And like in Colombia, they were and are caught in the crossfire between the trouble making militants and the other, the govt forces which are trying to stop them.
Ever since the militancy reached its peak in 1989, Kashmir has been simmering. It has become quite apparent now that more than the internal strife, external forces from Pakistan have encouraged and lit fire to a situation that could’ve probably been brought to an understanding which would have been beneficial to all.
In this context, many efforts have failed to take off.
The beautiful vale of Kashmir has been on the boil, funded and armed by a disturbed neighbor. The mainly unemployed and restless youth, who are more or less directionless, have been tools for this unrest. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is aware of the festering issues of the valley.
Many leaders from the valley have met the spiritual leader in their quest for permanent peace.
In the recent past, a bevy of schools were torched and burnt to the ground by hoodlums in the valley. This has left the parents of children frustrated and angry at these so-called militants who are trying to enforce a foreign ideology on the valley. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has hence addressed this issue and has issued a statement that Art of Living Foundation is willing to rebuild the schools in the valley.
In the context of the above incidents where the common Kashmiris have suffered immensely, whether being caught in the crossfire, innocent children hurt by pellets, armed forces injured by stones pelted by those frenzied youth, parents pushed to the wall by those criminalized hoodlums who burnt large number of schools in the valley, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar held a conference aptly named Kashmir Back to Paradise on the 23rd of November.
There were many stake-holders who are attending this conference. The erstwhile leaders of stone-pelters, leaders representing the cross-section of people, political bigwigs, community leaders, businessmen, youth of the valley and many many more attended this huge event.
Hopes were high, aspirations were high and dreams, high for a peaceful resolution to the problems facing the Kashmiris every day and every night. Nightmares had become the norm of the day. Many past overtures towards permanent peace have failed to fructify. This time around the healing touch came from a proven source. Hence the hopes, very high and a movement, a genuine one began in right earnest.
Now Gurudev is a part of a team to mediate to do an out of court settlement in Ayodhya. This is another place where religious sentiments are high with both the communities, hindus and muslims. The decades long problems have put the tensions on a high note.
After the demolition of Babri Masjid, the two communities have sought various avenues to bring peace to the region. Gurudev took it upon himself to negotiate with stakeholders of the issue to bring in a permanent solution to this simmering problem.
Leaders of both communities have met with Gurudev quite a number of times at the Bangalore ashram in this context. The leaders have responded positively to the overtures of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Since the negotiations to bring in a mutual, beneficial accord to both the communities are on going, it is now going to gather steam with the announcement from Supreme Court of India to constitute a mediating team.
With a major success in Colombia, on going venture for peace in Kashmir, Ayodhya is the new ground where peace will be hoisted upon the land and the people in the months to come.
“The hope at the end of the day is that, once the permanent answer to the Ayodhya dispute is found, both the Hindu as well as the Muslim community will celebrate peace for generations to come.
Ayodhya as from the ancient past, will once again become the harbinger of peace, love and brotherhood to the people of Ayodhya and beyond. This is the crux of the belief Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar will be carrying with him. Once the process begins in the right earnest, the result may come sooner than expected.”
© Jagdish Keshav
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi