Monday, August 10, 2009

"Kashmir Issue: Centrality of Kashmiris’ rights" By Idrisa Pandit

August 2008, six million people are crippled in all ten districts of Kashmir valley, bringing life to a complete standstill and holding more than six million people hostage. This situation was not a curfew because curfew has some limits and periods of relaxation. This enforced imprisonment of young, old, sick and dying was more than a curfew. There were no ambulances on the road and perhaps for the first time no newspapers published because of stringent restrictions on the movement of journalists, and complete shut down of TV/cable channels. Such situations are not new for Kashmir. What was new was the severity and intensity of this living prison. I happened to be part of this siege along with my children and experienced first hand what for everyday Kashmiris is normal. Upon returning to Canada, I reported to my friends and colleagues what we had gone through, What I got in return were looks of absolute bewilderment, wondering if I was cooking up all these lies. They had seen nothing mentioned in the mainstream media, there were no reports anywhere.
Such is the sordid tale of Kashmir’s two decade black out from the world. It is not that the six million people of Kashmir are not newsworthy. It has all of man bites a dog journalistic elements to it, what it lacks is, approval of the powers to be to make it a story that every news outlet wants to tell. Prior to the clamp down, millions of Kashmiris took to the streets in an act of peaceful civil disobedience, asking for restoration of their honour and dignity, seeking freedom—freedom to possess the basic human right of living life with dignity and honour. The slogans of Azadi in the streets of Kashmir are not political statements in my mind, they are a human statement that reminds their fellow brethren in the world that there are millions of Kashmiris who in this 21st century are deprived of their basic right to live in freedom, seek medical care for their sick, bury their dead with dignity, guard the modesty of their women, provide a sembelance of peace in the lives of their children, give their elderly a life of ease towards their end, grant education to their youngsters, cultivate their lands and pick their fruit form the orchards without being harassed and molested, take a journey without being questioned and detained, be considered as decent humans and not demons. Sixty people were left dead during these unprecedented protests, many more injured, adding to the many thousands who have gone before in the struggle for seeking human dignity. All what Amnesty International 2009 report says about the situation is the following:
“Between June and August, central security forces shot and killed at least 40 people who defied curfew restrictions. The curfew had been imposed during demonstrations and counter-demonstrations over a proposal to transfer forest land to the Amarnath Shrine Board.
Impunity continued for past offences including enforced disappearances of thousands of people during the armed conflict in Kashmir since 1989.” (Amnesty InternationalRreport, 2009)

Even Amnesty squarely blams the victims as being the violators, they got shot because they defied the curfew.

Violence is what Kashmiris have lived with everyday of their lives for the last twenty years. This violence has left indelible marks on the psyche of Kashmiris and done long term damage as is well documented by a research study done by independent researchers for Medecins. In their findings the authors, all Europeans, found through their extensive interviews with 510 people in two districts (30 villages) Kashmir, that
“The civilian population in Kashmir is exposed to high levels of violence, as demonstrated by the high frequency of deliberate events as detention, hostage, and torture. The reported violence may result in substantial health, including mental health problems.” (deJOng 2008)
They found that people had
“frequent direct confrontations with violence since the start of conflict, including exposure to crossfire (85.7%), round up raids (82.7%), the witnessing of torture (66.9%), rape (13.3%), and self-experience of forced labour (33.7%), arrests/kidnapping (16.9%), torture (12.9%), and sexual violence (11.6%). Males reported more confrontations with violence than females, and had an increased likelihood of having directly experienced physical/mental maltreatment (OR 3.9, CI: 2.7-5.7), violation of their modesty (OR 3.6, CI: 1.9-6.8) and injury…” (dejong 2008, p.1)
I am not a politician, political scientist or a historian. I am a humanitiarian and a Kahsmiri. Instead of theorizing about the issue of Kashmri, I would like to speak to you form my heart, sharing with you what I witnessed first hand in 1992 and almost every summer thereafter.
While Kashmir is reeling under the recent protests over violation of honour of two women Neelofar Jan and Aasiya Jan of Shopian, let me remind you that this is neither new nor an aberration. I can never forget the grave violation of ten women of Syed Checkpora in Shopian in 1992. A copy of the complaint No. 71 of 92 lodged by Hussain Malik at the local police station documented the gang rape of ten women including an eleven year old Zaitoon and sixty year old Sayeeda Begum. The doctor’s who examined these women found evidence of violence against these women and documented gang rape. The words of the sixty year old woman, a skinny figure with a wrinkled face, “I was raped by nine soldiers” are forever unforgettable. The same year in April 1992, Wular lake was dyed red in an unforgettable massacre on April 4th, 1992 cordoning off 40 villages around Wular and conducting searches in every home and destroying everything in their path. Three days of military crack down resulted in death, torture and rape. After killing the victims, mostly fishermen and boat people, they were tied with stones and drowned in the lake and others drowned themselves to escape torture. Shaheena Akhter, a fifteen year old, was gang raped, her sister Hajra beaten badly before being raped, fifty year old Hajra who fainted while resisting the soldiers, found herself stark naked when she regained consciousness the next day. The women who were violated were numerous. The oppressors were well known—members of the Dogra regiment of the Indian military, led by Major D.R. Singh. There were witnesses to the dastardly acts who testified, yet nothing happened. Instead these women, the victims were forced to sign statements under duress, vindicating their abusers. While Kashmir was still grieving the victims of Wular, another brutal massacre was carried out in Sopore on Arpil 13th, 1992. Amongst many horrible crimes against men women and children was Aisha, a victim of gang rape and cold blooded murder, wife of a school teacher and a mother of two beautiful children. Her husband who returned his identity card to the Indian administration aptly said, “while India mourns the massacre of Jallainwallah Bagh even after fifty years of their independence, she is creating a Jallainawallah Bagh in every street of Kashmir.”
I could go on recounting many more stories, more horrific acts of violence against innocent women that I saw and documented in Zirmanz, Watlab Ghat, Kehmoosa, Kanipath and Mallangam, Aloosa and Ashtung, but I will stop here. This was eighteen years ago. Fast forward to May of 2009 and we witness the gruesome murder and gang rape of Neelofar and Aasiya Jan. What has changed—NOTHING-- What was done to the perpetrators in 1992 or in 2009—NOTHING. Just as the violators of the recent victims will go scot free, while there will be incidental scapegoats, temporarily detained, transferred or shuffled to silence the protestors, who now have more of a voice with the help of, and tireless efforts of the civil society groups (two of the distinguhsed guests Mr. Navlakha and Prof. Chatterji deserve credit for that). What will also happen and has already happened in the latest case in Shopian is that the victims will be victimized further. The police authorities in Kashmir where there is no rule of law will make sure that the victims are terrorized, silenced and forced into wrong confessions and in the process many of those police personnel will fatten their pockets with bribes. This is a disheartening pattern we have witnessed time and again and there is no one to hold the police authorities accountable. As was the case in the latest investigations, the senior police officers are busy with personal physical training, playing golf on the prestigious golf course built on the ruins of the only city forest in Kashmir. Their ways of investigation are outmoded, their interest in finding the truth nil and is coloured by many different pressures to which they bow down easily. ( J&K Coalition of Civil Society July 2009). How can a force that is supposed to protect the people of Kashmir be allowed to go unaccountable when they commit gross violations and dereliction of their duties. So where is the force that truly protects the interest of the Kashmiris? But then, let us not fool ourselves when a people have no rights, there is not much to protect. But will anything change. Will the practices come to an end? Will rape and torture cease to be used as weapons to tame the Kashmiri population?
None of this will change as long as there are laws in place that protect the armed forces from prosecution and do not hold them accountable for their actions. Only in Kashmir do you find a soldier who has killed, raped or destroyed property being rewarded monetarily as well as professionally. When the incentives are so great, why wouldn’t they use the privileges granted to them for victimizing the Kashmiri population. I remember a couple of years ago when a student on his way to college, boarding a bus was shot and killed and left on the Bouleavrd, the police officer was immediately promoted and heralded for his bravery, for having killed a dangerous insurgent.
These laws were instituted “…in early July 1990 the Kashmir Valley (and in later years Muslim majority districts of Jammu province) was brought under the Disturbed Areas Act. Under the provisions of this act the military has absolute power to search homes, arrest without warrant and shoot even on mere suspicion, The draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, passed in 1958, was also extended to Kashmir, Section 6 of this gives impunity to armed personnel acting in disturbed areas. Even the much touted National Human Rights Commission (1993) bars investigations against armed forces in areas declared as disturbed areas…” (J&K Coalition of Civil Society, 2005)

These laws have resulted in gross violations of human rights

“ in the name of retributive justice, have been/may be used to perpetrate state violence, subvert due process of law, undermine civil liberties, and freedom of the press, eroding rule of law, permitting torture and sexualized violence on those in state custody, criminalizing innocent persons, and, in effect, undermining the safety and security of citizens.
Local realities reflect the use of these laws by the military and paramilitary to control the general population with impunity. These laws authorize soldiers to search, question, raid houses, and detain without charge-sheets. Curfews remain undeclared, permitting security forces to operate without evidencing cause, and enabling repression of civil society without prior warning. These laws blur distinctions between 'military' and 'paramilitary', as evidenced by the enhanced training and authority invested in the CRPF in Kashmir. ( J&K Coalition of Civil Society, July 18, 2009)

Terrror breeds terror: I remember a four year old boy relating to me in his innocent way as to what had happened to his mother who had been attacked by drunken soldiers. He did not know the terminology of rape and violence, what he did know is that what happened was a hate filled incident and that his mother was a victim of hate. I wondered what impact this incident would have on the mind of this young child, how would he process his anger and what would he do if he decided to avenge his mother’s rape. I have the same question when I look into the eyes of all the orphans of Kashmir that have witnessed violence and are traumatized. What about this generation that has grown in violence and has known violence as the norm? I have been amazed at the resilience of the younger generation of Kashmir, the children of the uprising. They have learned, to a large degree to channel their pain and find ways of making peace within themselves. This sentiment is well summarized by Malik Sajad in an interview to a reporter of the Washington Post<

"For the young generation, it's our moment now," said Malik Sajad, a 20-year-old political cartoonist for the Greater Kashmir newspaper who was raised during the war. "Nobody here saw a childhood. We were always kept indoors. But we don't believe that the solution is in the gun. Now we want to show the world that Kashmiris deserve peace." (Watts, 2008)

This new way of thinking has confounded many including the intelligenisa in India as well as others who benefitted from keeping the hatred and war mongering alive in the hearts of Kashmiris and superificially aided them in one way or another. The challenge posed by peaceful demonstrations is baffling the Indian authorities. They know how to shoot at sight but they are not trained to suppress dissent by millions on the streets of Kashmir without a gun, without even stones. The pent up rage which erupted like a volcano over the Amarnath Shrine Board land transfer, was an immediate and spontaneous reaction to all the injustices that Kashmiris have endured for two decades from mass disappearances, to deaths, torture and rape. Those who thrive on portraying everything as a communal protest could not justify their logic, Kashmiris in their true spirit of hospitality greeted, housed, fed and guided the pilgrims and not one among half a million of them was hurt or attacked, while the Indian army was engaged in killing innocent Kashmiris in the streets. As a mother with a very sick child in the hospital, I myself switnessed many Indian tourists and pilgrims who were ill, being cared for by the Muslims of Kashmir, being treated as special guests. Patients and their caregivers had no food and medicine while caught in a hospital of Kashmir during the curfew. Strangers who would come through back alleys and marshes, avoiding the gaze of the military, fed the Hindu pilgrims and their patients and somehow arranged for whatever medications they could for them. At a time when there were no medical supplies, doctors and volunteers made sure that the Indian visitors had what they needed. Such hospitality and tolerance always gets overlooked and all we read about is the hatred. Unfortunately even the Amnesty report of 2009 portrays the summer 2008 mass uprising of Kashmir as communal protests, which they were not in Kashmir.

During July and August, communal protests in Jammu and Kashmir rose to levels unseen in recent years and erupted into violence on several occasions. Police used excessive force to deal with the violence and shot dead more than 60 people. (Amnesty International, 2009)

There were indeed attacks on Kashmiris who became victims of the rage of communal interests in Jammu. Some Kashmiris were burnt alive, a driver killed and many others attacked. In Jammu, these hate filled interest groups created a blockade of the only highway, pharmaceutical companies refused to send medications to Kashmir and fruit, which is the main cash crop of Kashmiris, bound for the plains, was left to rot in trucks carrying them resulting in millions of dollars worth of damage to the economy. This was a time when Kashmiris realized that self-reliance is something they had traded for a while by becoming dependent on everything coming from the plains.

The dilemma the Indian administration was faced with during the peaceful mass protests was novel. What do you do when people demand freedom of expression of their will in the true spirit of non-violence. How do you crush a mass resistance movement, mostly led by the youth of Kashmir, the children of war, expressing their resentment in a peaceful way. The answer came very quickly from the authorities who clamped an unprecedented curfew and choked the population. What the authorities did not realize then, and fail to realize now, is that you can delay deliverance of justice or suppress the will of people, but never wipe it out of their psyche. Alienation and brutalization of Kashmiris will never endear them to India or Pakistan. No amount of money showered upon the residents of Kashmir will buy their hearts and minds. The people of Kashmir deserve the right of self determination, a basic human right. Peace will come to Kashmir, God Willing, for that though, centrality of Kashmiris basic rights is essential. With rights also come responsibilities and to be able to discharge these responsibilities Kashmiris will need to do some preparation and homework.

The only way to resolve any conflict is to understand the root cause of a conflict, origins of violence, and how can peace and stability be built after violence has occurred and how to sustain reconciliation among people who have been at odds with each other for so long. (Rossi, 2003)

Given what I described to you so far, it should be very easy for anyone to understand that Kashmir is a conflict zone, one where there are gross violation of basic human right have occurred and continue to occur. It is not a cultural conflict, a religious conflict or a territorial conflict. It is a conflict that is simply one of denial of people’s right to self determination, a right guaranteed to the people of Kashmir by the United Nations and agreed to by both India and Pakistan. It gives people of Kashmir the ultimate authority to decide their political fate. It is a far simpler conflict to resolve than conflicts that have deep rooted religious or ethnic roots. The resolution of Kashmir quagmire calls for a resolute grassroots movement, led by leaders of all sides trained in international relations and conflict resolution, historians, peacemakers, political leaders and experts in social psychology. The mix of political and psycho social is important given the scars that the violence of last twenty years has left on the people of Kashmir.

The next step is to carefully examine the causes of violence, both as a result of terror perpetrated by those fighting for freedom through violent means, as well as state sponsored terrorism. What was the root cause of anger and discontent of those who chose to lead an armed struggle and how justified or balanced was the response?

The crimes committed have to be investigated as well so these crimes are not repeated. One way of moving the process forward could by adopting the model of peace and reconciliation Commissions similar to post apartheid South Africa under the aegis of the United Nations or independent peace activists form all sides of the conflict.

A way forward:
The centrality of Kashmiris’ rights has three aspects. The first and foremost of course is the political aspect of resolving the status of Kashmir according to the wishes of people of all regions and developing a strategy to help support the decision that the people make. The first step towards creating an atmosphere of normalcy would be to end all forms of subjugation and repression, and withdrawal of the large military forces that are a constant reminder that the people of Kashmir are living in an open air prison. Other aspects of political solution will follow when the basics are addressed. Secondly, a socio psychological and economic model needs to be developed, one that works out a strategy for economic survival, a model for accommodation of all people irrespective of their faith, a model for reviving the whole traumatized Kashmiri society psychologically and a model for protection of rights of all minorities in all regions. Thirdly, a faith model one that brings together leaders of all faiths to come to an understanding of peace and reconciliation and promoting these principles in their respective communities; a way to move forward and live in harmony, with respect and understanding.

Enmity and hatred are two evils that will keep the South Asian region always unstable and grand standing and arrogance will only further widen the divide. It will take courageous leadership on all sides, particularly religious leadership to end bloodshed by implementing true understanding of their faiths, one that preserves the sanctity of all living beings. Once we are at peace with ourselves, InshaAllah, peace on earth will prevail.

Prerequisites of peace:

To move forward on the path of peace, Kashmiris need to engage in a process of self-examination and honest introspection. They will have to ask themselves: What is the struggle of Kashmir all about? Is it a religious struggle, a territorial struggle or a struggle for justice? Are we being unfair by biting the hand that feeds us? This, being the most common accusation that I have heard from many in the Indian community, and some factions of the Kashmiri community? Was staying silent and maintaining the status quo better than pouring out on the streets in 1989 and stirring the pot? Many of the previous generation, the generation of my parents might say, yes. They had found a way of life, living as subjects of a state that provided them jobs,naukri, bijli and pani, a semblance of democracy, while making sure that the so called autonomous structure bestowed on them by the Indian constitution, was gradually eroded. They were learning to be Indians, although the Indian polity never accorded them the same privileges as other citizens of the country. The response of the younger generation, the generation of the uprising, however, is different. While the majority of the young people may be ignorant or very little informed about their history, they are the children of struggle, they are the victims of war, they are survivors against all odds, they are not ready to forget the sacrifices of the 100,000 people dead, 8,000 disappeared and thousands of people tortured and rotting in jails. This generation is also not ready to fall into the hands of those that used religion in the past to garner support for their aims. I think they realize that the struggle of Kashmir is a basic one, one of “Azadi”, the meaning of which can vary from that of their elders. They want Azadi, freedom of thought, expression, life and liberty. Their Azadi means freedom from fear—fear of being shot at sight for no reason, freedom from fear of being tortured, freedom from rape and molestation. They realize that their Azadi, will not come from the skies, they are willing to die for it. And here an important question to address is: Will these young people lose their sense of justice and fairness if they were to get ther Azadi? Will they abuse the freedom they fought so hard for. What measure are in place for them to channel their anger and frustration?

This self-examination will also need Kashmiris to look back and own the mistakes of the past—mistakes made by those that misused religion, while knowing little about their faith, those that allowed themselves to be exploited by the oppressors, those that maltreated minorities and women, those that understood very little about the multifaith nature of the Kashmiri community, a beacon in the subcontinent that is often plagued with communal hatred.
While Kashmir is not a religious struggle, I would like to submit that faith can inform people in very powerful ways. In today’s world religion is looked upon with absolute disfavour. In fact, it is often blamed for all ills of the world today. Unfortunately given the Isalmophobic atmosphere that we are in today and the pos 9/11 politics, Islam gets a particulary bad rap. However, as a humble student of different faith traditions, I have yet to encounter a faith that breeds hatred. In my twenty years of bridge building work as part of various multifaith and multicultural groups, I have learned that no religion promotes hate for one another. What we fail to always do is to make that distinction between the faith and those who claim to be the followers of that faith., and I can speak particulary about Islam and Muslims. Faith based approach to peace building is an idea that is rapidly gaining favour in the global community and there are many successful experiments of reconciliation that are faith based which can be studied to gain guidance.
The Muslims of Kashmir are a faithful people and their faith can guide them through a process of reconciliation just as faith guided the people of South Africa. The centrality of Kashmiris’ rights is closely tied to their faith and helping them use their faith with an open mind, devoid of stereotypes, prejudices and biases under the guidance and leadership of those who understand the principles of Islam rooted in justice and peace.

Islam is a way of life that is rooted in peace and peace building, not the distorted version of propounders of Islam who use Islam to suit their own needs through misinterpretation or those others whose mission is to defame Islam and Muslims. I am sure by now you are all beginning to wonder who this extremist is amongst you. Well all Iam asking for is to allow people to use a framework that they can relate to work towards peace and the best one, in my mind for Kashmiri Muslims is their faith. I firmly believe that the Muslims of Kashmir can reject the philosophy of hate and extremism that many adopted in the early years of the insurgency, and find a way out in their faith to reconcile and forgive, by following the principles of justice and reconciliation laid out in the Quran living with others with openness, respect and accommodation. They can with boldness choose in the true Islamic spirit to live the commandment of the Quran

O you who believe, be persistently firm in justice, witnesses for Allah even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives…. Al-Quran S.4 v.135.

O you who believe, be persistently standing firm for Allah, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of people prevent you form being just… Al-Quran S5: v.8
If the oppressed Kashmiri Muslims of today understand truly the meaning of this Quranic injunction, they will never become oppressors themselves, a fear that many have.
The first step in reconciliation according to Islam is forgiveness, not retribution, While in Islam you do not turn the other cheek, the reward for forgiving your enemy, one that has hurt you and harmed you is with God alone
The recompense for an evil is an evil like thereof; but whosoever forgives and makes reconciliation, his reward is with Allah. Verily, he likes not the oppressors Al-Quran 42:40

As long as this movement of peace is rooted in the principles of truth, justice, Mercy and forgiveness as prescribed by the Quran for the Muslims, peace will automatically follow. Once this principle of justice is adhered to and implemented, all hatred will melt away and the process of moving forward will begin.
This process of using faith and reconciliation does not have to be exclusive to Muslims alone. Other faith communities can have their own models as well, but I am no one to dictate tothem. This process of learning will involve diverse segments of Kashmiri with focus on the very young, one’s that are most affected by this conflict. I assist a lot of refugees who come from most dire circumstances from all conflict zones of earth—Somalia, the Balkans,Burma, Iraq and Afghanistan to Canada. What I have noticed is that these refugees live in absolute peace in Canada, once they are removed from the atmosphere of animosity. However, the trauma is deep and left untreated can take various unhealthy forms of expression, especially in children. Processing the trauma and attending to their psycho-social needs of Kashmiri population can wait no longer. The figures are alarming, there is a psycho-social crises that demands attention from all who care for human values. From the MSF study we learn that every Kashmiri is affected by trauma and they have not yet found way to process this trauma which can rise its ugly head in various forms of depression, revenge and retribution. We need to address the psycho social along with the political. The children of Kashmir need an outlet for their misery, their anger and their frustration. They have to know that there is a possibility to live without fear and intimidation.
One of the models of faith and reconciliation is the Interfaith Mediation Centre of Kaduna, Nigeria, lead by a pastor and an Imam, one time bitter enemies who renounced violence and vowed to bring their community together in peace using the faith based model. I have had the good fortune of meeting these remarkable men. ( I recommend the film (Pastor and the Imam) to anyone who has not seen already.) Another option to consider would be the the model of peace and reconciliation commission of NelsonMandela.

Reevaluation of leadership is another prerequisite. Moving away form hereditary leadership and priesthood (both clearly discouraged in Islam), will free the minds of people and allow those that truly represent the masses and understand them based on their commitment to peace and justice to step forward. Dominant personalities must be replaced by a common ideology of reuniting the people of Kashmir for the purpose of striving for justice. Kashmir has to pave way for new leaders to emerge, leaders that truly understand the common cause of freedom form oppression, of uniting people under only one banner of reclaiming the dignity and respect of Kashmiris in a nonviolent manner. These leaders will have to sacrifice something that current leaders are used to, namely seeking protection from the forces that they are fighting against. The old leadership while making room for new blood, will hopefully share their collective wisdom with the new one’s and the young leaders have to honour the sacrifices of their elders and forgive their shortcomings. Such courageous young leaders will need guidance from others—intellectuals, historians, peace activists and others that have well understood the struggle in the path of liberation of hearts and minds. While there are many in the Kashmiri society and in the Pakistani and Indian civil society that can offer their wisdom and guidance, I suggest that in addition, Kashmiri leaders seek the guidance and intervention of “the Elders”, “a group of eminent global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote shared interests of humanity” These guides including President Carter, Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela, Ella Bhat, Mohammed Yunus, to name a few, would be the best to help lead peace and reconciliation between Kashmir’s young leadership and the Governments of India and Pakistan. Such eminent leaders who have no vested interests other than peace building can help the whole region of subcontinent to reclaim peace with justice.

Enough blood has been shed in Kashmir, both India and Pakistan have spent enormous resources on armaments and maintaining their huge defence budgets, money that could be well spent on the betterment of the poor and hungry in their countries. Both countries have realized that there is no military solution to the Kashmir imbroglio, so why not give true peace a chance. Kashmiris will not look small by being magnanimous. Forgiving their oppressors and perpetrators of injustice and getting rid of hatred and vendetta that can consume and destroy will be a healthy start for a new society, a new beginning, a new dawn. Once this groundwork is laid hopefully with the help of the Elders, a vote to express their desire to decide their destiny can be held and both India and Pakistan and rest of the world must at that point honour the decision of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and then aid them in the process of rebuilding their lives with dignity.

Is this just a dream? Perhaps, I do pray that it will in some form become a reality that frees my people from misery, subjugation, pain and suffering, InshaAllah.

I believe peace is possible if all parties are willing to take bold necessary steps the most important of which is promoting a free and fair civil discourse in all sections of the Kashmir society bringing together, civil society members, political scientists, thinkers, religious leaders and political leaders of all inclinations. Kashmiris who have no recent history of governance will have to get together and define their struggle through healthy debate and discussion. Empty slogans of Azadi will only breed frustration and no tangible results, Intimidation, mistrust, threats and sheer violence agsinst those who dare to speak out has silenced many in Kashmir that could have begun this discourse a long time ago. Freedom of expression of diverse opinions and narratives is a healthy beginning to root out hatred.
Governments and those that claim to be self appointed guardians of one kind or another have to develop a tolerance for hearing all voices, even the one’s that may not be to their liking in a non-judgemental way to pave way for moving beyond tolerance to understanding.
I have faith in the youth of Kashmir, especially those that are the children of the uprising--- one’s in Kashmir and in diaspora. Bridge building can happen and has to happen for a peaceful united Kashmir where ethnic and religious hatred will have no place, where there will be no imposition of any kind—religious, social or cultural--A united Kashmir which will truly show the world that peace is possible through forgiveness and reconciliation. It needs courage and bold leadership from all sides and support of those that care for peace in the world.
de Jong, Kaz, Nathan Ford, Saskia van de Kam, Kamalini Lokuge, Silke Fromm, Renate van Galen, Brigg Reilley, and Rolf Kleber. "Conflict in the Indian Kashmir Valley I: exposure to violence.(Research). ." Conflict and Health. 2.10 (Oct 14, 2008): 10. Academic OneFile. Gale. WATERLOO PUBLIC LIBRARY (CELPLO) (ON).

J&K Coalition of Civil Society, State Public Commision on Human Rights, Srinagar, Coalition of Civil Society, Amira Kadal, Bund, Srinagar, 2005.

J&K Coalition of Civil Society, Report on the Shopian rape incident, July 2009.
Rossi, John Allen. “Teachign about international conflict and peacemaking at th grassroots level” The Social Studies, 94(4), July –August 2003)

Watts, Emily “Peaceful protest in Kashmir alter equation for India: Tough response criticized as outmoded”, Washignton Post, Aug.28, 2008.

No comments: