Army, students, civil society take out peace rally in Bhadarwah

Supported by the army, more than 1500 students from schools, colleges and university took out a rally here Tuesday chanting slogans for peace, unity and harmony.

The rally was taken out in Bhadarwah town in the backdrop of recent communal tensions in Doda district ahead of the ongoing Lok Sabha election.

The ‘Unity Peace Rally’ by the students and members of civil society was taken out after a peace meeting at Community Hall Kotli.

Students holding banners were joined by teachers, professors, army officers and members of civil society along with local police protecting the rally.

After passing through different localities of the town including general bus stand, Chobia link road and Lakshmi Narayan Chowk converged at historical Seri Bazar, where some participants addressed the gathering and also took a pledge to maintain peace and communal at all costs.

“We wanted people to know that a majority of citizens are peace loving and do not want conflict or communal tension as peace is imperative not only for development of the area but for our studies as well,” said Shagun Manhas, a student from Athkhar School.

Mohd Altaf Nakshbandi, a participant in the peace rally said hate-mongering was going on a few days ago by sections of some vested interests.

But according to the Madrasa student, communal conflict often makes people forget the real issues like education, labour and gender equality.

“Only when we have peace in the region can we actually move on to fighting for issues that actually matter,” Nakshbandi said.

Renowned educationist Arif Rana Bhadarwahi felt that it was heartening to see the response to ‘Unity Peace Rally’ among students and civil society as well support for such sentiment from Commanding Officer RR Bhadarwah.

“We put the message out in WhatsApp groups and instantly many people from civil society as well as the different education institutions came forward. Within a few hours of us putting a word out for the peace rally, Army contributed with posters and anti-conflict placards to carry at the rally,” Rana said, adding that many officers also participated in the protests themselves.

“The real issues that people of here face are inflation, poverty and social decay in this picturesque valley. Will any kind of communal flare up help that? No,” social activist Amrik Singh said.

A day before polling on April 17 some youth from two communities tried to flare up communal tension by raising slogans and pelting stones on each other, following which mobile internet service remained suspended for four days in Bhadarwah town.