Inter-Community Dialogue in Kashmir

The exercise has to begin a new to find ways for the harmonious living together of various communities in the Valley
"However, with the change of guard in New Delhi and advent of Narandera Modi led BJP government the process came to an abrupt halt."
"However, with the change of guard in New Delhi and advent of Narandera Modi led BJP government the process came to an abrupt halt." Special arrangement

As the situation saw some signs of improvement in the first decade of the current century, which had suffered a near total collapse in the 1990s, some enlightened forces within and outside Kashmir sought to find means of reconciliation between KPs and KMs who had been living apart for the reasons well known.

It came at a time when many among Muslim society in Kashmir held a belief that some KPs were the collaborators to inflict pain and agony on them and defeat their ‘cause’. Good many KPs , on the other hand, held Muslims responsible for their forced displacement and the consequent miseries that befell them.

In a period that preceded May, 2014 and subsequent to it for couple of years, inter-community dialogue between Kashmiri Pandits (KPs ) and Kashmiri Muslims (KMs ) was underway, in Kashmir and outside.

A number of well meaning persons – civil society groups, some from outside, had facilitated the move. Not that the dialogue process had yielded much but it had gathered some mass – certain stereotypes were broken and quite a number of prejudices got mellowed down.

The attempt did freshen the old acquaintances which were about to fade in the memory. A recognition came to the fore which made the communities to understand the sufferings both underwent.

However, with the change of guard in New Delhi and advent of Narandera Modi led BJP government the process came to an abrupt halt.

Today, thanks to the vicious polarizing politics played in the mainland, situation on the ground has so changed as to leave very little room for the KPs and KMs to demonstrate a reconciliatory attitude towards each other.

The exercise has to begin a new to find ways of sharing space among various communities in the Valley, having regard for each other’s compulsions. Task, indeed , is a daunting one .

Governmental effort, down three decades, has been to bring in peace and stability to Jammu and Kashmir. Emphasis, however, has been on paramilitary action; though reconciliatory measures too were taken, intermittently . Lately, stress has been on macho policies: still we are far away from achieving the desired goal.

The Para military forces may do their job of softening the militants, but to place total burden on them to bring peace in the Valley, without a commensurate support of the civil society, is asking too much.

For success , their action has to be supplemented by a civil society initiative aimed at mutual reconciliation and restoration of faith within the communities.

It is in the interest of GoI to discourage elements who do not see beyond their exclusivist rhetoric and encourage those who have intention and capability to look beyond and create space for both communities to live together in participation.

There is a need to have some sort of reconciliation but it is overshadowed by the fear of uncertainty of the outcome: besides not being sure how bosses in New Delhi will take to it.

The Kashmir watchers get a feeling that there is an urge in certain KM and non migrant KP quarters to restart a dialogue process.

Thanks to a New Delhi based NGO, a new initiative is underway in Kashmir whereby both are preparing to talk to each other.

This is an encouraging development. It comes at a time when a debate on the return–rehabilitation of Kps has resurfaced up in the Valley, with young and enterprising Kashmiris marking their presence.

Though both the communities will be benefitted by the process of mutual reconciliation, yet for the KPs stakes are high. Given the general apathy and indifference of the government to address their core and peripheral issues they will have to find ways of peaceful living in the Valley within the KM civil society.

PM Package employees are on roads demanding relocation and safety at the places of work in Kashmir. Couple of their collogues have fallen to the bullets of the militants while discharging duties in the Valley. They have been on roads for the last more than hundred days pressing hard their demands.

After making right noises in the beginning when brutal assassination of some employees took place, government went into a shell caring a fig for the agitating employees.

Similarly, the state has turned a deaf ear to the decades long demand of Kashmiri Hindus to have law for protection of Temples and Shrines in Kashmir. These religious places have been desecrated and their invaluable assets usurped by the unscrupulous.

There are various peace indicators in Kashmir. Foremost among them is the return of the Pandits to the Valley and their rehabilitation with a semblance of economic and political empowerment.

Pandits intend to live in a composite ambience in the Valley: on equal terms with others, with complete protection of their religious, cultural and numerous land marks of their civilization.

B L SARAF, Former Principal District & Sessions Judge

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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