Peace is something which every nation, every society, every community and every individual aspires to attain. Even all the great religions of the world have the ultimate aim of achieving peace. But the question that first arises is that why peace is so important? A little thought to this question made me realise that there is an inner calling for peace inside every individual and every soul wants peace. Moreover it is in times of peace that civilizations have greatly advanced.
Peace in context of Kashmir
Walter R Lawrence in his book “The Valley of Kashmir” written more than a century above mentions a very important point that the crime rate in Kashmir is almost zero. In his opinion there was no need of a policeman! These observations by him give us a very important insight into the psychology of Kashmiris. It tells us that Kashmiris by their very nature were peace loving people. And people today also have the same gene pool, meaning that they too are inherently, by their very nature, Peace loving.
The events of the past seven decades have however disturbed this peace in Kashmir and we all are familiar with these events. When you loose a thing, its only then that you realise its value. Same is the case with peace in Kashmir. Loss of peace here has not only led to loss of tourism, economy and precious lives, but it has deeply scarred the minds of the people. Trauma, pessimism and hopelessness have deeply been woven into the fabric of the society and peace seems to be the need of the hour, more than ever.
Kashmir- Peace and stake holders
Kashmir is what the books of history call a conflict zone and as is case with every conflict in the world, there are various stake holders who hold key positions and can play a very important role in resolving that conflict. The three major stake holders in Kashmir conflict according to my understanding of the problem are
Ø The people of Kashmir
Although all the stake holders in this conflict are important, but keeping in view the past history, it seems that at least for the time being, it is impracticable to expect something from India or Pakistan. As such I would like to focus my attention on the people of Kashmir and how they could work towards the development of a peaceful Kashmir. This also seems to me the most practical way, because right now Kashmiris are not in a position to influence any of the two countries in their decisions. But what we can do is to work jointly among ourselves at various levels so that each individual does his bit to make Kashmir better, peaceful and prosperous.
How leaders lead here- Lessons from Eidgah
Born in 1989, I have some hazy memories of my childhood. I remember the processions and the aazadi slogans. I do not remember singing any songs in my childhood but I do remember shouting, “Hum kya chahtay Aazadi” in a babbling, half broken voice. Infact these are the earliest words I remember I have spoken. I do not remember childhood voices of mummy, Abu ji (father), Daadi (grandmother), Tootha (grandpa), but strangely I do remember these slogans of aazadi.
However with age I began to divert my attention to slogans and things other than aazadi. It all used to go well for some time, but then again there was a blast or a human rights violation case which used to pinch my conscience and shout out, “something is wrong”. Whatever this “wrong” was, I had adapted myself to live with it. “Wrong” just seemed to be a part of life now. But the 2008 and 2010 protests (Ragda Ragda, as we lovingly call it) did make me realise that we cannot always live this way.
“Eidgah Chalo” in 2008 was a real eye opener. Distance from my home to eidgagh is about 10 kilometres. On that day, all roads were leading to Eidgah. I too went there, only after having an altercation with my mom, who was never up for it. I walked those 10 kilometres and did not board a bus, because like many others I wanted to feel the air of aazadi. Walking down the streets and then the by lanes of Down town seemed to take me down the memory lane, back to my childhood when processions were the order of the day. Seeing a 2 year old child in underwear, shouting in a half broken voice, “Aazadi, Aazadi” made me remember my own childhood. 18 years ago it was me who was in place of this child!
Reaching Eidgah, I saw the biggest procession of my life. I had never seen so many people. I met an old man who told me that he had left his native village before Fajr prayers, so as to reach Eidgah on time. Such was the enthusiasm of the people. Seemed like the fabled “Aazadi” is just round the corner. I certainly expected the leadership to deliver that day. But to my utter disappointment and shock, nothing happened. The microphone did not work that day. No attempts were made deliver a message. People said their prayers and left. All I asked myself was, “Is this a joke?” What kind of leaders do we have, if they are not able to capitalise on such an opportunity? I realised that expecting miracles from this leadership is asking for too much and that the need of the hour is that each one of us, on an individual level and then a collective level too should try to contribute in a small way for building up of peace in Kashmir. Moreover seeing the disunity among the various leaders here, only cements my belief.
Thus I am not writing in this essay about the Indo-Pak dimension of the problem, or that related to the Kashmiri leadership (Seperatists or mainstream), but about the steps and actions which we as individuals of this society need to take, so that Kashmir moves towards peace.
Sometime ago I saw a cartoon drawn by one of my friends (Samurah Kashmiri), and it really got me thinking. The cartoon is shown below:
This cartoon demonstrates an important truth about the Kashmir scenario, the truth that the real solution of the Kashmir problem lies with the people of Kashmir and not with any outsider and that if we have to look for a solution, we must look for it within ourselves. Personally I believe that for a peaceful Kashmir we need to work regarding three major aspects of the society
- Economic development
- Moral and social development
- Intelligentsia development
A sound economy is a very important for a society, and it’s even more important for a conflict ridden society. In a conflict ridden society, economic backwardness leads to poverty and distrust which in turn leads to violence in the society, and thus the society plunges into an abyss. The valuable human resource which needed to build the society is forced to think about survival and thus each day is a struggle. Today Kashmir lacks economic development, and that may lead to very serious consequences in the future. The need of the hour is the economic reconstruction of the society at many levels. As far as I can envision, the following steps must be taken for revitalization of the Kashmir economy
Promotion of entrepreneurship: - With no government jobs around and no significant private sector in Kashmir, the youth here feel frustrated every single day. There is no culture of entrepreneurship. With the conflicted nature of Kashmir, it is impractical to expect huge investments in Kashmir, which the people here should accept. However this should not be treated as a handicap, but as an opportunity, because it means very less competition, huge avenues for growth and a large market. Entrepreneurship must be encouraged here and various fields like medicinal plants, leather industry, food processing industries, recycling industries should be set up. Society should encourage entrepreneurship, rather than discourage it.
Building on what we have: - If we look at our past, we would see that Kashmiris were never with a begging bowl in their hands. They used to work. Some were carpet weavers, some potters, some woodcarvers, some coppersmiths, some shepherds and so on. The problem with our society today is that we have lost the dignity of labour. These kinds of works are being looked down upon. What we do not understand is that problem lies not with these professions, but with the fact that we have not upgraded and introduced technology into these professions and as such we generate low revenue. Kashmiris were highly skilled and were well renowned throughout the world, these trades are our strong points and for sustainable economic development we just need to improvise on these professions, rather than shunning them.
Conservation of our resources: - Kashmir has been blessed with many natural resources and the biggest challenge for now is to conserve them. Our forest resources, for example have suffered tremendously via the smugglers who have taken full advantage of the uncertain conditions. Need of the hour is to protect and nourish those forests and each individual should take it upon himself to prevent deforestation, which would not only prevent environmental degradation but will also provide for employment in near future. Another major resource diminishing at a fast rate is agricultural land, which is being lost to fast growing unplanned construction. This would have serious repercussions as agriculture forms the backbone of this state. We need to stop this madness of making palatial houses and flat systems should be introduced.
Moral and social development
As far as moral and social spheres are considered, we need to look more into our past than into our future. From our past we can learn a lot about being a morally and socially just society, and we must look forward to be the same again. The various measures needed for developing a peaceful society are
Looking after the poor and downtrodden: - The conflict itself has created many orphans and widows. The poor and downtrodden of the society need to be looked after by each one of us, so that they are not alienated from the society and do feel as a part of the society. Thus they would contribute towards the society in a positive way. On the other hand, if we do otherwise this would lead to economic disparity and division of the society. This division would also lead to increase in crime rate, drug abuse and other social evils as we are seeing now-a-days.
Better education: - Curriculum needs to be revised and we need inculcate practical knowledge. The stress should be laid more on the practical part than upon memorization. Moreover moral education needs to be provided to our children in schools. This would lead to upbringing of highly educated and morally upright members of the society.
Communal harmony: - Kashmiri Pandits formed an integral part of our society. For sustainable peace there must be initiative from among the people to facilitate their return back to the valley. The Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and Christians must live in a harmony and mutual respect and understanding.
Returning back to Islam:-More than 95 percent of the population of Kashmir is Muslim and need of the hour is to return back to the basic teachings of Islam. Islam itself means peace and the Islamic greeting, “Salaam-u-Alaikum" means, “May peace be upon you". Thus in a way our religion is about peace, peace not only at individual level, but at community level, national level and even about global level. If we follow our religion sincerely, peace will just come to us. Our valley is known as the, “Valley of saints” and these great Sufis have taught us peace. All we need to do is follow their teachings.
Freedom from the captivity of negativity:-I look around myself and I see that currently in our society there is too much of negativity, scepticism and pessimism. There is hopelessness in people. Maybe it is because of the conditions in our recent past, but that does not mean that we must look at everything and everyone through the prism of negativity. We must always have hope in a better future and belief in our abilities. As Iqbal said about this land
"Zara namm ho, tau yeh mitti badi zarkhez hai saaqi"
Protection of our language: - In his 2011 Sydney Peace Prize lecture, Noam Chomsky, known as the Father of Modern Linguistics said," A language is more than just sounds and words. It is the repository of culture, history, traditions, the entire rich texture of human life and society. Loss of a language is a serious blow not only to the community itself but to all of those who hope to understand something of the nature of human beings, their capacities and achievements". Our language is fast being lost due to our negligence. Some people even feel ashamed to talk in Kashmiri. What they fail to realize is that language is one of the strongest bonds that joins us as Kashmiris. If we loose our language, we loose our sense of belonging to a community, and then it hardly seems plausible that we would work towards that community’s peaceful development.
The other half: - We must always remember that here we have only one part of Kashmir and the other part is on the other side of the border. We must try that there must be trade, travel and other activities like student exchange programs between the two parts of Kashmir. Also we must press for easier cross border travel to the other part of Kashmir.
We as a community need to nurture and nourish our youth so that from them we are able to develop intelligentsia who would be able to foresee and deal with the growing number of challenges which we will be facing in our future. They would be trained and developed so that we are able to have better leaders trained in skills like critical thinking, adaptive leadership and effective negotiation etc. A better intelligentsia would mean better ability of the society to make its decisions.
What we need to always keep in mind is that it is all a very slow process. Attaining peace may be difficult but it is not impossible. All we need to realise that there are hardships, but when in the history of this world have worthwhile things been achieved without enduring hardships, and if we work hard enough towards our goal, we will achieve it.
“Surely Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change their own condition” (Ar-Rad, Chapter 13, Ayah 11)
“But lo! With hardship goeth ease” (Al-Inshirah, Chapter 94, Ayah 5)
PS- This article was written by me around 4 years ago for the Sajid Iqbal Foundation essay contest and won me the fifth prize. However with time, thoughts, ideas and outlook changes and today even I don't agree with the few things I said above. Criticism is welcome, after-all we all need to learn!