Rebuilding the bridges of Shared Values

A N Sadhu
History is replete with instances where situations so developed that some sections of population, mostly the minorities, were forced out of their original habitat. However, what happened in 1990’s, in our own country has to be viewed more seriously. Having lived in peace and harmony for the last three hundred years, sharing language, culture and values, why should an entire community face an exodus/genocide, needs a thorough investigation so that the people responsible for this are brought to justice. Nevertheless, the efforts to revive those shared values have to be redoubled to correct the distortions and restore the state of J and K UT to its past glory.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir/Now UT has witnessed a very long spell of violence owing to continued militancy and terrorist activities which erupted in late 1980’s and early 1990’s. Obviously a very large scale disruption of social, economic and political environment vitiated the normal living and peaceful co-existence, that had distinguished the region from rest of the sub-continent since 18th century. Long term violence casts shadows on several aspects of everyday life of the people living therein. The most disastrous effect of such violence is the genocide / exodus of people, mostly belonging to a specific ethnicity or community of ab-origins, subjecting them to loss of their age-old surroundings and neighbourhoods. The violence of 1990’s did witness the displacement of people of all faiths, though in varying proportions. In any case such an exodus casts a gloom on humanity, that should have been singing the songs of peace, prosperity and brotherhood, at this stage of evolution of human society. It is undoubtedly very unfortunate that it has happened.
The erstwhile state also witnessed large scale corruption resulting into misuse of development funds, causing restrictive development of the state’s economic avenues and failing thereby to create employment opportunities for the youth. “An idle man’s brain is a devil’s home” and that is what seems to have happened in the border state resulting into the exploitative manoeuvres by the antinational elements and the enemies from across the border, luring the unemployed youth to join militant ranks and cause disruptions in the state. Not detailing any further, as already a lot has been written on the subject, it goes without saying that administrative inefficiency has contributed to the upheaval faced in the 1990s. Both political and bureaucratic machinery cannot be exonerated for their lethargy and carelessness, in the absence of which the holocaust could have been stalled or at-least the damage done to Kashmiriyat minimised.
The efforts have to be made to restore J&K, more so Kashmir to its pristine glory. It cannot happen overnight. But it has to happen and sooner the better. Restive societies are liable to destabilise the normal processes of peace and development which are so vital to human society all across the globe. The strong imperative faced by the Government is, return and rehabilitation of the Hindus of Kashmir- known as Kashmiri Pandits- and equally strong imperative for this to achieve is peace and normalcy in Kashmir. Unless KPs are back in the valley, Kashmir will never be what it was and without restoring that social harmony it may not be likely to build a Naya Kashmir with a viable future. Geo-strategic positioning of Kashmir warrants absolute peace and brotherhood wherein the diverse ethnic groups can live harmoniously with understanding, respect and accommodation of each other on equal basis. In order to shape a viable Kashmir/JK UT, a thoughtful approach shall have to be adopted to revive the old ethos and strengthen it further. Jammu has stood the test of the times of maintaining its social harmony even when there is a strong feeling of discrimination meted out to the region by the earlier regimes. Jammu accommodated displaced minority with open arms and gave them adequate space in its society and economy.
In order, therefore, to build a viable future for the Union Territory, both the regions will have to be developed using the region’s manpower and resources to the optimum. However, to bring sustainable peace and social harmony in the valley, the following initiatives will have to be taken in an effective and purposeful manner.
Social/cultural initiatives
There should be inter community dialogues to understand and reinforce the spirit of coexistence across the multicultural structure of the society living in the state, in general, and in the valley, in particular. The feeling of isolation has to be removed. The belief that peace and harmony is imposed and not built in the mind and psyche of people will have to be addressed through friendly approach and on humanitarian basis. The ground reports do not manifest the quality and extent of trust among the people which is required for lasting peace. The general grievance of the valley’s people that they are living their lives under suppression and suspicion, -which may not be true- will have to be taken note of and sincere efforts made to liberate them from the suppression and suspicion syndromes both. As a matter of fact, the militancy is very much there and the fear of gun looms large on the people living there, irrespective of their religion and belief. The recent phase of targeted killings has fuelled the fear of sustained militancy which is not getting controlled despite so much of security forces deployed in the valley. The incidents are far and few which sporadically appear to show that normalcy has returned. The recent phenomenon of increased tourist inflow may be a healthy sign but not a guaranteed indicator of the return of normalcy.
32 years is not a small time. It has virtually distanced two generations of people from each other, on the one hand and on the other infused suspicions among the youth about their involvement in intercommunity dialogues. One should appreciate the efforts of the Government to remove these suspicions in several ways but merely aiming at achieving this objective through an ideological transformation may not be sufficient. Cultural initiatives, on more frequent basis involving the youth of all the communities need to be organised which will generate the confidence of realising the expected returns in terms of confidence building, mutual trust and understanding and the imperative of lasting peace and normalcy, so vital for socio-economic advancement and a productive engagement of youth for overall development of the state.
Jammu and Kashmir is known for shared values of respect for each other, support for each other and participation in each other’s social and religious festivals. Unfortunately, in Kashmir almost 2 generations of Hindus and Muslims have now lived in isolation of each other leaving the youth bereft of these traditions, unmindful of the fact that their elders strictly adhered to these shared values and harvested its gains in everyday life. The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits will have serious consequences if it is not reversed without losing more time. The trauma of losing one’s habitat has seriously impacted the life of KPs even when by dint of their hard work and merit, they have carved out a place for themselves in different parts of the country and elsewhere in the world; but they will always remain attracted towards their roots and in the larger national interest, their return and rehabilitation should receive a priority attention. The Bill submitted by Mr. Tankha in parliament is a good initiative and it should not be brushed aside on political parameters, instead it should warrant a debate both in parliament and outside parliament, to hammer out a thoughtful programme of systematic return and rehabilitation of KPs. Let the initiative not be lost in a conundrum to the disadvantage of the nation.
With over 3 decades of displacement, it is not easy to take back the displaced minority without ensuring the establishment of a conducive environment in which they will have an assured and equal participation in economic, social and political spheres of the valley. The displaced minority has genuine apprehension of again facing the turbulent times, unless they are convinced that the return policy has taken all their concerns into consideration. The encroachments, the distress sales, the desecration of their temples and shrines and grabbing of their landed properties have to be addressed and lawful corrections made in all these cases. The community is deprived of its demographic dividends because its youth does not get employed at the right time, resulting in an alarming rise in the number of overaged persons who do not settle in a normal family life. The Government shall have to take note of it and provide for their sustained engagement in some productive pursuits.
Administrative initiatives
Those KPs who did not leave Kashmir and decided to stay back need administrative protection on economic, social and security front. The PM package employee’s difficulties amply show administrative apathies in not providing them the required housing facilities, proper posting and health facilities at the places where they have been lodged without adequate backup on these fronts. Administration has an important role in facilitating the process of return and rehabilitation. The quick redressal of their grievances would send an encouraging message and stimulate the motivation among the displaced persons to return to their roots.
Political Initiatives
The most important of all the aspects of rebuilding the shared values of trust and mutual respect is the requirement of a political policy framework that clearly provides for return and rehabilitation of the displaced KPs in a systematic and secured manner. The political setup, both at the centre and at the state level has utterly failed to device a policy in this direction and put it to public domain for a thorough discussion. It is not just a programme of transporting them to Kashmir; it is a wholesome exercise of restoring their political and economic rights and providing them a secured environment where they can live fearlessly. The stakeholders, have to understand that in a democratic and secular setup allowing segregation of communities for a long time, will ultimately be detrimental to the society and seriously undermine the very foundations of the country’s constitution. The Geo-political situation warrants that there is peace and harmony to thwart any enemy misadventure on our North-Eastern borders.
Rebuilding the shared values will frustrate the enemies from causing disruptions of peace and social harmony in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
(The author is former Dean Academic Affairs, JU, Jammu.)