Seminar On Enhancing Jammu and Kashmir’s Pride
The recently concluded two-day seminar on Enhancing Kashmir’s Pride in Srinagar was unique in many ways. First off, the subject itself was deep and evoked a range of emotions from the participants. Passions ran high and the audience got to interact one on one, albeit angrily initially, with the panel dealing with the much-needed aspect of Pride and Dignity of Jammu and Kashmir. Next, the seminar was a no holds barred opportunity for the panelists and audiences, most of which came from the student community and the security forces, to discuss the wounds of Kashmir and find ways to repair the hurt psyche of the awaam (people). It was , as proven by events, an opportunity for the youth to question and argue out their case for a Kashmiri identity with the top army General Ata Hasnain and Police IG SM Sahai – a never before in Kashmir. A free and fair exchange of views followed where each side got to hear of other’s hopes, aspirations and prognosis of the task at hand.
At the end of the two days the respect, faith and dignity with which the panelists and the youth put their heads together to “move on” in Kashmir was contagious. The hostility had been replaced with mutual respect and there was a general mood of finding pragmatic answers to discovering and enhancing Kashmiri pride.
That the army chose this delicate subject to discuss and move forward was in itself a great achievement – a vindication of its confidence in handling the inner most sentiments of the people of Kashmir in this conflict stabilisation phase leading to peace.
The jam-packed Chinar auditorium in the heart of Badamibagh cantonment was addressed by Gen KT Parnaik, Gen Ata Hasnain, Maj Gen (retd) Raj Mehta, Maj Gen Gurdeep Singh, Prof Siddiq Wahid, former Vice Chancellor of Srinagar University of Science and Technology, Ms Madhu Kishwar, Delhi based editor of Manushi and a senior fellow at the CSDS, Dr Shah Faisal, IPS, Mr Samir Yasir of Islamic University, Mr SM Sahai, IPS, IG Kashmir, Dr SS Bloeria, IAS, Vice Chancellor of Central University, Mr Ajai Shukla of Business Standard, Mr Nitin Pai of Takshashila Foundation and Dr Suba Chandran of IPCS.
Gen Ata Hasnain, the visionary who conceived this seminar, shared his passion for Kashmir to bring about the much-needed change. He abhorred the “romanticization of violence” by inimical parties to continue to fester the wounds of Kashmir’s past which prevented any forward movement and hope for the awaam. He emphasised the need to deradicalise the society by good governance and implementation of socio economic activity in the conflict zone to provide relief and succour to people. The fact that the army had transformed the force ethos during this conflict stabilisation phase was evident and various initiatives had started showing tangible results. He equated Sadbhavna (Goodwill) to Corporate Social Responsibility of the army. He argued that there was a need to institutionalise what went right to ensure that there was light at the end of the tunnel. His prophetic appeal was to move forward without waiting for political solutions – “If you wait for the political solution to come first and leave the economic and development part unattended you will be left far behind”.
There was now a need to carry these initiatives forward at the political level.
Professor Siddiq Wahid, commenting on Kashmiriyat argued that Kashmiriyat should not be put on the defensive as it is not an identity issue and to surmise that it would solve the political issues is wrong. He argued that Kashmir was still far from light at the end of the tunnel and the present calm should not be mistaken for peace. It needs bold political initiatives to sustain which can no longer be delayed.
Gen Raj Mehta made a historically rich passionate appeal to all to comprehend the nuances of Kashmiri heritage. His argument that Kashmiriyat was resilient to centuries of dents was well received. His comparison of the Concept of “Heart as my Weapon” to the people friendly policies of Baadshah, the 16th century King of Kashmir, was patterned on bringing peace and stability based on the principles of heart which both Baadshah and Gen Ata Hasnain practiced. He addressed the youth by saying that their’s were minds under construction and that they must put “Taqrir” (Discussion) into practice to see reality. A reality which would result in Kashmir becoming a well-governed, economically vibrant, secure and happy society.
Madhu Kishwar led an emotive campaign blaming the political apparatus for following the European monocultural legacy of governance while dealing with our multicultural society. She reiterated that partisan violence was destroying common space and that all conflicts were politically engineered. She also argued a case for reinforcing local cultures and living languages as english language and culture was responsible for destroying scripts such as Sharda.
Mr SM Sahay, IPS apprised the audience that the police had learnt its lessons from the cycle of violence of the preceding years and had transformed from being a counter terrorist force to a social police with wide-ranging initiatives to bring succor to people ranging from drug de addiction to counselling. He elaborated that there were no bans on social media unless they incited violence.
Dr SS Bloeria talked of the factor of social harmony brought about by permanent and transitory icons of pride and dignity. He emphasised upon the need to focus on women and youth to promote pride. On governance he argued that best form of governance is when people are allowed to govern themselves. It needs political maturity to devolve power to people in consonance with the need of good governance. People’s participation would bring about the much-needed feeling of pride and dignity.
Maj Gen Gurdeep Singh gave a powerful presentation on the role of Security Forces in promoting Pride and Dignity of J & K awaam. He elaborated upon the nuances of Heart as My Weapon and the efforts army was making in changing lives for the better. Because of its vast reach from the borders to the hinterland, the army had made significant progress in ameliorating the conditions of the awaam. His audio-visual presentations were an instant hit with the audiences.
Dr Shah Faisal, IAS, the IAS topper of 2009 and the latest symbol of Kashmiri pride was eloquent in expressing that the time wrap was not allowing Kashmiris to move forward. He argued that the evolving narratives in Kashmir postulate that Kashmir is not Jammu and Kashmir, discussion on Kashmir always gets political and soon every one starts speaking from positions. Historically linking Kashmir to “identity motivated nationalism or sub nationalism” he highlighted that economically, socially and culturally this identity and sovereignty has remained within the proclivity of time. He commented that the legitimacy of the state must be restored and police must take a backseat behind the state administration.
Mr Sameer Yasir made an impassioned appeal to restore the original glory of Kashmir by integrating the Kashmiri Pandits to the mainstream life in Kashmir.He exhorted media to bring about change in mindsets by highlighting the plight of Kashmiri Pandits. His references to his childhood neighbours Chaman and Geeta in Baramulla were emotive and sought Kashmiriyat from a larger perspective of tolerance and forebearance.
Mr Nitin Pai discussed two critical aspects of bringing economic vibrance to Kashmir and conflict management in radically connected societies. His suggestions on a development plan to bring prosperity, dignity and social capital were well received as was evident by the hoards of army and civil administration officials mobbing him for more. His discourse on Narrative Dominance by state and its futility in this information age was prophetic. He made pertinent recommendations to stay ahead of the information loop by actively engaging social media channels and fighting networks of today.
Mr Ajai Shukla’s narrative focused on role of national media in enhancing pride and dignity in Kashmir. He received his fair share of questions as the audience wanted to understand as to why only negative news about Kashmir was given prominence in National media while good deeds seldom received attention. His post seminar piece here answers a lot of questions while asking some uncomfortable ones.
The aim of narrating the proceedings of the seminar are to document these for posterity as this is a path breaking seminar which would open channels of communication between the society and the military. However, the audience, especially the youth were keen on political process to move forward so that they could have a say in governance, have a sense of belonging and reap the fruits of freedom. As per Shujaat Bukhari, the hurt is much deeper and is a begging political answers. The public outbursts by the students and their private handshaking, warm hugs and autograph seeking demeanour however underscores what Gen Raj Mehta has to say,
What becomes clearer is that the Kashmiris, like all other people world-wide who live in a conflict zone, have a public face as well as a private one. The public face is and will continue to be cynical and disbelieving of official intent whereas the private face is far more accommodating and in touch with reality and material needs.
Most Kashmiris crave for peace and its dividends, provided that the transaction reinforces rather than assaults their pride and dignity.
This seminar would be remembered for a long time to come for its honesty of approach and objectivity in dealing with the issue of enhancing J&K’s pride and dignity. This by itself is a case for a case study which the world needs to take a note of.
This poem by Colonel (Retd) VP Singh sums up the sentiments eloquently:
Bina tumhare muqqamal ye Hindoostan nahi
Koi tumhi se wafa ke sawal kyoon poochhe
Watan parasti toh jazba hai imtehan nahi.
Tumhara haq hai, tumhari bhi hissedari hai
Ye Bharatvarsh tumhari bhi zimmedari hai
Iski mitti me lahu hai tumhare purkhon ka
Iski khushboo pe likhkhi dastaan tumhari hai.”
Don’t wait for political solution, move forward: Hasnain Rising Kashmir
Understanding Kashmiri Pride Rising Kashmir
Charging ahead in Kashmir Ajai Shukla in Business Standard
Social harmony,development must to restore JK’s pride: GOC Greater Kashmir