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Facets Of Communal Harmony In Kashmir: Status, Challenges And Way Forward – OpEd

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Man is the wonderful creation of God with an inherent sense of metaphysical and worldly belongings. The savage societies of the pre-historic times without any order and hierarchy of social organisation subsequently in the long timeframe paved way for the foundations of nation states and social organisations with a proper moral and a social order.

Although, the onslaught of the forces of globalisation after post-modernism have added a new colour to the contours of social dynamics and set in motion a new wave of societal organisations in the world, the case of Kashmir portrays a different tale of ever evolving,unaltered communal harmony. The only narrative that can ensue an atmosphere of peace and prosperity is that of the peaceful coexistence in the society in order to avert the crisis that makes inroads within a society from time to time.

Jammu and Kashmir is the only northern state of India with the longest tag of amity and brotherhood that has survived the currents of time and remains so in the contemporary times. Kashmir called as the land of rishis, saints, seers and sadhus is known for its communal harmony not only at the local level, but also the world over since times immemorial.

The sort of mysticism that the Sufi and Bhakti movements have lent to the cultural ethos of Kashmir is found much nowhere in the world besides Kashmir. The vale of Kashmir is full of various religious faiths who have survived the onslaught of the forces of Globalisation with the changing signs of time. Muslims form the majority of the vale along with the religious people of Hindus, sikhs, Buddhists, Christians; etc.Over the period of time, a sort of communal harmony has permeated the socio-cultural space of the society creating a congenial atmosphere of communitarian responsibility and social bond among the people of Kashmir surpassing religious lines of thought. This has not only added to the peace horizon of the land, but also created a sense of mutual trust and unified bond among the various communities of the land.

In Kashmir, the communal harmony is deep rooted in the historical narratives. The ethos of the Kashmir culture has time and again withstood the travails and tribulations of the time despite the currents of odds and challenges through the changing times. On a miniscule scale, there has been disturbance to the communal harmony of the state following the partition of the sub-continent into India and Pakistan.

The exodus of the Hindus in nineties ascribed to the circumstances was a gory chapter in the chronicles of Jammu and Kashmir history. However, the return of the same has added a new threshold to the scene. The separatist leadership has time and again been vocal for their return as being part and parcel of our composite Kashmiri culture .However, the time has served as the best healer of the same wounds and paved renewed ways for the cherishment of the communal harmony. The social harmony vindicates the notions of love and affection among different religions and is a blessing in disguise for the times.

Status

The state of Jammu and Kashmir reflects the true plural ethos of the secular India where people of different communities strive for the love and harmony, complementing the lives of each other on a day-to-day basis. The festivals of one community are celebrated with gaiety and fervour by the other religious community, solidifying the ethos of multiculturalism and pluralism.

Kashmir represents the thread of the confluence of communal harmony and brotherhood. The communal harmony of the state is neither instant nor accidental, but is a legacy of the past times till date that has permeated the psyche of the people and created a bond of unity in the socio-cultural milieu of the valley.

The recent installation of a church bell in a church at Srinagar after a span of 50 years by the Christian community with the support of the Sikh, Muslim and Hindu communities is a reminder of communal harmony that is deep rooted in the cultural milieu of the state.

The annual Hindu pilgrimage of the Amarnath yatra is the biggest and ever glaring example of the amity where old and young, men and women, etc all are hospitably treated with care and concern by the native Muslims and even carried on their shoulders towards the sacred place of cave through the difficult terrains and ways enroute to the cave.

In our neighbourhood of Seer Hamdan, Anantnag, the legal heir of a deceased hindu Pandit namely Arzan Nath is a Muslim man namely Nissar Ahmad Wagay.Long ago, through the oral history of the people, have heard of him serving the former during ups and downs of life. Arzan Nath was a govt employee with no one to look after. Nissar Ahmad served him through the turbulent times and offered heart-catching services, which even a true descendent, could not offer.

Nissar used to accompany Arzan Nath through thick and thin times of life. Having personally observed, both of them used to pay the dusk obeisance at the shrine of Hazrat Shahi Hamdan (R.A.). At the time of his death, it was none other than Nissar who performed the last services to the deceased.

Another Hindu Pandit Shadi Lal in our hometown is a hope for the hopeless patients who turn up in large numbers at his Ayurvedic shop. The most important trait of the said person is that he cares and heals the patients of the whole South Kashmir. In other words, he has turned out to be a saviour of the whole community. Come dawn, the people could be seen in large flocks outside his shop. People respect him out of reverence and reciprocate in great regard.

Challenges

The biggest obstacle and roadblock for the cherishment of the ideal of communal harmony in India is the fanaticism and extremism. Since, all religions preach the message of peace and harmony, there can be no way to justify the claims of the demeaning and demoralising of whatsoever religious community a society carries on. The biggest issue of the current and contemporary times is to contain the fringe elements of the society and let the people live in whatsoever capacity they live to carry on the cog in the wheel of the life.

The few reasons in the path of communal harmony are: Egoism, Lack of vision in Education, Lack of discipline, Lack of Cooperation, Social disorder, Casteism, Violence, Immorality, Lack of faith in true religious values,deficit of good leadership, etc. Education can be exploited as a powerful tool against these threats in the path of Communal Harmony.

On his return from South Africa, Gandhiji envisioned for a unity among different communities of India and did his best in capacity for the realization of the same.

The recent rape and murder of a minor girl in Kathua area in the state of Jammu and Kashmir has unfortunately turned into a gory chapter of the contemporary times, which has not only demeaned the plurality of the state, but also set into motion a wrong precedent for the times, putting a hallmark of challenge for the vale of amity and brotherhood.

Although, there has been a strong criticism of the same from every quarter of the society, particularly the mainstream and the separatist chambers of the body politic,but,the major challenge blots on the face of the law which guarantees justice and equality for one and all under the provisions of the law. The recent rally in favour of the demon in Kathua has created ire in the society. This has shaken the order and equilibrium of the state.

The philosophical current of ethics of care can be a best antidote to the current problem. A human being just yearns for the sake of justice. Law must take its own course of action to provide justice. The recent statement of Chief Minister Mrs. Mehbooba Mufti about the incident in Kathua going awry towards shattering of communal harmony and brotherhood and addition of communal colour by some elements of the society is a million dollar question to ponder upon. Tears start to outpour at the mere gaze of minor Aasifa’s photos that have hogged limelight in the media circles.This has given renewed impetus to the parochial and sectarian tendencies in Jammu and Kashmir.

Way Forward

In order to realise the goal of communal harmony, peace is the main pre-requisite and a necessary condition. Disharmony creates the forces of disarray and disruption, rendering harmony handicapped and ultimately towards a state of paralysis.

To promote the ethic of communal harmony, it is imperative for all the stakeholders of the society to play a part in particular and work in sync for the realization of the same in general. Youth as a main driving force and an asset of a nation can be the best ambassadors of peace and communal harmony. The only way to achieve that goal is the proper education of the youth across the spectrum of education spanning the whole level of education. This way youth can learn to make communal harmony as a way of living, rather than ethic in simpler terms. Besides, the govt of the state as well as the centre have a shared responsibility to promote communal harmony further.

Although, some ground work has been done, but, there are still miles to go before we sleep. The need of the hour is the further promotion of the communal harmony in the society.

Social media and the yellow journalism of the mainland India should try to cherish the instances of communitarian love and amity in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of fomenting trouble to earn TRP’s and portrayal of the news which creates wedge in the bond of the society, the main urge should be to plead the cases of injustices and show a solidarity for the same. The problem of binary has to do away with.

Today, when the world is envisioning for the state of annihilation of crisis, the crisis in Kashmir takes a major sway with each passing day. The gory tales of widows, half-widows and orphans who have been rendered so after the loss of their dear ones has permeated the society deeply and created a multidimensional layer of unwithering pain and sorrow and a state of unabated alienation of the masses. The question is not of the otherness of the other, but, of oneself in tandem with the other. Not a single day is devoid of pain, agony, and other tragedies.

The question is the question of order. The major onus lies on the representatives of the people who represent the masses which have been rendered heart-broken and empty hoped. Let the seers of politics take on.

The answer to all the problems can be cherished in unity and peace can return to a treacherous path within the domain of the whole society. Government in J&K should understand and circumvent in toto and try to dive from the static deficit of governance to good governance. After all, time in consonance with care serves as the best cosset.

*Abid Ahmad Shah works in the Govt. Education Dept. J&K, views are personal.


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