Fear of violence grips the spirit of Kashmir – YET AGAIN!
By: Dr Adil Rasool Malik
The past couple of months have seen a drastic shattering of the façade of established peace and harmony in Kashmir. It was marked by killings of common civilians – a pharmacist, a principal, a school teacher and a street vendor, all unrelated but having just one thing in common – not belonging to the Majority community. Besides, there have been several other such killings, in the city as well as on its outskirts, of those belonging to the majority community. Even if the killers are largely termed as ‘unidentified gunmen’ but the ruthless pattern has announced one thing- the return of violence in Kashmir streets.
Kashmir which is and was renowned for its unity amidst diversity, honouring different ethnic groups and linguistic recognitions across every region, has always been a hub for harbouring inclusivity and the feeling of a united front in all spheres. However, the story of Kashmir is getting to a state of dismal for quite some time now.
With more than 90% residents belonging to the Muslim community, Islam is the major religion practiced in Kashmir. The Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist amidst various communities thus form the minority groups which for more than couple of decades have seen abuse, exploitation and have been occasionally ostracised in their own land not by the masses but by a select few for triggering communal disharmony. Same has happened with the majority community which too has suffered violent onslaughts- time and again- and continues to live in s state of fear.
The insurgency of 1990 had a pretext with its root laying in the formation of various Fronts with a target for recognizing Kashmir as a separate state. These groups targeted a Kashmiri Hindu for the first time on 14 September 1989, killing a prominent advocate and political leader, Tika Lal Taploo in front of several eyewitnesses. This was followed by innumerable incidents of innocent killings of civilians belonging to minority as well as majority community here- it seemed anyone was apotential target as long as the news created fear. It was on 4th January 1990 that a leading newspaper based in Srinagar, released a message threatening all Hindus to leave Kashmir immediately, sourcing it to militant organizations. This was subsequently followed with posters filling the streets of Kashmir with threatening messages to strictly follow Islamic rule or else face the wrath. Rules included abidance by the Islamic dress code, a prohibition on alcohol, cinemas, and video parlours and strict restrictions on women. The agony only got worse with Shops, factories, temples and homes of Kashmiri Hindus being burned down or destroyed at some places. While majority community was yet to decode the political developments, threatening posters were posted on doors of Hindus asking them to leave Kashmir immediately. This and such events took everyone by surprise and the fear of violence silenced all.
All this impacted the society in more ways than one, it not only gripped the minority groups in the valley with fear pertaining to the existence but the reports of kidnapping, raping and murdering women throughout those tumultuous times choked one and all and forced the mass displacement of Kashmir Hindu community out of the valley for their sheer survival. The actual number of families forced to leave their homes, businesses and land isn’t known however most of the scholars claim it to be around 1,50,000 families.
Yet again, two decades later Kashmir is seeing a similar situation raising widespread fear amongst the populations once again. The killings that occurred in the valley over the past couple of weeks just added to some of the targeted attacks on Kashmiri Pandits and Sikhs as well as Muslims that were never eradicated entirely. In March 2000, unknown attackers shot dead more than 35 Sikhs in a village in Anantnag district. And in 2003, more than 20 Kashmiri Pandits were killed at Nadimarg, a remote village in Pulwama district. Thousands and thousands of people disappeared and hundreds were killed for slightest political affiliations or so. The violence has had its say in Kashmir and it seems that the scenario is recreated after every short interval of some amity achieved after great efforts.
With every attempt being made to establish peace and harmony in the valley by the government, the ground reality is far from what meets the eye. Apart from such efforts, the real responsibility for driving away the fear and violence lies with us – the Muslim community of the valley. Being the majority population, it’s our duty to make our fellow neighbours and friends feel safe and cared for. We didn’t make much of a move due to fears in our hearts and minds however history has given us ample lessons and thus, this time around we need to stand and depict a unified front against anyone trying to disharmonize and disrupt the lives of the non-muslins in the region.
Today we have a chance to actually show that humanity extends beyond religions. It’s up to us to make a choice – to remain silent and let our friends suffer and be forced to give up everything they have or to do what’s morally right and support them. A promising step in this direction has been made by some prominent Muftis (Islamic scholars) of Srinagar – with various mosques doing public announcements during their prayers regarding extending their support to the Hindus and Sikhs in the region. The Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Mufti Nasir Ul Islam has extended his support while citing that the one crore Muslims that he represents, want people of other religions to stay here and feel safe.
The prevailing sense of deja-vu in Kashmir reminding of the horrors of 1990 has sent a chill down the spine of everyone. However, the responsibility to make our fellow brothers and sisters feel included in what is righteous theirs is a task that we all have to endow upon our self. Let’s remember the bonds we share, the love we have in our heart and make the world see Kashmir as a unified front, fighting not amongst each other, rather together towards a peaceful establishment – a place which is rightfully claimed a s the ‘Heaven on Earth.’
Author, besides being a Dentist, works on various trivial social issues especially related to youth. [email protected] & twitter @drmalikadil