Grief, emotions and anger ran high when people from different walks of life went into a huddle at the historic Indian Institute of Advanced Studies to ponder over how common people bear the brunt of conflict in Kashmir. Kashmiris sought a solution to end their sufferings.
“People outside Kashmir look at Kashmiris with a prism of suspicion. It becomes necessary for us to find a way out to end the sufferings of ordinary Kashmiris,” opined Iftikhar Gilani, a journalist who was arrested in 2002 under the Official Secrecy Act. He was released from the jail a year later, when investigation could not find anything against him.
“It is for the government to show its will and find a solution to the social stigma that Kashmiris face,” said Gilani, who was one of the main speakers at the seminar on “Ordinary lives in a conflict zone: Voices of Kashmir”.
“I had done nothing wrong. Just a piece of information that I had downloaded on my computer landed me up in jail,” he said while accentuating on the need to empower Kashmiri voices.
“Only strong intelligence gathering can put an end to humiliation of common Kashmiris,” he said.
To prove his point, he quoted an example where security agencies were keen to detain many Kashmiri students in Bangalore on “suspicion”, but the then chief minister, Veerappa Moily, refused asking them to provide specific inputs on students. “Having covered Kashmir conflict as a journalist for over 20 years, I am witness to tapestry of events which is now in the hindsight.
“The Government of India, state government or militants, whosoever had its day, they made people realise that they have to bend and bow,” he said concluding the lecture.
“My community is going through a bad situation. Kashmiri pandits are dying unsung. Who will answer my questions? Why this dichotomy,” asked 47-year-old Sanjay Dhar, who is fighting for Kashmiri pandits.
“One cannot change the mindset of Muslims in Kashmir. There is need to bring about a change in their thinking. Nobody wants to go to the root of the problem. The central government should protect our community,” said Dhar, whose family had to migrate from Kashmir owing to militancy.
“I get infuriated when I think about militancy, but at the same time there is a need to find solution. Children of two communities - Muslims and Kashmiri pandits - have lost contact with each other.
Kashmiri pandits have no Muslim friends and Muslims have no Kashmiri pandit friends,” he said.
Not only Muslims and Kashmiri pundits, but non-Kashmiri families have also suffered due to militancy. “My brother-in-law was killed when militants opened fire at Lal Chowk in 2005. Many of my university colleagues lost their husbands,” said Jasbir Singh, 48-year-old professor of economics in Jammu University.
“I don't know what recommendations will come out after three days of deliberations, but at least we are here to share our feelings,” said Jasbir, whose family migrated to Srinagar from Rawalkot in Pakistan after Hindu-Muslim riots broke out in 1947.
Inaugurating the seminar, institute director Prof Peter Ronald DeSouza underscored the unique character of the seminar, which moves away from the theoretical deliberations on conflict and touches upon the human dimension.
“This is a seminar with a difference as it helps us understand how a society like ours responds to the tragedy of Kashmir. It is time to realise that old formulations are not going to work and for healing, ordinary voices have to be articulated into public domain,” DeSouza said.