Nip the Evil in the Bud

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In the backdrop of the recent unfortunate sectarian strife in some parts of Budgam district, a cross section of Kashmiri civil society members got together on July 28 in Srinagar to chalk out a strategy to deal with this menace and take steps that such unfortunate incidents didn’t happen in the future.

In its previous editorial, Kashmir Observer had stressed on the importance of the role of various stakeholders in Kashmir, namely the govt., civil society and political and religious leadership, including the separatists, to play their role in dousing the sectarian flames and make sure such incidents aren’t repeated in the future. Separatist leaders like Syed Ali Geelani and Yasin Malik have already appealed for calm and unity. Hurriyat leader and Budgam native, Aga Syed Hassan has played a significant role in reducing the tensions. Yasin Malik even toured some of the affected places, something that Geelani wasn’t able to do owing to his house arrest.

The initiative of the civil society is a step in the right direction, but it cannot be the be all and end all to address this situation. It is in place to mention that in December, 2012, a similar exercise was undertaken by the leaders of the two sects and representatives of various socio-political and religious organisations, who got together and appealed for calm, in the aftermath of some scuffles between the youth of the two sects in some parts of Srinagar city. Meetings were held by the members of the Shia-Sunni coordination committee to bring the situation under control. The results were there for all to see – an instant full stop to even the non-violent demos against each other.

It goes without saying that Kashmir has a very long history of peaceful co-existence between people of various faiths and sects. This unity and brotherhood was maintained even during the peak years of militancy when the situation was highly volatile and the vested interests who wanted to ignite the flames of hatred between various communities were more proactive than ever. Despite the active presence of a multiple number of agencies and their machinations in the valley, the fact that communal and sectarian harmony in Kashmir has been maintained at all costs is worth appreciating and a reminder of the commitment of the Kashmiris to the cause of communal and sectarian unity. Even when desperate attempts were made by vested interests to create communal and sectarian fault lines, Kashmiris made sure these nefarious designs didn’t succeed.

What happened in some parts of Budgam district recently was unfortunate. Thankfully, for now, the situation has been salvaged. The need of the hour is to remain vigilant and keep our ears to the ground, to listen to the minutest sectarian discard and not allow it to spiral into something ugly. The monster should never be allowed to raise its ugly head. It is imperative upon all members of the civil society to help create an environment of peace and tranquillity. People from both the sects need to interact more often, both formally and informally to create an atmosphere where there are no misgivings and no fissures between them. As an immediate step to rebuild confidence, prominent members of both the communities should conduct a joint peace march through the affected areas. The people who have suffered materially or otherwise should be helped financially to the extent possible.

We need to live amicably and peacefully despite our differences which are purely academic in nature. The sign of a mature society is how gracefully it accepts and absorbs the differences within its different members and still manages to chalk out a progressive roadmap and course of action for itself. It is an inclusive society which accommodates diverse opinions without resorting to violence and coercion.

Given the current geo-political situation in the world, especially the emotionally surcharged situation in some parts of the Muslim world, it is easy to fall prey to sectarian insinuations. Be it Syria, Iraq or Pakistan, the disaster and mayhem that sectarian violence can cause is for all of us to see. We do not want these flames to engulf us and destroy the entire fabric of Kashmiri society which is based on mutual co-existence and inclusiveness. Beyond the threshold line, the sectarian monster has a life of its own. We, as a mature and tolerant society, should not allow the situation to drift that far. We need to redeem Kashmir, not only for us but for our future generations as well.

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