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what went wrong in kashmir?a fresh outlook to solve the unrest

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”    AGAR FIRDAUS BAR ROO-E ZAMEEN AST, HAMEEN AST-O HAMEEN AST-O HAMEEN AST”

is believed to be  famous farsi poet Amir Khusru’s exclamatory remarks on the beauty of Kashmir.These lines has become a testimony to the dynamics of time for we are hearing about the ‘boiling Kashmir ‘and ‘Jihadis’ all over the place rather than the beauty of Kashmir.This article will look into the undoubtedly deteriorating  social and nationalistic outlook in the Kashmir valley through multiple prisms of politics,security and economy.This is an effort to look into the deep rooted dissents and also suggest sustainable solutions to  overcome the same 

What caused the recent unrest? Creating a perception and influence of ‘next-door boys’

   Of late,there is a deliberate attempt to portray India as an ‘occupying force’. Every attack  on the armed forces of India is aimed at creating a perception that by attacking the ‘occupier'(Indian forces),the attackers are siding with the ‘sufferers'(Kashmir’s population).The attack on army camps in Pathankot and Uri are part of this larger picture. The dissents created by decades old separatist movements had made the soil of Kashmir fertile  for such narratives.So, half of the problem is  ‘home-grown’.Let us accept the reality that populations which live alongside armed forces for decades will have their freedom and liberty curtailed to a large extent. The continuous combing operations,searches and encounters may create some level of dissent  in such societies. If we read this along with other states in India  such as Manipur where such dissents surfaced often,things will become more clearer.However ,owing to the challenges to India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity posed by insurgents and  militants who sometimes  enjoy  support of state actors(Pakistan in this case) ,armed forces cannot be removed from the valley

 The locals including schoolchildren and women coming up to support militants is not difficult to explain as any society can comfortably listen and internalize their ‘next door boys'(the radicalized youths in this case).The radicalization had been strengthened by separatist movements,spread of the idea of puritanical form of religion from Middle-East  and  opportunities to illegally access  television channels aired from countries like Saudi Arabia.The changes of political climate in India where talks such as scrapping of Article 370  and removal of special property rights under Article 35(a) entering debates might  have had  its share in increasing the insecurity among Kashmiris. The latter is understood(by Kashmiris) to be a move aimed at gradually changing the demography of Kashmir by  introducing settlers from other parts of India.Such ideas often backfire as is clear from the Srilankan example where a predominantly Sinhalese population had tried to slowly encroach Tamil dominated areas which ultimately plunged the island into a bloody civil war.

Kashmir in the eyes of rest of the Indians

Irrespective of whether the dissents in Kashmir has ulterior motives or not,the rest of India showed an apathetic attitude towards Kashmiri youth in general.They were often portrayed as ‘jihadis’ in social media platforms to the extent that many kashmiri political leaders have come forward with the complaints of overemphasis to Kashmir in  media houses across India.Reports of attack on Kashmiri students have often reported  from  universities.The report of Concerned Citizens Group ( led by Yashwant Sinha) had also reported the alienation faced by Kashmiri youth and their willingness to talk.

Kashmir:A classic case of misgovernance?

J&K’s State GDP and per capita income  are  well below the national average and if Indian states are ranked in descending order, J&K will figure at 20th or 21st position.

In a recent  report of World Bank, ‘All India Assessment of Business Reforms‘, J&K featured at 29th position  in ‘ease of doing business’;a clear reflective of the fact that whoever wants to start business will have to undergo multiples verification and security checks (necessary and unnecessary).

Fifth Annual Employment-Unemployment Survey (2015-16) from Ministry of labor and employment puts J&K at 10th position in terms of unemployment which is well ahead of all major Indian states except Kerala.

In the  Swacch Survekshan ranking of 2017 ,the first city from J&K was Leh (100) followed by Anantanag(197) out of a total list of 432 cities.The capital cities  of Jammu and Srinagar occupied rather low positions in the ranking.

The state’s lack of participatory governance  is  clear from its poor rankings in the Devolution indices of Panchayati raj ministry.

This is not an attempt to prove that misgovernance is to be  blamed for all of Kashmir’s problems for there are other states where  the governance is poorer but instances of ‘stone-pelting’ is absent.When factoring Kashmir’s peculiar problems,misgovernance seems to have  played a part along with challenging geographic location,demographic makeup etc..One glaring example of  the role of misgovernance  is the ‘little credibility’ enjoyed by mainstream Kashmiri politicians who command rather low esteem(among Kashmiri youth) as compared to the separatist leaders.

Looking forward

Healthy nationalism is often seen to thrive in societies where there is a strong presence of ‘aspiring middle class’.Creating such a class whose economic and social interests are very much in alignment with the rest of India is the way forward in diluting the alienation.The special property rights to ‘permanent residents’under Art 35(a)does not fit well in the open market economic model that India follows after 1990s. Nobody would want to go and invest in a place where he/she cannot own a flat.Therefore so called ‘special property rights’  in Kashmir is a clear hindrance to its economic development.Since there is no consensus on Art 35(a) ,what can be done for the time being is to encourage Indian businesses such as software and IT industry to recruit bright Kashmiri students to other parts of India.(say Banglore,Kochin etc.).Indian firms such as Wipro,TCS,Infosys has to play very important role here. Once this takes up at a substantial level ,the communication breakdown  between Kashmir and rest of India will come down. Imagine a group of mallus visiting the valley  with their Kashmiri colleague.They will take back ‘Zaffron’ and ‘Pashmina Shawl’ from there and hence the products from the valley will get familiarized in other parts of India.Plugging the loopholes in communication will enable rest of India to take up a more considerate position on Kashmir.

For recruiting the professionals from kashmir, emphasis shall be laid on ‘capacity building’ and making them competitive enough to perform in all India stages.Important role is to be played by army and local administration in civilian outreach, measures to improve ‘participatory governance’ etc…Those who live in the border areas are to be encouraged and incentivized to act as ‘eye and ear’ of the army.It is also time for civilian groupings in the valley to adopt a more neutral view of the ground realities other than anti-army and anti-government stance.

Finding a political solution to the Pak Occupied Kashmir (POK) problem is important though no immediate solution is in the vicinity.With China’s CPEC along POK and USA’s new South Asia Policy demanding  more action from Pakistan  against terror outfits which targets India,infiltration bids from across the borders are expected  to come down.If that is the case, there is a chance for both India and Pakistan to convert ‘Line Of Control (LOC) into a ‘soft border’.This will fetch better prospects for traders and businessmen from both sides.Trade and business has successfully avoided many a conflict between nations in the post World war era.Robust and all weather connectivity (road ,rail and air) is to be established between the different regions of J&K and to the rest of India.Better connectivity always ensure unification.

At an ideological level ,it shall be the values of democracy that should be spread.Assertions are to be made to ensure that there is always a place for dissents in democracy.Govt can seek the help of clergymen to check radicalization and  spread the message that religion is a personal affair and cannot be a tool for political mobilization in a secular country like India.But for militants  who want  to spread violence deliberately ,heavy handedness of the state will have to give reply.

 

 

 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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