This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Rana Ashish Singh. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The Few Christians Of Kashmir

More from Rana Ashish Singh

Co-authored by Dr. Wakar Amin:

With India ranked as the fourth-worst country for religious intolerance out of 198 nations in April 2017 by Pew Research Center analysis, it is high time that the claims of “unity of diversity” are cross-checked in every nook and corner. The state of Kashmir has been affected by geographical and political conflict between India and Pakistan for decades. The state has also seen a forced displacement of one community by another.

The census of 2011 shows that the state has a population of 1.25 crore comprising of 6,640,662 males and 5,900,640 females. The state of Jammu and Kashmir comprises of three geographical divisions viz, Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Different languages are spoken in the state and people follow different religions. The Jammu region has a Hindu majority population, while Kashmir has a Muslim majority and Ladakh has a majority of Buddhists. The Kashmir valley lies within the Pir Panjal and the western end of the Great Himalayan ranges as a deep asymmetrical basin surrounded by mountains. The valley has a multi-lingual and multi-racial population. People conform to different traditions in dress, manner and customs.

From the dawn of history, the Kashmir valley has been a religious centre. Major religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity flourished in the valley, living in harmony. The beautiful valley of Kashmir was the epitome of peace, intellectual advancement and religious diversity and coexistence. The notion of “Kashmiriyat” emerged out of socio-cultural and historical ties that bind all Kashmiris regardless of religion, into an independent social collective.

With the rise of militant extremism in Kashmir valley in the early nineties, the age-old traditions of tolerance, harmony and peace witnessed a major jolt. It not only affected the economy of the state but tremendously affected the socio-cultural fabric of the Kashmiri society by creating a divide among the various religious communities. However, in the Muslim majority valley of Kashmir, Sikhs and Christians decided to settle, as opposed to what the Kashmiri Pandits did (or were forced to do) i.e. migration during the ’90s. The religious minorities living in the conflict-hit regions have developed a sense of alienation and insecurity. By virtue of being neutral to the conflict as far as their involvement in the armed conflict is concerned, they are always at the receiving end.

The problems of modern-day Kashmir go decades back. Some, however, trace them to the time of Indian independence from British Raj. A report by Minority Rights Group says, “The main problem and the starting point for all the troubles in the territory has been the real and perceived grievances of the Muslim population. From the time of independence, Kashmir has remained a poor region of India, despite being well endowed by way of natural resources and picturesque scenery which provides a natural attraction for tourists. This lack of economic development has fuelled resentment against the Indian state and has led to a hardening of view within the Muslim majority population that they were being discriminated against. Specific grievances include the fact that Urdu has not been made a nationally recognized language of India, that investment in education is among the lowest for the whole country, and that industrial investment has been virtually non-existent. The prime source of possible revenues-tourism-has become a casualty of the persistent terrorist activities and the military presence in the state.”

A News18 report states, “According to unofficial records, the population of Jammu and Kashmir has 67% Muslims, 29.6% Hindus and 0.2% Christians, but the Kashmir Valley region is 97% Muslim. There are just 650 native Christians living in Kashmir valley. They are almost invisible and the least talked about community. They want to stay away from trouble and maintain a very low profile. They don’t even want to talk to the media on condition of anonymity.” 

The Christian community in the valley remains under threat mainly due to the very fact that their minority status in this context did not necessarily mean small numbers but a feeling of being threatened.  The threats given by religious leaders of the majority community to the Christians warn them not to indulge in any conversion practice. Often accused of conversions among the majority population, the Christian community’s issues remain unattended mainly due to two reasons. The first reason could be the urge to remain a silent population so that the majority community does not feel their presence and hence, avoid being targeted. The second reason can be the non-serious attitude of government towards the socio-economic development of religious communities living in the Kashmir valley.

With no voice coming from the community, the government has allowed them to face issues of identity, security and equity resulting in a state of fear and uncertainty. In the absence of a safe environment and squeezed space for socio-political dialogue between the communities, the minorities, especially the Christians have ceased to be part of any socio-political discourse. With more and more emphasis on continuation and establishment of schools, the Christian community organisations try to be non-controversial in a situation and environment which is highly influenced by the Islamic ideology.

Chris Chapman writes, “Conflicts affect minorities in different ways; armed groups drawn from a minority community and pushing a minority agenda may be a principal party to a conflict; or minorities may be targeted because they are located in a strategic area; if attempts to co-opt them fail, the state may try to drive them out or eliminate them. Lack of security for minorities in transition or post-transition societies impacts negatively on respect for their rights.”

The situation has become more dangerous after 9/11. The impact of radicalisation on the ongoing militancy in the valley has serious ramifications particularly on the security of the Christian community. In this context, blaming the government for the condition of minorities living in valley won’t be a fair judgement as governments working in the conflict zones often find it hard or at many times impossible to protect, develop and please minorities. The community has been feeling neglected by the government, as they believe that the state has no policy to address their issues

Clearly, the history of Christians and other religious/ethnic minorities’ presence in Jammu and Kashmir has not received sufficient scholarly attention; and the ongoing conflict in the region (as well as the conflict between different communities in India) somehow seem to be contributing to creating further challenges for the hope of harmony in Kashmiri society. Therefore, today the need is not just to inquire about such issues deeply but also to find ways to respond to them with utmost caution.


Ashish Kumar Singh is a Doctoral Candidate at the Political Science department of Higher School of Economics, Moscow. Prior to that, he has studied in Oslo, Mumbai and New Delhi. He can be contacted at ashish.tiss@gmail.com;

Dr. Wakar Amin is Assistant Professor at the Department of Social Work, Kashmir University, Srinagar. Email- Wakaramin78@gmail.com

Image for representation. Source: Burhaan Kinu/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Rana Ashish Singh

Similar Posts

By Sajad Rasool

By vishal

By Shoba Prakash

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Read more about his campaign.

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.

Read more about her campaign. 

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.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

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.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

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.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

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
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

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.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below