Is There Any Viable Solution To The Crisis In Kashmir?

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Mughal Emperor Jahangir in the 17th century famously said, Gar firdaus bar-rue zaminast, hamiasto, haminasto,haminasto ( If there is heaven on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here!)”.  He was referring to Kashmir.

Sadly, this heaven is in a state of turmoil and disfigurement. India proudly calls Kashmir its domain, but do we Indians consider Kashmiris as our brethren?

Turning the pages of history, in 1947, both nations, India and Pakistan tussled over Kashmir’s status; but the state actually had no intention to part either way.  The then ruler of Kashmir, Raja Hari Singh, a Hindu by birth and governing a state with three-fourths of the citizens as Muslims decided to remain neutral. But, in October 1947, tribesmen knocked on the doors of Kashmir; they were motivated by Jihad and intended to create a riot-like situation in the state. 

The King was forced to flee and he ended up signing the Instrument of Accession which made Kashmir a part of India. Both nations have been at loggerheads since then. Be it in 1947, 1965, 1971 or 1999, each time both countries have witnessed several ceasefire violations and insurgency.

Kashmir has a separate constituency and houses a mixture of political parties, radical groups, and extremists who are not on the same page regarding the future of Kashmir. In 1984, the state saw an increase in terrorist violence, and then in 1986 a move by a radically dominated group against the construction of a mosque in place of a Hindu shrine worsened the situation. Clashes broke out in the name of religion and Gul Shah stated the infamous line of “Islam khatrey mein hai(Islam is in danger)”.

Kashmiri Pandits were targeted and killed, raped, looted, abused, kidnapped and forced to evacuate their birthplace. They decided to move to safety and return back when the situation improved, but there was an imbalance throughout. This had a major impact on their property, fortune, and education. They faced institutional discrimination in their own state and were provided refuge in Srinagar but many migrated to other states of India for a safer life.

Terrorism is the biggest threat to humanity. Not only India but the world has suffered from this mayhem since the beginning of time and I believe it is right to say that it is incurable in this century. Be it 9/11 in America, 26/11 in India or Paris attack in 2017, hundreds of lives were lost and the world mourned.

Though India is a secular nation which treats every religion equally, even then there is cultural disharmony in the nation. Jammu and Kashmir has always been a disturbed region, and it is often alleged that creating a state of chaos in the valley is in the interest of Pakistan.

For the proponents of violence in Kashmir, it is impossible to carve out the valley from outside, so they resort to creating a state of ruckus withing and the innocent youth are caught in between.  The government has been trying its best to safeguard the youth by means of reservation in education and employment. People from Kashmir travel all around India for education, trade, business and serve the nation;  many have been successful in their quest for a peaceful life and have permanently moved out of the valley to settle in other parts of the country. 

Kashmiris are viewed with suspicion and harassed; often, they are asked to produce their identities at police stations, which sometimes involves hours of waiting.

There have been instances where shops and stores of Kashmiris have been vandalized, looted and even boycotted. Worst, they are even thrashed and manhandled. Authorities have raised concerns and have urged people to stop selectively targeting the people of Kashmir. There are many examples and incidents from the past where students and residents of Kashmir from each and every corner of India were assaulted, and the perpetrators justified their acts by saying that they are avenging the atrocities suffered by Indian soldiers and horrendous acts orchestrated by terrorist groups in the valley.

Students from the valley live in a state of constant fear, clearly, a sense of animosity has evolved in the country. People infiltrating from the other side of the border having the same dialect, religion and attributes are hard to distinguish. Our military has not been effective in curbing the in-and-out movement of such guerrilla warmongers.

Every individual is seen as a militant and the doctrine of raids and trials is draconian. The severity of the issue is such that daily life has been sabotaged. Reports suggest that more than 10,000 people have been apprehended and none returned. 38 graveyards have been discovered with more than 1,000 unidentified bodies. A tourist hotspot, Dal Lake is claimed to be a dumping ground for such heinous genocide.

People are afraid to leave their home after sunset as their identity is questioned and their psyche is wounded. Last year (2018), the fracas between police and pelters led to uninterrupted closure of schools, colleges, and bazaars for seven months.

Tourism, which has been the crown jewel of the valley’s economy has been worst hit. Kashmir is gifted with scenic beauty, natural waterfall, apple valleys, deep gorges, wonderful panorama, snow-clad mountains, fascinating gardens, enchanting lakes and much more. But hardly any visitors come to the valley anymore which has badly affected the state’s economy and has made life difficult financially.

Making Kashmir a part of India seems like a distant dream. Any attempt made by the centre to create peace in the valley is thwarted by the military crisis which leads to civil imbalance.

Bringing peace to Kashmir is easier said than done. I believe that settling the issue will require a very strong and bold political will. The question is, will the bitter relation between Delhi and Islamabad lead to a common path? Both nations have tried to engage in dialogues but in vain. 

People calling for a full-scale war have not considered the aftermath and repercussions of war on both nations, economically, socially, ecologically and in terms of the lives of numerous soldiers and civilians.

Giving a sovereign status is very difficult as the land is locked. Having a strategic advantage over borders, control over water resources and trade, will be quite a task for the state if it were to become an independent entity. The only quick fix is peace and engaging in dialogue with the people of Kashmir in order to know, what they really want.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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