Explained: Why A Reconciliation With Kashmir’s People Is The Only Way Forward

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The issue of Kashmir is being discussed nationally and internationally since the time of India’s independence for various reasons depending on the persons, political timing, discussion on religious minorities and terrorism related violence in any part of India. Any discussion on Kashmir splits the public opinion vertically across India and the scrapping of Article 370 is no exception. Interestingly, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the late Prime Minister, a fellow Kashmiri continues to be blamed for all the wrong things happening today in the state particularly, by those who have scant realisation of historical developments of that state.

Two months before Independence, on a visit to Kashmir between June 18 and 23, 1947, Lord Mountbatten told Maharaja Hari Singh “that if Kashmir joined Pakistan, this would not be regarded as unfriendly by the Government of India.” The Viceroy added that “he had a firm assurance on this from Sardar Patel himself,” wrote VP Menon, the former political adviser to Mountbatten, who had played a key role in drafting the Indian Independence Bill. (Menon: Integration of the Indian States, 1956, p. 395)

In March 1948, while addressing the constituent assembly, Jawaharlal Nehru said, “Our cross border opponents are saying this is a dispute between Hindus and Muslims. We have gone there to help the Hindu and Sikh minorities. The Muslim majority of Kashmir is not with us! What could be a bigger white lie than this? We would not have gone there even at the instance of the ruler of Kashmir, if the invitation was without the consent of the representatives of the local people. I want to inform this house that our armies have shown exemplary courage there. Yet, our armies would not have attained this success, if the local people had not extended their cooperation.”

The world community has termed it as a bilateral dispute between India and Pakistan, yet the Indian Foreign Minister recently stated that the bilateral talks would start only when Pakistan completely dismantles the infrastructure used to lunch act of terrorism in Indian soil. The Defense Minister of India underlined that henceforth, talks would be on Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).

Much domestic hue and cry took place over the appropriation of Rahul Gandhi’s tweet by Pakistan. There was a complete black out in the media on how Pakistan also used to its advantage the tweet made by the Chief Minister of Haryana. Sensing the political escalation, Rahul Gandhi clarified his and his party’s position with an affirmation that Kashmir was always India’s internal matter. The root of dispute actually lies in the partition between India and Pakistan.

There is a motive and a strategy prevailing among the ruling dispension in Delhi in the ongoing situation in Kashmir. The motive is to erase the foot print of its wrong doing in the learning memory of the new generation. The strategy is to target and blame those who refers to the documented memory and believe in constitution and institutions that upholds it. It is worth recalling that Hindu Mahasabha, a definite ideological mentor of the ruling party in the Center and Muslim League had fought the elections jointly against Congress in 1939.

The polls were conducted by the British colonial government. Hindu Mahasabha and Muslim League together formed the government in Sindh and Bengal. The resolution moved by the Muslim League in the Sindh assembly for the formation of Pakistan was supported by Hindu Mahasabha and it was later passed. The British colonial government, acting on the resolution, then formed Pakistan, which was also supported by the late Vir Savarkar, the political ideologue of the ruling party.

Late Savarkar, during the freedom struggle had sought pardon from the British more than nine times. Savarkar was in total agreement with the saying of Guru Golwalkar, the founder of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) that Hindus should not fight the British Empire and let Muslims fight them. RSS always accepted and termed the Manu Smriti, a document that categorises the Hindus in the line of caste, superior to the constitution. Manu Smriti justifies racial divisions with the right of the superiors caste to rule over the inferior caste.

A scene from Srinagar. Civilian life has been dotted with the presence of armed forces for decades in the valley, serving as a pressing reminder that the state is under constant siege. (Photo: Kashmir Global/Flickr)

The founders and the followers of RSS have been an admirer of both Hitler and Mussolini and hail them as great men. The present governance model in India that constantly undermines the supremacy of constitution is a part of the strategy followed by Hitler long back. Those who regard certain people as born great on the basis of Manu Smriti are against the Indian constitution, and therefore always attempt to show the constitution in poor light, while incessantly attacking all such institutions that seek to fortify the rule of law.

The RSS offered a template of orthodox/priestly form of fascism based on Manu Smriti, which survives on spreading falsehood, rumors and instills fear in society, so that they continue to cling on to power by nurturing a culture of silence and non-culpability of their crimes. Before Independence, the orthodox/priestly fascism allied with the British colonial government to suppress the freedom of the Indians and now aligning with neo-liberal economic policy to exploit the same Indians and establish fascism through promotion of neo-liberalism.

The current economic slowdown has given this alliance of religious and economic fascists an opportunity to plunder the natural resources more vigorously across India and Kashmir and Article 370 is just an excuse to deflect any kind of organised resistance.

The colonial powers came to India to access the resource and was over the period supported by like-minded individuals, social groups, and political networks to remain as ruler over its people. For the western neo-liberal economic powers, India is a market and their pre-independence supporters advanced this thought in post-independent India. Exploitation can only take place if you divide those who own it.

Suppression of free speech and manipulation of information is a key tool to divide Indians on caste and religious line. Restricting the natural owners of the resources to access it and manipulating the entire ecosystem to be seen as their saviour is the key strategy of the present model of governance. New sets of state agents are created to represent the curfew bound people’s voice in the media. History has seen many officers, and title holders like Sir, Choudhury and Roy Choudhuries during the British era for their loyalties to Her Master.

Making common Kashmiris suffer is the new norm of the rule of law and development post the abolition of Article 370. Any opposition of this act is projected in the media across the rest of the country as an anti-national act. Engagement with citizens for democratic governance is replaced by sadistic pleasure derived out of suffering of the imaginary enemy who happen to be the citizens of the country.

Traditionally, the Kashmiri  Muslims had their affinity with Sufism and spiritualism of Central Asia unlike the other Muslims of South Asia who identify their faith with Hazrat Ajmer Sharif. The state is deliberately pursuing policy to ensure that the Kashmiris nurse a captive mentality devoid of any sense of freedom. The state has ensured that the world recognizes there exists two sets of meaning of right to life and freedom, one, for Kashmiris and the other for the rest of Indians and both are pitted against the other.

The representatives of the United Nations Human Rights Council have registered protest with the Indian government over the curfew in Kashmir. I believe that the curfew should be immediately withdrawn and efforts made towards curbing organised violence and atrocities by non-government elements and torture by state actors. For offering psychological support to the Kashmiri people, including Kashmiri Pandits in the context of atrocities, platforms offering empathy, active listening, resilience and active support based on hope, honour and human dignity should be instituted across the country.

It must be acknowledged that the Kashmir issue cannot be resolved without uprooting Hindutva fascism from India and Islamic fascism and terrorism from Pakistan. A campaign needs to be launched to address the challenges emerging out of these thoughts. At the same time an initiative must start for reconciliation among people who are impacted due to atrocities and violence during formation of India and Pakistan.

Note: this article was previously published in Hindi here. Translated by Ashish Awasthi and edited by Dr Mohanlal Panda. 

Featured image source: Biploy Bhuyan for Hindustan Times via Getty Images.
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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.

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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.”

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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