By Farooq Wani
Concerted efforts are being made by J&K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha to further enhance connectivity between the UT administration and local citizenry in an effort to restore the peaceful and harmonious environment of the past, as well as revive Kashmir’s rich and varied traditions and customs. Towards this, he has over the past week-and-a-half, taken a number of diverse initiatives to promote goodwill, brotherhood and enhance community engagement.
Long plagued by feelings of fear and uncertainty, locals in Kashmir Valley, in general, and Srinagar, in particular, are today heaving a sigh of relief as J&K is gradually shedding its image of being a troubled hotspot in the form of a centre for anti-government and terrorist related activity.
Three days ago, Sinha created history of sorts by becoming the first government head of the UT of J&K to visit downtown Srinagar in the past 75 years. Primarily aimed at giving an infrastructural fillip to sports activities and sportspersons, the underlying message of J&K’s UT administration of weaning the youth away from social evils like drug addiction and associating with militants, is crystal clear.
Thursday also saw a bygone era being revived from “Zero Bridge” through the launch of a “Boat and Shikara” festival on river/lake waters between Srinagar to Ganderbal. Couples and children of all age groups were seen cruising with pure joy and excitement across the waters as their predecessors once did 33 years ago, when the macabre shadow of terrorism and had not taken root in Kashmir.
The revival of the inland transport system, which was once deeply connected to Kashmiri culture, trade and travel. Similarly, the reverence with which the ‘Urs’ of revered Sufi Saint Syed Qamar-ud-Din Bukhari was observed, was in fact a step towards restoring Kashmir’s age-old Sufi culture and pluralistic ethos which had eroded substantially due to emergence of terrorism ever since 1989.
The UT administration’s effort to push terrorism and violence into oblivion has been widely welcomed by the violence-weary Kashmiris. The palpable joy with which locals are paying obeisance to Sufi saints who had devoted their entire lives for social upliftment, as well as turning up in large numbers for offering homage at religious shrines erected in their memory, is an encouraging trend.
Locally, an intrinsic culture of co-existence is being promoted again in downtown Srinagar, across the river Jhelum, below the Shankaracharya Hills and within shouting distance of the world-famous Dal Lake. On a larger canvas, the situational change in J&K signifies hope, not only for the people of Kashmir, but also India.
The problems bedevilling Kashmir can be better understood by going back in time and bracketing the happenings here into three phases- pre-1989, post-1989 and post-August 2019. The first phase was a time when peace, communal harmony and cultural renaissance dominated the regional landscape.
The second phase ushered in horror upon horror brought on by the indirect hand of Pakistan and was marked by unmitigated and bloody violence that tore apart feelings of brotherhood. Peace receded and people were so frightened that they avoided leaving their homes. Almost everyone was left terrorised by the dreaded midnight knock, demands for food and shelter at gunpoint, etc.
Residents were in a tight spot as they could neither refuse the lavish demands made by terrorists, nor muster the courage to expose these anti-socials. It was simply a time when survival was the sole aim in an absolutely anarchic environment.
This was also the phase in which minorities, especially the indigenous Pandit community, was specifically targeted and thus forced to flee Kashmir. Between 1989 and 2019, Kashmir was in a battered and bruised state with a rampant feeling of despair and despondency all around.
The tide turned in mid-2019, with the abrogation of Article 370, a temporary constitutional provision that had been foisted on the people of J&K for 60 plus years. Initially, there was anger among locals as entities with vested interests were busy spreading misinformation on this issue.
However, as they say, time is a great healer and in the case of J&K, this has indeed proved to be true. Kashmir has now realised that by abrogating Article 370 and bifurcating J&K into two UTs, positive changes have taken place not only from a political perspective, but also in terms of socio-economic well-being and greater access to government schemes and laws.
What has finally emerged is that rather than benefiting the people of J&K as being touted by unscrupulous elements, Article 370 had instead been suppressing their fundamental rights on issues relating to gender equality, development and economic prosperity for almost 70 years.
Lt Governor Sinha and his team is rendering yeoman service to the people of Kashmir by their untiring and sustained efforts, to not only usher peace in J&K but also revive the UT’s rich traditions and human values, and for this, they deserve due appreciation.
The author is Editor of Brighter Kashmir, Author, TV commentator, political analyst and columnist. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
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