Inclusive, Harmonious and Progressive
The remarkable changes in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 are widely discussed by the Kashmiris. People are surprised by the swift pace of change, and they are also happy. The truth is that Kashmiris had become weary of conflict.
We had to live with the pain of watching our youth picking up the gun against the state or joining terror forces in other ways and getting killed in counter-terror action. Those years were highly traumatic. Kashmiris are so relieved that those distressful years are a thing of the past.
Now, Kashmir is rejoicing in new-found peace and prosperity. Tourism is breaking all records, and all sectors are flourishing. Along with progress and development, we are now also observing that our society is regaining its old strengths of tolerance and inclusivity.
It is joyful to watch that people of all communities now celebrate their festivals with fervour. Earlier, the fear of terror was so high that our Pandit brothers could not celebrate their festivals as joyfully as they wanted to. Now, things have changed for the better.
Mr Rohit Raina, who is one of the eminent members of the Pandit community of Baramulla, often discusses with me the happy changes that he has observed over the last two years. When our Pandit brothers took out shobha yatras for their different festivals, there were stalls put up by members of the Muslim community to welcome them along the way.
For years, Kashmiri Muslim children had not seen these festivities. Now everybody feels joyful to watch the happy and harmonious flow of different cultures. In December, children of all communities were delighted to join the Christmas celebrations at the church here. Many Muslim children had not seen Santa Claus. They were surprised and delighted to meet Santa Claus and get toffees and other gifts from him.
This phenomenon is so new in Baramulla that local journalists even interviewed the man who had dressed up as Santa Claus. The journalists ran news reports on their channels of the celebrations of different festivals, which is new for Kashmir.
Reviving Our Traditions Of Peaceful Coexistence
I am a resident of Old Town Baramulla. Till only a few years ago, this area was called Mini Pakistan. Our enemy nation had radicalized society so much that joining militancy or working with militant groups had been normalized. It was almost taken for granted that a young man from Old Town Baramulla would become a stone pelter and an Over Ground Worker (OGW) for terror groups.
But now Kashmiris have gone back to their old traditions of inclusivity and peaceful coexistence. Pakistan managed to disrupt the fabric of our society, but now we are rebuilding our Kashmir all over again.
Kashmiris are ambitious and aspirational people. They want to see their children gaining a good education and pursuing fulfilling careers. We have collectively realized that we shall flourish and prosper only when our society is marked by peace and harmony.
All Segments Of Society Are Happy Now
When the cinema hall opened in Baramulla last year, perhaps the children and teenagers were not as happy as the elderly people. Some videos of people enjoying the cinema experience went viral on social media.
There was one video which was hugely shared by the locals. An old gentleman was interviewed by a correspondent about the movie experience. That gentleman said that when he came to the cinema, he was reminded of the time about 35 years ago when he used to watch movies here and in Srinagar as a young man.
The old gentleman said that he and his friends and family members had missed that simple, leisurely activity for so long. He was very happy to enjoy the cinema experience again.
I am among those many youths whose minds were corrupted by the radical forces in our society. I became a very aggressive stone pelter and later I also helped those people who were associated with terror groups. But I realized the error of my ways. I realized that in the name of azadi, we were being fooled and were made to destroy our life and career.
This is the reason that I consider this period as the most beautiful and golden period that I have seen. Now our society is joyful and harmonious. We are witnessing all-round development in all sectors. We shall collectively fight the enemy forces that seek to damage our society by radicalizing our youths and giving them guns or drugs. Insha’Allah we shall be successful in all our endeavours.
(Sheikh Mudasir is the Director of Gaash Coaching Centre, a free coaching centre for poor children and orphans in Old Town Baramulla)