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By Wisdom Blog of Art of Living (Reporter)
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Let’s make Kashmir a Paradise Again

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A holistic and multi-dimensional approach is imperative to establish peace and stability in Kashmir. Real peace can prevail in Kashmir only with the participation of all the stakeholders. They have to start conversing with each other, among themselves, with a vision based on human values.

It’s with the view of facilitating such engagements that the Art of Living hosted the ‘Kashmir: Back to Paradise’ Conference in Jammu last week.

Ninety per cent of Kashmir is longing for peace. Over past few months I have been in constant touch with people from all the sections of the Kashmiri society. Everyone wants peace and relief from militancy.

Caught between hartal and curfew, people are desperate for normalcy to be restored, they want education for their children but are afraid of armed militants and their promoters. The small minority that continues to bleed the valley is kept instigated by vested interests who don’t want the resolution of Kashmir problem as the conflict has become a cash cow for them.

We need to usher in a paradigm shift from instigation to inspiration. Old strategies will no longer work. For Kashmir to move ahead on the path of progress out-of-the-box initiatives are required.

From imams to sufi saints, from intellectuals to bureaucrats, from elderly folks to youth, there is a vast population, which wants to work for peace. Though they have a great role to play in the peace-building exercise, so far they have been totally ignored and sidelined.

Keeping this in mind, we have launched the South Asian Forum for Peace to bring together sane voices from all walks of life.

The forum will provide a platform for the unheard voices to come forward and work for peace. Many far reaching constructive programs and pursuits can take shape when we have a critical mass of inspired people.

In any conflict we find that there is a serious deficit of trust. In Kashmir people don’t trust the government, the system or even social organisations. We will work towards removing this deficit and bridging the gap among various sections of society.

My vision is to create an atmosphere of trust and reconciliation in which all stakeholders can come to the table with shared values of peace, fairness, social equity, harmony and brotherhood. Rhetoric and sloganeering have ruled the roost for too long without improving the lot of the masses. We must not become prisoners of any ideology; instead we must create a new ideology that can propel everyone forward in the direction of peace.

We must understand that there is no readymade solution. It cannot be found in the streets, nor with stones and guns. The solution of the Kashmir problem has to come from the people of Kashmir only, notwithstanding their ideologies and allegiances.

De-radicalization and de-addiction trainings for the youth, along with confidence-building measures and goodwill initiatives, can go a long way in creating a sustainable agenda for peacemaking. Terrorism is against the ethos of humanity, spirit of Kashmiriyat and teachings of Sufism. Over the years, the Art of Living has been working to heal the trauma of the people and the psychological wounds that the violence has caused.

The tremendous response to the ‘Kashmir: Back to Paradise’ conference gives me the confidence that human values will prevail over politics. We received an overwhelming response from sufi leaders and youth many of whom came from remote villages, travelling for 10-12 hours, to participate in the Conference. Women and elders also participated with amazing enthusiasm. Many groups had to be turned away from the overfilled venue.

We will soon hold such a conference in the Valley itself to take the peace agenda forward.


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