Skip to main content

A Gujarati initiative to break stereotypes of Kashmiris created by mainstream politics

By Sandeep Pandey*
Sanjay Tula and his wife Tula Sanjay are products of Jayaprakash Narayan’s total revolution movement in the 1970s. They live in Mehsana, Gujarat, and run a small organization called Vishwagram which hosts less than 20 children picked up from railway platforms. 
However, Sanjay is leading a silent peace initiative in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) which may never produce any macro level impact, but is the healing touch required where government has totally mishandled the situation and alienated the people.
Supported by organization Srishti and National Innovation Foundation, initiatives of Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad Professor Anil Gupta, Sanjay first led a team of 25, mainly school teachers from Gujarat to Anantnag district for a three weeks stay in 2017. They visited 25 government schools during this period and interacted with teachers, students and villagers.
In the subsequent years such groups of 50, also mainly teachers, visited Baramulla and Doda districts. In all these ordinary citizens of Gujarat have mingled with people from about hundred villages and visited about 150 schools in their three visits so far, which they plan to make an annual event now.
Teams of ten people visit a school and carry out activities like origami, puppetry, music, painting, story-telling, games, card making, robotics, doing science and mathematics in interesting manner, etc. Sanjay insists it’ll not just be events, he intends to make it into a process.
The Kashmiris were impressed with this group of people who would come with all the material that they would need for their activities including their food. The Gujarati group cooked their own food so as not to become a burden on local people.
Return visits of three groups from J&K has also taken place in which school teachers in groups of 22, twice and third time a group of 16 education department officials visited Gujarat and were taken to schools where some innovation was being tried out. Kashmiris were impressed with education in local language in Gujarat, something that they miss in J&K where English has become the medium of education.
The entire effort is driven by spirit of volunteerism. Groups from Gujarat and J&K both travel to each other’s state on their own personal expenses. Once the group from J&K arrives in Gujarat then their hospitality is completely taken care of by Gujarati friends. Kashmiris stay and eat at homes of supporters of this initiative in Gujarat.
The teachers or education department officials from J&K have to take the permission of their government for organizing the workshops conducted by Gujarat group in their schools or for visiting Gujarat but Gujarat teachers come to J&K during their vacation on a personal visit. Now Sanjay has a hard time to choose from among the people who are enthusiastic about coming to Kashmir.
The Gujarat group has now decided to create libraries in 35 of the schools that they have visited in J&K, of which they would also build the infrastructure at two places by using appropriate building technology from Gujarat. People from Gujarat will actually go to build these two libraries in J&K.
Hundred meritorious and needy students of J&K are now receiving Rs. 6,000 annual scholarship, courtesy friends from Gujarat and seven young students from Kashmir, are studying in engineering and pharmacy undergraduate programmes at privates institutions like Ganpat University, Kherva, SK Patel University, Visnagar and SR Patel Engineering College in Unjha.
Their expenses are being entirely borne by the host institutions. Sanjay says that if more young people from Kashmir are willing to come to Gujarat then there are more institutions willing to host them.
Sanjay has also organized programmes of folk singer from Kashmir Gulzar Ahmed Ganai and his group in Gujarat and addressed 40-50 meetings where he and his friends have shared their experiences of visiting and working in J&K, which have received very positive response. One such sharing also took place at the annual two day Sadbhavna Parv or festival at Morari Bapu’s ashram in Mahua, Bhavnagar last year.
They are breaking the stereotypes of Kashmiris created by mainstream politics and media and also helping Kashmiris realise that people exist in India outside Kashmir who would like to build a relationship with them at a human level irrespective of the dominant politics.
That people from Gujarat have taken this initiative is even more reassuring. Gujarat has been described by now deceased former president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad Ashok Singhal as laboratory of communalism. If Sanjay’s efforts succeed then it could also become the laboratory for communal harmony.
Sanjay believes that destructive activities can be replaced by creative activities and creativity will lead to cooperation. He has firm faith in Gandhian ideology and repeats what Vinoba Bhave said during his Kashmir visit repeatedly, "I don’t want to know your religion, neither do I want to know your thoughts, I just want to understand your pain and see if I can do anything to remove it."
The amount of interest his initiative has generated in Gujarat as well as J&K shows that common people would like to live in peace and communal harmony only if the politics would allow them to do so. The more people understand this the better it’ll be for our societies. Sanjay has the patience for a long haul.
He believes that just like people have sowed seeds of hatred and violence, his team would have to work to replace those thoughts with love and peace. Fortunately darkness is only absence of light. There is no source which emits darkness, whereas sources of light are well known. Darkness is unreal, light is real. One only hopes light will overtake darkness sooner than later.
---
*Magsaysay award winning social activist, academic

Comments

Pankti Jog said…
Wow... much needed initiative....

TRENDING

ISKCON UK 'clarifies' after virus infects devotees, 5 die due to big temple meet

By Rajiv Shah
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), United Kingdom (UK), has admitted that at least 21 of its devotees were infected because of the spread of the coronavirus amongst the UK devotee community following the March 12 funeral and March 15 memorial of the Bhaktivedanta Manor temple president, in which about 1,000 people participated. Regretting that five of the devotees have passed away, the top Hindu religious in Britain body does not deny more may have been infected.

As corona virus 'travels' to rural areas, NGO begins training tribals, marginalised women

By Souparno Chatterjee*
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared corona virus a pandemic. Originating from Wuhan in China, it has traversed the entire globe, almost, and claimed more than 16,000 lives already. That’s largely the urban population. In India, despite all the preparedness and war-like promptness to safeguard against the pandemic, several lives have been lost , and hundreds of individuals have tested positive.

Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope 'martyred' by East India Company, Scindia's forefathers

By Our Representative
In an email alert to Counterview, well-known political scientist Shamsul Islam has said that was “shameful for any political party in democratic India to keep children of Sindhias in their flock” given their role during the First War of Indian Independence (1857). In a direct commentary on Madhya Pradesh Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia moving over to BJP, Prof Islam has quote from a British gazetteer to prove his point.

COVID-19: Dalit rights bodies regret, no relief plan yet for SCs, STs, marginalized

By Our Representative
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the National Dalit Watch-National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, endorsed* by several other Dalit rights organizations, have insisted, the Government of India should particular care of the scheduled castes and tribes, trans folks, persons with disabilities and the women and children from these communities, while fighting against COVID-19 pandemic.

Mallika Sarabhai releases speech she was 'not allowed' to give at NID Convocation on Feb 7

Counterview Desk
The National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, a Ministry of Commerce and Industry body, landed itself in controversy following its decision to put off its 40th convocation ceremony, where noted danseuse Mallika Sarabhai was invited as chief guest. The ceremony was scheduled to be held on February 7.

Coronavirus scare ‘pushing’ people from Northeast India into more hardship

By Rishiraj Sinha, Biswanath Sinha*
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
***

Gujarat govt plan to 'banish' Gandhian activist anti-democratic, unconstitutional

By Rohit Prajapati*
The current Central and Gujarat governments, and their bureaucracy, have been and are still unable to answer and address the concerns raised, with facts, figures, and constitutional provisions, regarding the terror of tourism in the name of the Statue of Unity and tourism projects surrounding it.

Idea of fair, tall, customized baby "rooted" in Nazi Germany, RSS' Golwalkar wanted crossbreeding with Brahmins

By Our Representative
Facts have come to light suggesting that the RSS’ experiment to have “fair”, “tall” and “customized” baby has an interesting Gujarat connection: It was first reportedly floated by its topmost ideologue Guru Golwalkar way back in 1960 while giving a lecture in Gujarat University.

Gujarat construction workers walk home as Rs 2,900 crore welfare fund lies unused

By Our Representative
Situated behind the Gujarat University, some of the families of the migrant construction workers from Dahod and Panchmahals districts of Gujarat, and a few from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, who had stayed put in make-shift shanties in Ahmedabad’s sprawling GMDC Ground, have begun a long journey, by foot, back to their home villages in the eastern tribal belt of Gujarat.