Since tension has gripped the Kashmir Valley after the Indian parliament scrapped the special status of Kashmir on 5 August and bifurcated the state into two federal administrative territories, many are concerned about what will happen once the more than a month-long curfew is fully revoked.
According to Dr S.P. Varma, president of Jammu and Kashmir’s Gandhi Global Family, an NGO affiliated with the UN Department of Global Communication, living in peace and harmony is an integral part of Kashmiri life. Mahatma Gandhi learned this when India was partitioned in 1947 and communal riots broke out.
Days after returning from the 68th UN Civil Society Conference, held in Salt Lake City in the US, Dr Varma told Sputnik that the Indian government should involve civil society organisations and local activists to establish peace in Kashmir. He says such people have great acceptability due to their love for peace, which is inspired by Mahatma Gandhi.
Ahead of Gandhi's 150th birth anniversary celebrations on 2 October, the NGO head said many families in Jammu and Kashmir are still influenced by Gandhi’s teachings. They take pride in viewing themselves as “Gandhians of Kashmir” and being a part of his legacy.
According to Dr Varma, such Gandhians of Kashmir could be torchbearers to bring peace to Kashmir.
“[The] gun has never been a solution to any problem. Gandhiji was against violence. People of Jammu and Kashmir, in general, and Kashmir, in particular, remained peaceful even when the rest of the country was engulfed in flames of communal disharmony and hatred".
“If people follow Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings, it will bring change in Kashmir", he said.
In Kashmir, over 400 volunteers under the umbrella of the Gandhi Global Family have been propagating Mahatma Gandhi’s teachings since 1989, he added.
In addition, this Gandhi Global Family is currently also reaching out to the youths in the Kashmir region.
The NGO head said the Gandhi Global Family aims to foster an ideology of Mahatma Gandhi by organising various programmes as previously scheduled activities dedicated to Gandhi for his 150th birth anniversary.
Dr Varma, a recipient of India’s fourth-highest civilian award, Padma Shri, believes that barring pessimism, normalcy may soon prevail in the valley.
A widely known a Gandhian, Dr Varma advocated for Indian to hold a dialogue with its own people in Kashmir, which could be one of the key steps towards calming down nerves, if any.
“Mahatma Gandhi has not only influenced many world leaders like Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama but he has equally inspired locals of Jammu and Kashmir. Even today the legacy of Mahatma Gandhi is still alive in the mountains of Jammu and Kashmir", the NGO president opined.
Suggesting a collective approach in line with the Gandhian principles for everlasting peace in Kashmir, Dr Varma said a state peace committee comprising members of all walks of life, headed by an eminent Gandhian, could work wonders towards instilling peace in the hearts of every Kashmiri.