As Kashmiris across the nation are being targetted by anti-social elements, people are coming together to play good samaritans in their time of need.
Just when the country was recuperating from the Pulwama attack and the subsequent line of events, an incident in Lucknow involving a group of right-wing members thrashing Kashmiri traders, is evidential that as a country, we are far from attaining peace. In the last few days, Kashmiri students across the country have been violently harassed on their university campuses while the Kashmiri traders and craftsmen now seem to have invited the wrath of those with myopic understanding. Hence, it is to combat such hate incidents towards the innocent members of the minority, netizens have gradually started a movement on social media, urging people to support the Kashmiri craftsmen, vendors, and traders.
Alka Lamba, an MLA of AAP posted a photo of buying a pashmina shawl on Twitter with a caption that expressed solidarity with Kashmiris. “I was just showing the solidarity that we love Kashmir and Kashmiris, there are no distinctions and they are very much part of India,” reveals Lamba. She further adds that people should not indulge in such actions of hate or even hold innocent Kashmiris accountable for Pulwama and aftermath. “The Pulwama attack was a complete failure of intelligence, not of the people. They are not responsible for this, or what is happening at the border. Kashmiris are also Indians and, they also want peace. So, we should welcome them. It is important for all of us to feel that we are united against terrorism and want peace across the country,” she says.
While Lamba’s gesture of solidarity has seen support, and even criticism from right-wing trollers (some even accusing her of turning a blind eye towards Kashmiri Pandits), the Delhi-based fashion designer Leena Singh also feels the need to support the Kashmiri craftsmen. Singh, who has worked for last two-three decades with the local Kashmiri artists, is privy to the problems faced by them. “The interiors of Kashmir are not safe. So, naturally they cannot sustain their work, and those who go out will always be in the fear of leaving their families behind. Naturally, the whole economy has suffered and because of the political turmoil, these people have lost so much. They have so much of talent, but they are living in very fearful conditions,” she reveals.
Moreover, as they immigrate to different cities, identity politics always follow them, resulting in discrimination and sometimes even violent subjugation, as was the case with the Lucknow incident. Zubair Kirmani, a Kashmiri fashion designer enlightens, “The way people have lived outside Kashmir for almost two decades, there is a different vibe towards most of the Kashmiris. We need to change our perspective and come out of stereotypes.”
Hence, with the movement gradually taking momentum, some individuals have even gone further and started taking initiatives on individual levels. Pinky Reddy, the President of FLO urges, “I would like to request my 7000 members pan India to provide patronage to Kashmiri artisans by buying their products across India. As equal citizens of India, we should have empathy towards each other. We need to show more compassion to the targeted community and not target anyone as it’s no fault of theirs.” She added that one of the members even went ahead and supported a Kashmiri businessman by buying all his products, which will support 35 families for the next six months. Illustrating an example, Zubair concludes, “I was travelling when most of the hotels had opened doors for tourists. Tourism in Kashmir is really low but still, people there are showing amazing gestures by giving discounts and letting the stranded people stay. We should open up and give them a great environment. If they can be so supportive even though they are living in the war zone, we should also support Kashmiri traders and craftsmen as much as we can.”