By Humra Laeeq
It might twin springs for many Kashmiris this year. Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims found a novel way to connect with each other beyond the horrors of today’s terrorism. On the occasion of Herath or Mahashivratri, which the Kashmiri Pandits celebrate a day prior than the rest of the Indian Hindus, the process of integration was initiated. On an online platform, greeting cards were sent out to the communities. Over a thousand families celebrated the occasion in the valley and the e-cards helped in reviving the cultural bonhomie between the two communities.
The festival of Shivratri
The festival is known to be marked by snow and rain for the Kashmiri Pandits. This year, it snowed heavily after a long period. The festivals celebrated by most of the Kashmiri Pandits are shared by other Hindu communities and other surrounding cultures who trace their origins within the Proto-Indo-Iranian religion. The festivals were also shared by community members during the period of militancy in the 1990s.
Raabta and its significance
The event is aptly titled ‘Raabta’, a Persian-Arabic word meaning ‘connection’. Its Facebook page, curated by Jaibeer Ahmed mentions that Raabta would “help search and reconnect old friends, neighbours, schoolmates, colleagues and families from Kashmir who haven’t heard from each other in the last 28 years.” The reference was clearly to the 1990 Kashmiri insurgency when thousands of Kashmiris died in the massacre that occurred between the insurgents and the government of India. The conflict in Jammu and Kashmir regarding its separatist politics from certain groups had been going on when in 1989, it translated into the biggest internal security threat in India. Bearing strong Islamic elements, it definitely led to the gulf between Hindus and Muslims.
Social media: The way to reunite communities
With Raabta, the gulf between the communities witnessed its first decline. The process was, not surprisingly, initiated through informal means of social media. Beyond the high and mighty government proposals and policies, which promised to bring peace to Kashmir, Facebook and the online community have gone their way to reunite long-lost people.
Not only were e-invites more accessible across the Muslims and Hindu pandits but they were impersonal, efficient and free of official duties. As Jaibeer Ahmed mentioned, the purpose was to reconnect these people who had suffered for the past 28 years. Just as Shivratri witnessed the season of rain and snow after a dry spell, Raabta would witness a season of fertility after a 28-year long period.
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