Kashmir, as disputed territory between India and Pakistan, is one of the most militarised places in the world. Decades of violence and brutality have divided Hindu and Muslim communities, forcing over 400,000 people to flee their homes. Military convoys and soldiers armed with AK-47 rifles on the streets are a common scene. So is the fear of unidentified gunmen and growing radicalization of the younger generation. 2009 and 2010 saw renewed violence as civilian unrest, street protests and violence ripped through the streets of Kashmir. It was young people who were caught in the centre of it, and who made up the majority of the 100+ people who lost their lives. Ashima Kaul and her team members want to stop violence and death in Kashmir by mobilizing those who are most vulnerable – young people and women.

It’s so easy to choose sides in Kashmir and you can be a Muslim or a Hindu, but it’s so hard to be a Kashmiri – Ashima Kaul

After 20 years of violence, today the armed conflict is not limited just to the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, but has heavily affected relationships with other parts of Kashmir region, including Hindu-majority Jammu and Buddhist-majority Ladakh. Ashima and her organisation, Yakjah Reconciliation and Development Network (Yakjah), work to counter the violence and build relationships between different religious and ethnic communities of Kashmiris, Ladakhis and Dogras. Divisions between these groups are often made worse by the divisive identity-based politics of various political parties and religious organisations, and also by the violence perpetrated by the state and terrorist organizations. As such, Kashmir remains one of the world’s most complex and volatile regions.

Yakjah believes that by promoting social harmony between the different communities and regions, they can lessen the incidents of fighting and create a more peaceful Kashmir. They bring together young people from across Jammu and Kashmir to learn about each other’s cultures, share their experiences and perspectives and work together as peacebuilders in their communities.

Yakjah is one of three members of the new Grow Peace Fund. The Fund is specifically designed to give sustained support as the members grow over the coming months and years. Read more about the fund.

For more information, insight and analysis on the conflict in Kashmir, visit Insight on Conflict.

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