The last weeks have been extremely difficult in Kashmir. An indefinite curfew has been imposed across Srinigar since early July and unrest and violence has cast a black cloud over society.
Last week massive street protests ended tragically when seven people were killed by police and 250 were injured. The riots came only two days before flash floods struck the valley, killing at least 85 people and injuring another 340. The flooding has ruined roads and telephone masts, causing mass panic and confusion.
Ashima has told us that young people are not listening to calls for calm, and instead are going from house to house and forcing people to join the demonstration. As the youth provoke the paramilitary, the death toll rises and the cycle of violence continues to escalate but Ashima’s work with women and young people is determined to break this cycle and help people to be catalysts for change.
The curfew makes it difficult for Ashima to move freely but this hasn’t stopped her from concentrating on her youth project, ‘Yakjah’. Meaning ‘to be together’ in Kashmiri, the group believes that hope is in the new generation, and they urge young minds to reflect on ways of creating a culture of peace, non-violence and co-existence.
Ashima remains hopeful and next week she is taking a group of 12 young people who believe in multi-culturalism and co-existence to meet with religious leaders and the media – to find a way to make their message heard over the calls for violence.
In this difficult period Ashima has been focusing on youth groups in rural areas, regions where militant groups threaten to turn strong relious beliefs into violent action. There is no-one mapping these youth wings, or offering a sounding board for their beliefs or aspirations. She believes that Yakjah could offer a way for these groups to be heard without violence.
In Ashima’s hands your gift is supporting young people who believe they can live together in peace at this particularly difficult time and I cannot thank you enough for your continued support.