In a region mired in conflict, it takes all the more courage, and perseverance to be the voice of the voiceless and to separate facts from propaganda. Help The Kashmir Monitor sustain so that we continue to be editorially independent. Remember, your contributions, however small they may be, matter to us.

Changing social fabric in Kashmir

Kashmir society is a close knit community which enthrals, the outside world by its hospitality. A hospitality, which is not only being observed by outsiders but also well recognized among its dwellers. All Kashmiris take great pride in such generous acts. At times of distress, Kashmiris act together to share burden, thus bringing more purpose to their sense of community. A sense of ‘collectiveness’ in all fields of social practice, which emboldens the very roots of their community hood. It is by these virtues–of sharing agonies and happiness that Kashmiris forms a distinct community that has been a great source of strength to their idea of a ‘nation’.
In rural areas, people live by ‘shared sense of belongingness’ which is unlike the urban setting. However, this clear contrast between urban and rural areas do not exist anymore at least in the operational dimension of social relationships. The rural areas have followed a similar suite where people have begun to think less in collective terms and instead focus in individual terms. The idea of ‘individuality’ was non-existent in rural areas in the past. From baking bricks to sowing paddy seedlings, villagers used to contribute by sending either a man or a woman from each home, whatever was convenient. This process not only enabled people to save money but also led to swift completion of the work. Since last few decade, these acts have just been reduced to memories. Nowadays, people no more rely on this tradition and instead employ cheap foreign labour of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It becomes necessary to understand the very underpinnings of this change. Earlier, handful of villagers were wealthy and thus majority in a village could not afford a new house or employ labour in their fields. With the liberalization of economy, wealth no more concentrated to few and this certainly raised the status of large sections of the population. Put in other words, capitalism has led to a mad competition among villagers who once were too dependent on each other.
Another interesting thing to notice is that fences have become ubiquitous in rural areas. It doesn’t seem that one has entered into a village. Tall walls with iron gates mark the changing landscape of rural Kashmir. This has to be understood in the realm of ‘securitization’ as the prevalent political situation demand safety of a family from a wide range of intruders including military, burglars and of course militants. Notwithstanding, one cannot deny the increasing tendency of keeping a sovereign sphere by villagers even from their next door neighbours.
The mushrooming of mosques and dar-ul-uloom’s is becoming a new norm. Apart from that, ijtimas (religious gathering) pertaining to different religious ideologies are being held more frequently than ever with large sections of population taking part in them. For instance, during 1990s Tabligi Jamaat were hardly holding any ijtimas in Kashmir. There has been a tectonic shift from the point of view of ijtimas, which used to be infrequent and only people of certain religious hierarchy taking part in them. This is emerging as fatal to Kashmiri community in the sense that it is dividing them across religious lines. A compartmentalization of a society is taking place at any higher rate where people are increasingly being identified on the basis of what religious ideology they are motivated by. At a local level, this has furnished a ‘new identity’ to an individual where earlier caste and profession used to discern an individual. Such is a nature of bifurcation that one will hardly find a tablighi in a Jamaat ijtima, a jamaati in an al-hadith ijtima and alhadith in a barelvi ijtima. However, there is paradoxical nature to this ijtimization as well in a sense that it has created a new relationship among people, who follow a particular religious ideology. This religious transaction does not remain limited to ijtimas but penetrates other social spheres as well and on occasions leading to marriages.
Generally, in past other than students of religious seminaries, youth were ignorant of different religious discourses. Contrary to this, in present times children have adequate knowledge of different religion based discourses and they are able to neatly differentiate themselves as tabligis/barelvis/jamaatis. This early consciousness of religion based ideologies does play a role in compartmentalization at least in the religious sphere. How much role does this play in the compartmentalization of a society depends upon the role a religion plays in the greater society.
A family acts as a vital institution in the grooming of a child. A family sets the very standards of a society. The parental lessons and family conversations profoundly help a child in the vast realms of life. However, the onset of technological advancements is altering the very foundation of family communications. Electronic gadgets have taken a heavy toll on family conversation. Instead of spending time with parents, children increasingly prefer to stay alone with their gadgets. Not only children, parents are also driven to these gadgets thus altering the nature of conversations in and around homes.
(The writer is associated with MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.)