The official talks process between India and Pakistan began in 2004, but it is currently stalled and has yet to settle the long-standing conflict in and around Jammu and Kashmir.
As one of the people involved in the dynamic ‘Athwaas Women’s Initiative’, Ezabir Ali has sought to break through barriers of mistrust in Jammu and Kashmir. Subsequently, Ezabir helped to instigate and facilitate a number of discussions for women in the region.
Peace is a relative term in Kashmir. It could mean your son comes back home safely or just living a day fearlessly.
In Kashmir, peace has been elusive ever since the armed resistance started in 1989. We did not realise how much the conflict was brewing until a university friend, who studied English Literature with us, died in a protest.
A section of Kashmiri Hindus had also started leaving the Muslim dominated region for safer areas. The divides had been created, on the lines of community, religion and a political ideology. That is when I realised that instead of walls, we have to build bridges.
I started my work as voluntary health worker and counselor in rural areas in 1991. Conflict had its own consequences, but mostly it led to the silent suffering of women. Many had lost the only earning member of their family. We organised them into self-help groups for sustained income generation. Financial independence was their first step towards a life of dignity and healing.
We brought women across community lines to a common platform. They shared their pain and voiced hopes for the future. It is our attempt to promote coexistence between communities, for it is important to focus on what the problem is, rather than who the problem is.
Ezabir Ali, Psychosocial Counselor