(Dr. Sadaf Munshi was born in Srinagar and received her early schooling there. She completed her B.Sc in Bio-sciences from the University of Kashmir, followed by a M.A. and M.Phil in the Department of Linguistics from the Delhi University, and her doctorate (Ph.D.) from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in Burushaski. She is currently the Assistant Professor in Linguistics and Technical Communication, at the University of North Texas (UNT) in tenure track.)
University of North Texas Hosts a 2-day Symposium on Kashmir
On behalf of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Cultural Studies Institute (CAMCSI), a two day symposium “Kashmir: A Way Forward” was held at the University of North Texas on April 5th and 6th. The symposium was organized and coordinated by UNT faculty and CAMCSI affiliate Dr. Sadaf Munshi, assistant professor in the department of Linguistics and Technical Communication. The event was sponsored by various UNT departments, viz., CAMCSI, Linguistics and Technical Communication, Peace Studies Program, Department of History, and Multicultural Center. Among the speakers included Dr. Chitralekha Zutshi, Dr. Vijay Sazawal, Raja Muzaffar, Arti Tiku Kaul, and Ajay Raina.
The Symposium began on Thursday, April 5th with the screening of the documentary film Apour Ti Yapour by Ajay Raina followed by discussions and question answer with the documentary maker, who has made films on and covered different aspects of Kashmir conflict. The program continued on Friday, April 6th with an all-day series of talks by the speakers and concluded with a panel discussion with the speakers moderated by Dr Sadaf Munshi. The event was attended by eminent scholars, intellectuals, academicians, students and members of the South Asian community in Dallas, Fort-Worth, Plano and adjoining areas. Among these included the Director of the CAMCSI program, Dr Nada Shabout, associate professor in Art History, and Dr Qaiser Abbas, Assistant Dean of the College of Education at UNT.
The symposium highlights included various topics with special focus on the human aspects of the Kashmir conflict, especially the social and the psychological costs of the conflict. Thus, the documentary film by Ajay Raina brought forth the question of the Line of Control (LOC) and the human suffering as a result of the political division between India and Pakistan. The talk by Dr Chitralekha Zutshi, Associate Professor of History, College of William and Mary, and author ofLanguages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir, presented a historical background of the Kashmiri nationalism and considered how the Kashmiri narrative tradition had, over the course of time, shaped the contours of Kashmir as a discursive space and territorial entity in the nineteenth century. She argued that “far from being mere instruments within larger empires, the inhabitants of Kashmir were active participants, through their historical literature, in defining and negotiating the status and meaning of their land within these imperial entities. The Kashmiri narrative tradition embodied a trans-local literary imagination as it drew on local, regional and universal ideas to give meaning to Kashmir and its people as coherent entities”.
Arti Tiku Kaul, the famous radio and television artist and classical singer and poet, discussed the impact of Kashmir conflict on fine arts and their future prospects. She talked about the renaissance state of fine arts in Kashmir in the 70’s and 80’s and their sharp decline in the 90’s and onwards. Acknowledging and appreciating the emergence and growth of new talent in the valley in the recent years as well as regretting the corruption of the native traditions, Arti stressed on the need for authentic and quality training in the field of fine arts and music in Kashmir which had suffered immensely at the hands of the conflict. Arti concluded her talk with a very emotional and beautiful rendition of the Lal Vaakh shiv chuy thali thali rau zaan, mau zaan hyund tay musalmaan, which set the audience in tears.
In his talk entitled ‘The Kashmir Conundrum”, Dr Vijay Sazawal (policy analyst and commentator specializing in local governance and intra-community issues affecting political dynamics within the Kashmir valley) presented a kaleidoscope of changes taking place in the Kashmiri society at a micro level which have “far reaching consequences on Kashmir’s political and social landscape, making the issue more volatile and intractable”. Talking about the “dysfunctional state”, the genesis of corruption, functioning (or lack of functioning) of the civil society, the silent cultural turmoil and the miseries faced by the Kashmiri society, Dr Sazawal argued that “similarities exist between the J& K [state] and the failed sub-Saharan states of Africa which had acquired tags like “corruptocracies”, or “chaosocracies””. He further maintained that “there is a continuing contest for political and economic domination between elites, politicians, and separatists …..”. Consequently, the state is “unable to provide basic services and security”, thus, experiencing a “triple crisis of governance” – viz., lack of accountability, lack of rule of law, and inability to resolve economic crisis. The author concluded with a discussion on the role of print media in the valley and how it affects both journalists and public in grappling with present issues and future expectations.
The talk by Mr Raja Muzaffar, the executive member of the Kashmir Committee Dallas Peace Center, Texas, who has represented the Kashmiri separatist voice at various international forums, deliberated on the complexity of the Kashmir conflict, the evolution of India and Pakistan into vowed nuclear weapons states, and other threats and opportunities that had also become more complex over time. Mr Muzaffar said that “finding out a practicable, acceptable and amicable solution to the core issue of Kashmir, lasting peace and economic prosperity in the whole region of South Asia is absolutely interlinked….”. He further added that “presently the Kashmir Conflict can be largely understood as a case of three competing nationalisms or national ideologies viz. the Indian, Pakistani and Kashmiri nationalism. India and Pakistan needs to settle the Kashmir issue for their own well being and that of the entire region. In doing so they must both work with the people of Kashmir to secure a peaceful future. Any just and lasting solution to the Kashmir conflict will require creatively reconciling between these three national identities and competing claims of self-determination in Indian controlled and Pakistani controlled parts of Kashmir”.
The symposium concluded with a panel discussion moderated by Dr Sadaf Munshi with speakers Chitralekha Zutshi, Vijay Sazawal, Raja Muzaffar and Arti Kaul (Another panelist, Altaf Qadri was unable to make his presence to the symposium). The panel focused on three topics: 1) the issue of the Line of Control, 2) the question of the displaced Kashmiri Pandit community, and, 3) perspectives on the current state of affairs in Kashmir and future prospects of lasting peace. Terming the LOC as “an ongoing partition”, Dr Zutshi maintained that “there can’t be a solution unless the question of LOC is resolved, but it can’t be an end in itself, it has to be a part of a bigger solution, but you have to take into account the human cost of the division, the human suffering. It is too high and usually disappears in this talk of political solution….”. The panelists deplored the fact that the travel across the LOC had been made very difficult because “India and Pakistan wanted to maintain a certain idea of the other side” which would otherwise be dispelled should the travel restrictions be relaxed. With regard to the proposals aimed to bridge the chasm between the two estranged communities and bringing them together as stakeholders in resolving the conflict, Dr Sazawal said that “the biggest challenge in this regard was whether there will be a political space for the Kashmiri Pandits once they are there”, of which he regrettably felt that there was not “any discussion in the civil society” about the possibility of creating such a political space. He expressed the need for a “state building structure” as a precursor of positive developments in J & K. Referring to the Indian state of Gujarat as the “most autonomous state even without the Article 370”, Dr Sazawal said that Gujarat happens to have “the lowest unemployment rate because it has the cleanest governance”.
To see Author's PowerPoint presentation, please open the following link: