Pakistan’s promotion to radicalization and terrorism for the past several decades has badly ruined the co-existence and religious harmony in the Kashmir valley, said Amsterdam based think-tank, the European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS).

In its research paper, the EFSAS said, “Kashmir’s ethnic and religious diversity, once the hallmark of its local pluralism, has evolved into the stage for a wider set of adversarial contests between India and Pakistan. Many locals, irrespective of their religious affiliations, have been caught in the middle – victims of national militaries, terrorists, or both”.

It added, “In the course of time, nevertheless, wider trends toward religious nationalism, religious fanaticism and Pan-Islamism, cross-border terrorism under the patronage of the Pakistani military establishment, and some actions and inactions by the Indian government in response, may have driven many members of religious communities to align themselves with one side or the other, eroding confidence and communication across religious lines”.

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Indeed, the Kashmir dispute has become inherently imbued with notions of religious identity, but it is crucial to comprehend that the core of the post-partition conflict was not rooted in questions for or against any faith.

What was traditionally a strong confluence between Islam and Hinduism in Kashmir, where the shared language and culture worked as the greatest bond between the two communities, has evolved into mounting pressure that has targeted communities of Kashmiris for their non-conformist ways in accepting religious practices.

“EFSAS said, “Whereas Muslim Sufi saints preached pluralism and tolerance of other faiths, the novel type of political Islam grappling Kashmir has instilled sentiments of intolerance and prejudice. At a societal level, the outbursts of violence, radicalisation, and terrorism that have taken place in the course of the past decades, have undoubtedly led to the transformation of relationships among Muslims and Pandits (Hindus). The mere thought of interreligious communities in Jammu and Kashmir is but a utopian dream”.

It added, “Perhaps the main casualty in the conflict has been none other than religious plurality itself, which today remains a distant memory in the history of Kashmir”.

The traditions of religious pluralism have deep roots in the history of the Kashmir Valley.

Customarily, while the presence of numerous religious communities could be considered the perfect recipe for bitterness and animosity, the early history of Kashmir – when Buddhism, Hinduism, Kashmir Shaivism, and later Sufism simultaneously flourished – contradicts this equation.

Unsurprisingly, this is not to say that communal peace and equality have incessantly thrived in the region, rather, coexistence between communities in Kashmir has generally remained synchronized in harmony despite of the various cultures and religions implanted by different dynasties over centuries.

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