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22 February 2020

How to curb intolerance and extremism from GB?

Saira Begum
The writer is a social worker and a yoga expert. She likes adventure and currently residing with a cat and best buddies.

In retrospection, I have a vague but hazardous memory of my childhood. I was coming back from school in a frosty winter morning when I heard uninterrupted firing for several hours. The dismal state of affairs was indicating something serious but I was unaware of what was going on until our car was intercepted on the road and warned us to move back. Then, one of the men broke the news of murder of Zia-ud-Din Rizvi, leading Islamic Shia scholar in Gilgit Baltistan. During this turmoil, several innocent people lost their lives without being indulging in any conflict. Later on, curfew was imposed for couple of weeks and business of the vulnerable disputed area came to halt.

For months, Shia, and Sunni conflicts became talk of the town, from a ten years kid to a grown up man, everyone was discussing and striving hard to surpass in breeding extremism, conflict and hatred in society. Meanwhile, schools opened again after a month but there was a wave of fear all around, the fear of contaminating young minds with religious extremism and hatred. Diabolical forces succeeded in inculcating extremism, fundamentalism, sectarianism and intolerance which have damaged peace and tranquility of Gilgit. Anyhow, this was my first memory of knowing about Shiite and Sunni cleavages that rifted peace of the area apart, before this, I was not cognizant with any sectarian cleavage. Young generation of my age has been filled with this kind of poison and filthy stuff.

The repercussions of extremism and sectarianism are still pinning us, hundreds of mothers, sisters and wives have lost their sons, brothers and husbands. This sinister has even not spared foreigners on the peaks of mighty mountains, and travelers on their way back to home to see their dear ones. The question arises is that whom should we blame for ruining peace of Gilgit? Perhaps, the Zia regime, for introducing sectarian violence in Gilgit? Or hate speeches of Shia, Sunni and Deobandi ulemas? Or inefficiency of the government to nip violence in the bud? Or foreign involvement?

And, the answer is always “Yes” to all the aforementioned reasons. They all have contributed to deteriorate peace in a region which was early known for cradle of peace and hospitality, but it has now turned into a battleground of sectarian violence where neither a native nor a foreigner is safe. Moreover, GB was portrayed as a terror stricken area on media, owing to this tourism has touched the lowest ebb, not even foreign tourists’ domestic sojourners are reluctant to see the scenic beauty.

Over the past two decades, we have experienced extremism and intolerance but got nothing except coffins, annihilation and intolerance over trifle conflicts. It is high time to realize it, should we continue with this or a paradigm shift is necessary to resume peace and save subsequent generations from scourge of riots and turmoil. We need to discern irrespective of religion, traditions and customs since life is sacred and valuable.

To ameliorate such conflicts, November, 16 in all over the world is celebrated as a World tolerance day to maintain peace and to reduce recklessness towards cultural and religious diversity. So tolerance is a persistent allegiance to facilitate dialogues to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. It is a day to pledge, concede and strengthen fate in cultural and religious diversity to protect fundamental human rights. Mainly, intolerance is concerned with ignorance which entrenches loathe and hatred for other fellow beings.   

It is high time to undertake certain measures to curb decades old concocted and groomed disputes in Gilgit. For this, the first and foremost responsibility rests on the shoulders of youth. They can undo the seeds of poison sowed by big fishes; they need to disseminate the message of peace and tolerance. As our religion teaches tolerance and universal harmony, which must be inculcated in young minds so some day they may grow into big trees and become fruitful to the whole society.

As the part of government is to strengthen judicial system, enforce laws and ban hate speeches delivered from pulpits especially during Friday sermons. Besides, to ensure equal access to human rights can unnerve discrimination since it causes deprivation which may lead to intolerance. In this connection, awareness and cognizance about human rights need to prevail extensively. Solutions can be found at individual level and dependence on law enforcement agency is not a wise solution since we are part of solution. So we need to play our part to save our generations from this menace.

There is a need to amplify campaigns and to make environment conducive for tolerance and harmony in schools colleges and campuses of university to convey the message of peace. In this regard, role of youth and particular role of women for peace is indispensible to highlight as they are custodians and have to rear and nurture next generation.

Above all, to enhance tolerance and harmony, dialogue and respect for diversity in culture and religion will be soul searching attempts to ensure peace and vanquish intolerance. Moreover, there is a need to highlight brighter cultural attributes to revive them and eliminate ill customary practices because these further lead to deterioration. It is imperative and prudent to take initiatives for interfaith harmony and for this, scholars of all sects need to work together and unanimous initiatives must be commenced to herald a new era of tranquility, peace and progress.