Kashmir Bound–workshops w youth in the Kashmir region

image taken by Mohsin Mohi Ud Din

Preparing to fly to Kashmir to continue with the  Lollipops Crown (Fulbright) film and music  workshops for orphans at CHINAR organization, led by dear family friends Shireen Qadari and Irfan Shahmiri. Will also be doing some video projects and interviews with Kashmiri youth leadership groups and activists. I have no money for this project which has made continuing the great work from the Morocco workshops quite difficult. But dear friends have donated and helped to make this summer’s workshops for youth happen. The grant from the IIE and State Department and the Fulbright Fellowship hepled fund the successful implementation of these workshops in Morocco last year. Today, Amber Zerzan has bought a microphone and computer battery needed for video workshops and interviews. Ashley Van Ergen helped raise $700 which will go towards equipment/workshop costs. Columbia University has donated $600 to help with costs. My parents have paid for my ticket. $1,000 is not a lot to work with. But at the end of the day, you either do it or you don’t. All talk and no play is a lame status quo these day. Here, we are trying to, in a small scale, build cultural diplomacy, empower youth from disadvantaged communities, and ultimately move mountains in a world that sometimes seems hopeless. (To donate and get free music from the project: visit www.mohsin.bandcamp.com) This project is NOT about politics or religion. The views of this blog are of me and me alone.

The Christian Science Monitor reported in 2008 that “Between 60,000 and 100,000 children in this state of 5.5 million people are thought to be orphans – including fatherless children with mothers too poor to care for them”. The international humanitarian organization Medicins Sans Frontier reported that 1 in 3 Kashmiris have lost members of their family because of the armed conflict.

Some basic background on developments in Kashmir:

Kashmir is disputed territory between Pakistan and India and has been the main topic of contention between the two nuclear armed rivals. India claims Kashmir to be an integral part of the country whilst Pakistan claims Kashmir, a Muslim majority territory, should be put to a referendum. Pakistan has enabled violent  militant groups to fight Indian forces in Kashmir. Separatists militants have fueled extremism and indiscriminate attacks on Kashmiri civil society. Meanwhile, India, who has some 500,000 military and paramilitary forces occupying the region, has committed systematic human rights abuse on Kashmiris resulting in the murder of tens of thousands of people and the disappearances of several thousand.

It is reported that approximately 70,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since 1989. Contrary to popular belief, the security and economic and political development today is as fragile as it was in the early 1990s. Last summer for example, over 100 unarmed civilian protesters were killed.

Whether you are Hindu or Muslim or Kashmir or Pakistani or Indian, everyone has been affected by the conflict in Kashmir, yet it is the Kashmiris in and around the Kashmir Valley, in particular, Kashmiri mothers and the youth who have suffered the most. It is my hope that the Lollipops Crown project and our band, Zerobridge, can help give back and expand the international community’s identification of Kashmiri culture and Kashmiri youth.

In addition to leading workshops with orphans in Kashmir, I am also trying to organize some acoustic concerts for our band, Zerobridge, led my brother Mubashir (lead singer, songwriter, guitarist) and myself (drummer). Music and art can be the avenue to show a different side of the youth of Kashmir, one not marred by violence or oppression. The Lollipops Crown workshops and Zerobridge concerts I am trying to organize, would have a goal of helping to expose the world to the talents and intellect of Kashmiri youth by showcasing the arts of the valley’s youth. In Kashmir we hope to first learn more about Kashmir and then promote understanding and dialogue with fellow artists via music and film. Kashmiri youth till now have been unfairly labeled as angry, violent, closed minded, uneducated, unartistic. Yet Kashmiri youth are in fact intellectuals, artists, humanitarians, musicians. (See Nafeesa’s article on Kashmiri youth and the arts for Guernica Magazine) They are tolerant and seeking a more pluralistic and more developed society.

Stay tuned dear friends. The future is unwritten…..

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