Changing Social Fabric in Kashmir

Changing Social Fabric in Kashmir
  • 10

Muneeb Yousuf

Kashmiri society is a close knit community which enthralls the outside world by its hospitality. Kashmiris’ hospitality is not only being observed by outsiders but also well recognized among dwellers of Kashmir. All Kashmiris take great pride in their inherent generosity. At times of distress, Kashmiris act together to share their burdens, thus bringing more purpose to their sense of community. This is in the nature of a sense of ‘collectiveness’ in all fields of social practice, which emboldens the very roots of their community hood. It is by these virtues–of sharing agonies and happiness that Kashmiris forms a distinct community that has been a great source of strength to their idea of a ‘nation’.
In rural areas, people live by ‘shared sense of belongingness’ which is unlike the urban setting. However, this clear contrast between urban and rural areas does not exist anymore at least in the operational dimension of social relationships. The rural areas have followed a similar suite where people have begun to think less in collective terms and instead focus in individual terms. The idea of ‘individuality’ was non-existent in rural areas in the past. From baking bricks to sowing paddy seedlings, villagers used to contribute by sending either a man or a woman from each home- whatever was convenient. This process not only enabled people to save money but also led to the swift completion of work. Since last few decades, however, these acts have just been reduced to memories. Nowadays, people no more rely on this tradition and instead employ cheap foreign labor of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It becomes necessary to understand the very underpinnings of this change. Earlier, a handful of villagers were wealthy and thus the majority in a village could not afford a new house or employ labor in their fields. With the liberalization of economy, and with wealth no more concentrated in a few hands has certainly raised the status of large sections of the population. Put in other words, capitalism has led to a mad competition among villagers who once were too dependent on each other.
Another interesting thing to notice is that fences have become ubiquitous in rural areas. It doesn’t seem that one has entered into a village. Tall walls with iron gates mark the changing landscape of rural Kashmir. This has to be understood in the realm of ‘securitization’ as the prevalent political situation demand safety of a family from a wide range of intruders. Notwithstanding, one cannot deny the increasing tendency of keeping a sovereign sphere by villagers even from their next door neighbors.
A compartmentalization of a society is taking place at any higher rate where people are increasingly being identified on the basis of what religious ideology they are motivated by. At the local level, this has furnished a ‘new identity’ to an individual where earlier caste and profession used to discern an individual. Such is a nature of bifurcation that one will hardly find a tablighi in a Jamaat ijtima, a Jamaati in an al-hadith Ijtima and Alhadith in a Barelvi Ijtima. However, there is paradoxical nature to this ijtimization as well in a sense that it has created a new relationship among people, who follow a particular religious ideology. This religious transaction does not remain limited to ijtimas but penetrates other social spheres as well and on occasions leading to marriages.
Generally, in the past , other than students of religious seminaries, youth were ignorant of different religious discourses. Contrary to this, in present times children have adequate knowledge of different religion based discourses and they are able to neatly differentiate themselves as Tabligis , Barelvis or Jamaatis. This early consciousness of religion based ideologies does play a role in compartmentalization at least in the religious sphere. How much role does this play in the compartmentalization of a society depends upon the role a religion plays in the greater society.
A family acts as a vital institution in the grooming of a child. A family sets the very standards of a society. The parental lessons and family conversations profoundly help a child in the vast realms of life. However, the onset of technological advancements is altering the very foundation of family communications. Electronic gadgets have taken a heavy toll on family conversation. Instead of spending time with parents, children increasingly prefer to stay alone with their gadgets. Not only children but parents are also driven to these gadgets thus altering the nature of conversations in and around homes.

—The author is associated with MMAJ Academy of International Studies, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi. He can be reached at: