A little kindness and respect could go a long way. We cannot undo years of trauma that people from Kashmir carry. But this is the bare minimum we should do to make sure we don't end up becoming a part of the problem.
1. Make a Kashmiri friend
It is very easy to fall into the traps of apprehensions and prejudices where your knowledge of a subject is limited and single toned. Knowing Kashmiri person personally will help you understand the mental health issues, anxiety, and distress faced by people from war zones.
2. Be a good listener
When a Kashmiri tells you about their experiences with authorities back home, don't preach them. If they feel frustrated, let them vent. Don't give them lectures about peace. No one knows the importance of peace as much as someone who has craved it all their lives in their homeland.
3. Stand up for Kashmiris living in other parts of India
Most Kashmiris living outside Kashmir face discrimination in their daily lives. It can range from not finding houses on rent, professors treating them differently to classmates, and colleagues making offensive statements. If you witness something like this, don't be a bystander. Raise your voice and stand up to the oppressors.
4. Don't indulge in whataboutery
If you are having a discussion with a Kashmiri Muslim, don't justify their pain by reminding them of what happened to Kashmiri pandits and vice versa. Chances are that an average Kashmiri Muslim would closely know more pandits than you have ever come across and have been affected by atrocities on them much more than you'll ever be.
5. Support independent artists from the valley
Kashmiris have used their art to create a difference all over these years but these artists face many problems like slow internet, regular internet shutdowns, and curfews. If you like some Kashmiri artist's work make sure you help increase their reach.
6. Respect their culture
Like all other regions of India, Kashmir has a rich heritage but it has been left unexplored. Ask Kashmiris around you about their food, clothes, language, music, folklore, etc. You will end up increasing your knowledge and our isolated friends would feel more accepted.
7. Check your facts
We live in a democracy and we can peacefully agree to disagree but while engaging in any kind of debate, it is very important to verify the information you are passing on. What happened or continues to happen in Kashmir remotely affects us, but it does have an immense impact on people who call it home.
8. Calm their anxiety if they can't connect with family back home
Kashmir faces communication blockades every now and then and so it becomes very difficult for Kashmiris outside Kashmir to connect to family back home. If you know someone who is anxious about not being able to talk to their family, don't leave them alone. Bring them to your home. Surround them with positivity. Try to help them any way you can.
9. Don't call their loss, collateral damage
When a Kashmiri person talks to you about human rights violations they have witnessed on a first-hand basis or stories of their friends and relatives, do not justify it. Their oppression cannot be simplified with your lack of knowledge on the issue and zero empathy for human emotions.
10. Be cautious while sharing news from Kashmir
If you have come across a news piece regarding a teenager shot by the army or civilians killed by militants, don't just share it with your Kashmiri friends right away. Be kind and give them time to prepare for such news. They might have a panic attack and might need your support and patience.
By Swadha Agrawal