THE recent Kashmir Central conclave held in collaboration with the Indian Army in Handwara at the Environment Hall, turned out to be a resounding success, celebrating the rich tapestry of tradition and modernity that defines the cultural and educational landscape of the region.
This landmark event brought together journalists, scholars, cultural enthusiasts, students and local communities to explore the delicate yet profound balance between preserving Kashmir’s age-old traditions and embracing modernity in an ever-evolving world. The conclave was divided into two themes with panelists and experts holding profound and telling debates and discussions. The theme for Session One was ‘Kashmir between tradition & modernity’ with Session Two talking about ‘Education for enlightenment & innovation’.
The day-long conclave featured, besides panel discussions, traditional performances and enthusiastic deliberations that shed light on the challenges and opportunities in the fields of education and culture in Kashmir. Prominent professors, writers and students shared insights and experiences, underlining the need to bridge the gap between the old and the new, and to leverage tradition as a wellspring of innovation, creativity and resilience.
The event was graced by the presence of dignitaries from the Army and speakers like Prof. Farooq Ahmad Shah (former vice chancellor, Central University of Kashmir); Bashir Assad (senior journalist, author, and editor-in-chief, Kashmir Central); Prof Shahid Rasool (dean, Academic Affairs, Central University of Kashmir); Dr Humaira Qadri (dean Research/HOD EVS, Government Degree College, Baramulla); Dr Abdul Roouf Bhat (dean, Academic Affairs & HOD, Chemistry, Government Degree College, Baramulla); Dr Syed Mutahar Aaquib (HOD/assistant professor, Department of Computer Science, Degree College, Baramulla); Riffat Wani (author and social activist) and Mushtaq Ali Khan (actor, filmmaker and artist).
The session on ‘Kashmir between tradition and modernity’ was moderated by Mushtaq Ali Khan with panelists being Bashir Assad, Dr. Humaira Qadri and Riffat Wani. Riffat Wani articulated that we were digressing from our age-old tradition. She pointed, “Pursuing education outside Kashmir shall not authorise us to shun our tradition. Our tradition is classical and our education owes allegiance to it. Time has come to gracefully project our culture to the world and make people familiar with our age-old tradition. Modernity shall not take our morals away from us. We are known for hospitality and natural beauty and modernisation is as important as keeping our culture alive”.
Bashir Assad talked about blending modernity and tradition. He said, “The hypothesis that if you are traditional, you can’t be modern and if you are modern then you don’t fit into tradition is completely wrong. We must be a blend of two extremes. We see modernity through the economic prism and that is somehow correct as it fulfills our aspirations. We are concerned about kangri, wazwan which is appropriate and project our culture. But what we should actually be concerned about are social traditions. What are we doing for the revival of our social traditions? We have abandoned our elders, our teachers which has degraded our social traditions. We imbibe the culture of foreign countries just to show either allegiance to religion or a particular sect. The horrific absorption of alien traditions has withered our own rich social traditions. Modernity teaches us to live collectively in a global world but to shun our traditions is deception to both our culture and new forms of modernity”.
Dr. Humaira put forth her point thus, “To most parents, modernity is defined by what their children wear. But modernity is of our thoughts, not what we wear. If our thoughts are modern and take us towards progress, it’s true modernity which will obviously preserve our tradition too. Parents tend to a give liberal atmosphere to their children but have no idea about true liberalism. It’s necessary to see if freedom is diluting our values or traditions. If it does, then parents must realise the importance of taking the middle path.”
The conclave also served as a platform for discussing the role of digital media in preserving and promoting Kashmiri culture. With the advent of the internet and social media, traditional narratives are now being shared with a global audience. Panelists spoke about the challenges and opportunities presented by digital platforms, and how they were helping to bridge the gap between Kashmir’s heritage and the modern world.
The second theme of ‘Education for enlightenment and innovation’ was aimed at exploring ways to foster creativity, innovation, and critical thinking among students. Participants, including professors, scholars, and students engaged in intensive dialogues and shared insights on the subject. Moderated by Dr. Mutahar, its speakers included Prof. Shahid Rasool, Prof. Farooq Ahmad Shah and Dr. Ab. Roouf Bhat. The panelists discussed various loopholes in the education system and the measures to ameliorate them.
Prof Shahid Rasool said, “The approach of the students has seen a massive shift but they need to inculcate problem-solving methods. I understand that there are loopholes on the part of teaching too that sometimes dents the results of students despite good performances. The evaluation system seems to burden the examiners, resulting in injustice with students. Earlier, the focus would be on theory only but the National Educational Policy document aims to bring holistic development in the personality of students if implemented in a transparent manner”.
Prof Shah strongly articulated that the present education system was a flop show. He pointed how only high percentage helped get admission in top IITs, IIMs which, he felt, was sheer injustice with many other students.
He further added that education was not an end but a process since one must eventually contribute to the society.
The conclave also witnessed brilliant performances by contemporary and traditional artists, evoking massive applause from the audiences. Famous artist and current internet sensation Ustad Abdul Rashid Hafiz, a folk and classical singer enthralled the audiences with his mesmerising voice.
The Kashmir Central conclave has set a promising trajectory for the region’s education system, aiming to prepare its youth for a dynamic and ever-changing global landscape. It has inspired hope and garnered support from various stakeholders committed to the growth and development of Kashmir’s education sector.
The conclave has undoubtedly marked a significant milestone to protect and celebrate the unique identity of Kashmir, serving as a beacon of hope and unity for all those who cherish its rich traditions while embracing the promise of modernity and innovations in education.