The First Kashmir Central Conclave
The Power Of Talk
by Prof. Gull Mohd Wani
After a long and difficult silence, we saw the advantages of speaking and deliberating on
issues of contemporary concern
In the history of public reasoning, credit is given to third Buddhist Council held in
Kashmir in the second century CE. The council was primarily concerned with resolving
differences in religious principles and practices. Historians of the time have noted that
the third Buddhist Council addressed the demands of social and civic duties. It helped to
consolidate and promote the tradition of open discussion on contentious issues.
The great Ashoka tried to propagate the significance of public discussion. Much later,
many great rulers advocated that pursuit of reason rather than reliance on tradition as
the way to address difficult problems of social harmony and living together. Raja Ram
Mohan Roy, the great Bengali renaissance thinker, explained the horrible dimension of
death. He said, “Just consider how terrible the day of your death will be. Others will go
on speaking and you will not be able to argue back”.
The Kashmir Central Conclave, contrary to my own expectations, provided an
opportunity to all who had gathered at Taj Vivanta to put across their point of view. It
was a maiden ‘get together’ held after a long and difficult silence. The Conclave revealed
the dangers of silence and the advantages of speaking and deliberating on issues of
contemporary concern. There are reasons why such a conclave needs to be appreciated
and also institutionalized in the long run.
In the long years of political and social strife, public reasoning became the first casualty.
State and non-state forces hijacked the common space. Reasoned and critical debate
took a back seat. This resulted in secession of intelligentsia, and criminalization and
weaponization of public and civil space. The truth and its many forms submerged under
Kashmir Central as a platform and common space has the potential to correct the
course of the state and society so that reason governs the public rather than it getting
hijacked by hate, fear and silence.
These conclaves need to be organized as mechanisms for public engagement, and for
partnership between communities and groups. During the debate on different issues,
we realized the need for alternative voices. These intellectual and academic meetings
can help in deconstructing many myths that have grown in Kashmir and have gripped
the imagination of the younger generation of our population.
The issues taken up for discussion during the conclave, addressing the role of youth,
women and role of social media need to be discussed keeping in view the disciplinary
imperatives of public policy. Frank and rational discussion can supply a better policy
cushion for the state and its institutional apparatus. We strongly feel that it is no longer
affordable to ignore or sidestep the concerns and problems of youth in Kashmir.
On his visit to Jammu on April 25, 2022, Prime Minister Mr Modi assured the youth,
“You will not have to undergo the difficulties and traumatic experiences that your
parents and grandparents had to face” Lt Governor Mr Manoj Sinha went a step further
by stating that the youth of Kashmir are the “best across India and we won’t let their
talent get wasted.
We need to walk the talk and translate public promises into concrete public policies,
keeping in consideration the need for nation-building. The very large number of young,
educated and mobile youth participating in the conclave is a bold statement. The state
and the civil society need to pick up the threads; integrate their dynamism, creativity
and power, and provide them space in the new and emerging areas of sunrise economy.
Third, the conclave very clearly brought out that one dimensional thought process has
serious limitations. We are in a world where we need quality education for our children,
skills for youth and state of the art health services in post covid-19 times to mitigate
For too long, issues of business, trade, commerce and other livelihood matters were
ignored in our discussions. The Kashmir Central Conclave must figure out clearly a sort
of intellectual and academic roadmap so that intellectual fatigue and moral decay
doesn’t step in our society.