The Hum Kadam initiative brought together key segments of the population from Kashmir and Delhi—identified as youth leaders enrolled at schools and colleges, educators, and teacher trainers—to engage in face-to-face interactions, trainings in conflict transformation theory and practice, and professional capacity building in an effort to foster cooperation and dialogue. The initiative was a multilevel intervention that sought to address the trust deficit that plagues relations between young people in Kashmir and the rest of India. It attempted to reduce the sense of grievance and perceived distance from ‘Emerging India’ among the youth of Kashmir (born and raised during the protracted conflict) and the prevailing prejudice among youth in other parts of India towards Kashmiris.
Drawing on the National Curriculum Framework 2005 that has served as a guide for evolving a national system of education to realize the democratic vision enshrined in the Indian Constitution, this initiative sought to:
Theoretically, the initiative was rooted in the belief that education can play a transformational role in building peaceful societies. This theoretical grounding included Krishna Kumar’s observation that outbreaks of violence are likely linked to deeper inequalities in India, the recognition by the Planning Commission of India that this impedes overall development, and WISCOMP’s own identification of the three major challenges for schools in India: religious fundamentalism, militarism, and globalization.
Hum Kadam envisions reworking educational structures in Kashmir to proceed towards active coexistence, nonviolence, and justice, hinging on the training of teachers, and not just high school and university students, as agents of change in Delhi-Kashmir relations. In fact, capacity building workshops for school teachers formed a central component of this initiative so that they could continue to use the lens of education for peace, independently, at their institutions. Since 2012, this initiative has partnered with 35 schools and 25 higher educational institutions, bringing together over 1500 young people and more than 500 educators from Kashmir and Delhi for dialogues-cum-trainings in the skills, values, and attitudes required for effective peacebuilding.
I feel that the WISCOMP workshops successfully bridged the gap between a group of young people from Delhi and Kashmir. It is the first step in a positive direction. I hope that someday the leaders of Delhi make a similar effort to engage in a dialogue with the political leaders of Kashmir, and understand our needs and political aspirations in a democratic manner. If this young group continues to work together and stands up for each other, we will go a very long way.
~ College student, Srinagar