Muslim clerics back peace in Kashmir
17 October 2004
The Daily Times
Srinagar: With a ceasefire holding on the Kashmiri borders and India and Pakistan still on track with their latest peace initiative, Muslim clerics in held Kashmir say they are ready to preach reconciliation during the month of Ramazan.Kashmir's chief Muslim cleric Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said Ramazan was the right moment for spreading the message of peace since devotees fill mosques and shrines and spend a large part of the day in prayer and fasting.'I would certainly... tell the people how we can bring peace in our lives even if the various parties involved in the conflict do not cease hostilities,' he said, 'after all, Ramazan itself is the time for peace, salvation and to seek forgiveness.' Farooq, head of the moderate faction of Kashmir's main separatist alliance, said he planned to give at least one religious sermon focused on peace and reconciliation every day at mosques and other places of worship during Ramazan.Hopes for peace in Kashmir have risen with a ceasefire between India and Pakistan holding since November 25, 2003. The two sides, which both claim the region in full, have been engaged in fresh talks over the dispute since February.Several rounds of negotiations culminated in a meeting between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf in New York last month. A number of Kashmiri political figures, including Chief Minister Mufti Muhammed Sayeed, have urged the Indian security forces and Muslim separatist militants to enter a ceasefire to mark Ramazan.'I want to see that peace has reached every single Kashmiri home. Try to listen to the heartbeats of the people who have developed a stake in peace,' Sayeed said.Neither side has signalled its willingness to agree to the proposal, although on a positive note analysts point out that so far no separatist militant group has threatened to intensify its attacks during the holy month. Usually, the period is marked by stepped-up violence because Muslim militants believe those who die fighting during Ramazan gain extra heavenly rewards. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Muhammed Yusuf Tarigami said he was hoping militants and security forces would show restraint during the fasting month.Various social and religious organisations are planning to raise funds during Ramazan to help nearly 20,000 Kashmiri widows whose husbands have died in the separatist violence.