Educators Can Facilitate the Process of Healing in Conflict Zones

In conflict zones, particularly Kashmir, education can be deployed as an effective tool in intergenerational family communication regarding sociocultural trauma. As educators, we are in a position to mold students not just intellectually, but as functional members of families and communities as well. Education that aids in articulating traumatic experiences, understanding, and integrating such experiences for young people who have intimate knowledge of familial trauma can enable students to facilitate the education of other students in order to positively impact “all students’ empathy, understanding, and resulting ability to understand individuals, families, and communities who have experienced trauma.”

Educators in Jammu and Kashmir can play an indispensable role in creating opportunities for meaningful communication between students and their families. The creation and growth of such opportunities for students enables them to weave their family life contexts into their personal, intellectual, and professional development (Lin et al. 196). It is therapeutic for the younger generation to engage with the past and to learn about historical, political, and sociocultural legacies through a larger context that enables them to connect with sociocultural identity, family/ tribe/ clan, and society.

Personal memories must not be bogged down by social silence about traumatic events and political terrors. On the contrary, educators can facilitate the process of healing for young people by encouraging a comprehensive study of contemporary history in which students are stakeholders. Several communities/ families in conflict zones remain impacted by historical and politicocultural trauma, making it difficult for the younger generation to break through the seemingly impregnable wall of silence with which their elders protect themselves. This is where the role that educators can play in building frameworks to facilitate the verbalization of trauma and creation of coherent narratives becomes indispensable. Here I concur with Nancy J. Lin et al.’s observation, “Respect for education presents an opportunity for educators to shift the systemic, cultural, and family dynamics that prevent discourse about . . . genocide, hinder the healing process, and frustrate the younger generation from understanding what happened and how it affects them” (203). Creating channels of communication that enable intergenerational as well as transgenerational communication, which is emotionally expressive, is bound to be cathartic, aid in the recovery of trust, and is likely to have a profound effect on survival, well-being, and success (Weine et al. 154).

My goal is to engage in reflective action as an educator working with diverse cultural and social groups. I am challenged to examine my own locations of privilege and seek individual empowerment in order to understand the systems that generated the culture of silence. This culture generates problematic stereotypes, alliances, and biases within the community. The feminist approach I choose to adopt brings to the fore the complicity of the elite in the othering, exclusion, and marginalization of some cultural and social groups. Their narratives of lived experience reveale the interwoven-ness of oppressions of nationalism, classism, regionalism, and sexism. I seek in the collision of modernity and communal memory a horizontal relationship producing intersectional ties between different cultural spaces, times, and ways of knowing the self in relation to the family, society, and the cosmos.

Acknowledging our complicity in oppression, re-conceptualizing paradigmatic structures, and mobilizing cultural and political coalitions are riddled with conflict but it is the need of the day for us to engage in these processes.

The depoliticization of the indigenous political space and criminalization of dissident politics on both sides of the Line of Control between India and Pakistan is particularly troubling and has led to the brutalization of Kashmiri society. When excesses, whether they are military, or religious, or political are not curbed, they have terrible long term damaging effects. And when religion and politics are conflated, mass movements suffer from a lack of clarity and cannot be integrated with the resuscitation of progressive politics.

We, as a people, cannot afford to play havoc with the empowerment that critical intelligence gives us; the credibility that articulate expressions of our situation give us; the intelligence that we employed to create a national identity. We have witnessed the militarization of the sociocultural fabric of Kashmir; we watch with remorse the clamping down of intellectual freedoms in Kashmir, and the growing influence of extremist elements in that polity; we mourn the erosion of women’s activism in Kashmir by reductive portrayals of their identities; we grieve the relegation of sane voices in civil society to the background. Once we perceive injustices, philosopher Julia Annas reminds us, “there are large implications. The injustices in question are not minor ones; if we take them seriously then we are committed to serious criticism of the social institutions and attitudes that help to create and sustain them” (287).

Well-educated Kashmiris can give the clarion call for a much needed social consciousness; for a society and polity that recognizes the need to revitalize stagnant political and bureaucratic institutions; for a democracy that would enable them to fully participate in institutions and rule of law that specifies the limits of jurisdiction and call for decentralization of power. We, educators and students, must recognize and avail ourselves of the myriad political, sociocultural, and economic forums that a good education can create for us.


Nyla Ali Khan is the author of Fiction of Nationality in an Era of Transnationalism, Islam, Women, and Violence in Kashmir, The Life of a Kashmiri Woman, and the editor of The Parchment of Kashmir. Nyla Ali Khan has also served as an guest editor working on articles from the Jammu and Kashmir region for Oxford University Press (New York), helping to identify, commission, and review articles. She can be reached at