Arjimand Hussain Talib - Believing in a Future That is “Inclusive, Plural, and Not Extreme”

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Jun 04, 2018
by Mirva Villa
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Arjimand Hussain Talib - Believing in a Future That is “Inclusive, Plural, and Not Extreme”

International development expert-turned-newspaper editor discusses changing Kashmir’s narrative Arijmand Hussain Talib (center), Fawad Javaid (left) and Tom Ndahiro (right) take part in a thematic discussion on building popular narratives

Kashmir, divided under the control of India, Pakistan, and China, is one of the most militarized zones in the world. The ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan over the ownership of the prosperous region began with the violent partition of British India 70 years ago. The Kashmiri people are no strangers to power struggles – they have been under foreign rule for centuries, from the Afghans, Mughals in the 16th, Sikhs to the British in the 20th century.

The lives of the people living in the area continue to be affected by the aftermath of the 1947 partition. Seventy years on, approximately one million armed forces man both sides of the line of control, in an area with a population of about 14 million people.  “Post 1990, because of a bloody armed struggle and the counter-insurgency, most of the ordinary Kashmiris were caught in the middle and life for them has been really very difficult since the last 28 years,” said Arjimand Hussain Talib.

“Although Srinagar and New Delhi shared an uneasy political relationship ever since 1947, the advent of armed struggle in 1990 resulted in a whole new situation. Basic civil liberties got hampered to a great extent. Extra-constitutional laws were introduced, which affect people’s safety and dignity. So these are very difficult circumstances,” Talib said, adding that living in an environment of constant fear and uncertainty has taken a significant toll on the people’s psyche and mental health as well.

Talib was brought up in Kashmir, during what he calls a “very difficult time.” In the 1990s, the region was in the midst of heightened armed conflict. Most parents at the time, Talib explains, chose to send their children abroad to receive their education. “Like many others, I was sent to South India,” Talib said.

While trained as an engineer, Talib knew his passions lay elsewhere. “I had more leanings toward social sciences, but finally, I became an engineer.” He later went on to study water resource management and worked for international organizations such as World Bank’s ProVention Consortium, UNESCO, Plan International, Oxfam and ActionAid. The work took him to 16 different countries (including Austria, where he participated in a Salzburg Global Seminar program – The Politics of Water: Addressing Fresh Water Scarcity - in 2002) and many years away from Kashmir, but now, Talib is planning to return to help his home region. “At this point in time,” he said, “I had two options: to continue my international career, working outside of Kashmir, or going back and doing something for Kashmir.”

As Kashmir is yet again living through a turbulent period of unrest, Talib has returned to Kashmir to launch a new newspaper - the Ziraat Times. The paper has been running since October 2017, and it is the first print publication focused solely on Kashmir’s agricultural business community – which makes up a large portion of the local economy.

While other papers mostly report on the ongoing struggles of the region, the Ziraat Times aims to bring something new to the public conversation by focusing on the local economies of Jammu and Kashmir – the Indian-administered part of the region – and broader issues that impact the area, such as climate change, a significant youth population, entrepreneurship and technology and innovation.

This work is part of an effort on Talib’s part to help optimize productivity in the primary economy of Kashmir and create job opportunities for youth across the supply chain, considering dwindling job opportunities for the youth. This is something he spoke about at Schloss Leopoldskron during the November 2017 Salzburg Global program, Learning from the Past: Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism.

Talib insists “Kashmir is a very resilient nation.” Despite its decades-long conflict, Talib said Kashmir retains its long-held ethos of compassion and empathy. He indicates Kashmir’s multi-cultural and multi-ethnic moorings, meanwhile, remain mostly unaffected. According to Talib, the fertile lands have ensured the fruit-growing region enjoys economic prosperity – but what is needed now is political stability, a solution to the conflict and peace.

After a long career in international development, Talib hopes his new role as a newspaper editor will help create job opportunities and hope for Kashmir’s young people. “I’ve seen the perils and pain of the Arab Spring, and what it did to countries like Libya and Syria, and I’m affected by that…. I don’t want Kashmir to face a similar situation,” said Talib. “This [idea of] going back [home] is guided by that desire of contributing something small in making sure that our youth have a hope in a better.”

International collaboration gives participants in the Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention program the opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences on tackling local issues of extremism and consider adapting tried-and-tested strategies in their own contexts and communities. Hearing Rwandan participants share how their country worked through the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, where an estimated 800,000 Tutsi Rwandans were killed by their Hutu compatriots in the space of 100 days, was especially valuable for Talib.

Talib said, “Much of the world is currently facing this challenge of extremism. Extremist right-wing parties and ideologies are taking center-stage almost everywhere.” Talib values the moral support offered by the network of like-minded people. He said, “The biggest thing is that we come to know in these events there are people who believe in a future which is inclusive, which is plural, which is respectful of diversity and is not extreme. And that motivates you, and that gives you an opportunity to form linkages, to think of a future where you would have many other people working for a better tomorrow in their own regions.”


Arjimand Hussain Talib is a Fellow of the Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention program. This multi-year series is held in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, with further support from Ronald D. Abramson, the Future Fund of the Republic of Austria, The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation and the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung. More information is available here: holocaust.salzburgglobal.org