Kashmir's bitter new generation
What makes up its worldview
POINT OF VIEW BY RIYAZ AHMAD
Even though the current upsurge in Valley is exceptional for the sheer scale of the protests it has unleashed, what is even more surprising is the role of the youth at the forefront of it. In fact, the unrest has fundamentally been led by Kashmir’s callow new generation, a predominant majority of them in the age group of 10 to 25. And they have come from every part of the Valley, right from the far flung areas of the frontier district of Kupwara to the extremities of the district Islamabad, often challenging the writ of the established separatist leaders.
The areas sucked into the revolt include areas as far as the hilly town of Tangmarg, even parts of border town Uri and small mofussil villages all over the Valley. There are reports that in some villages groups of boys on many evenings assemble in fields under the shade of walnut or Chinar trees to shout slogans of Azadi, unknown and unheard. These are the areas which except through the year of 1990 have generally been an onlooker to the Valley’s secessionist tumult. But now are one with it.
What stands out through it all is the anger of the new generation. And its echoes from all corners of Valley. In recent past as Srinagar woke up to multitude of nocturnal revolts, with loudspeakers booming with Azadi slogans, followed by the raucous rumble of the seething masses through the streets, the echoes were not limited to the Valley’s major towns alone. But to the larger countryside and sweeping to the hitherto insulated border areas. These are the kind of places which might have been frequent sites of militant violence in the past but were cut off from the heady Azadi groundswell in the plains. What we are witnessing in Kashmir now may not be the unusual melding of the ethnic and sectarian identities around the sentiment of Azadi as witnessed in 2008 but a certain disappearance of the divergent political loyalties. While it may still be premature to predict about the sustainability of this trend, Kashmir is relentlessly getting wrought into a monolith.
The situation has changed more in the way the youth have seized the command of the movement. The swarms of teenagers heaving through Kashmir’s streets and shouting forgotten slogans herald a entirely new cycle of rebellion. This is Valley’s raw, new generation, bred in the conflict but until the recent past indifferent to it. But in a matter of days, this generation seems to have inherited the charge. It is angry, rebellious and ready to die in what it sees as the larger cause of Azadi. For them, the security posts along the streets are a domesticated presence and so invoke no fear. Their fuming groups tear down bunkers, jeer at police and CRPF personnel and do a defying whirling dace when passing by the security camps. These youth have now brushed with the trouble and despite the loss of lives seem to have tasted it well.
So what did change this generation, besides, of course, the game-changing impact of Amarnath groundswell. Their profound sense of alienation despite some well known causes remains a matter of debate. It is nobody's case that this generation does inherit a troubled historical baggage – now embedded with the immediate poignant memory of the past two decades. There is also this cherished longing for a separate Kashmiri nationhood that reigns supreme despite occasional criss-cross of mainstream political debate.
This discourse has further been strengthened by the experience. Having lived under a suffocatingly militarized environment, this generation has grown to hate New Delhi, which it sees now as some malign foreign entity. What is more, these youth have generally remained beyond the reach of the political parties. The revival of the fortunes of some mainstream political parties over the past some years was in part the result of the change of heart of older generation fatigued by militancy.
New generation, on the other hand, was too young to participate. It had held off its allegiance to any political ideology before being swept away by the upsurge over the Amarnath land row. The generation was suddenly drawn to the separatist ideology but has since maintained an ambivalent relationship with the separatist leadership, wanting to lead them rather than be led. They are also ready to follow them but on their own terms. The binary of the mainstream-separatist divide has confused them. And there is this overwhelming urge – much like the early nineties – to obliterate the mainstream again. If past three months are any guide, they have almost achieved this feat. Let alone address a rally, a mainstream leader cannot even visit his constituency.
However, this generation is not shaped alone by the evolving local historical narrative of Kashmir, it also understands quite a bit of the world, in fact more than the generation of the nineties. This is a generation that sees wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the direct result of the unfolding conflict between the West and Muslim world. It doubtless subscribes to the narrative of Muslim oppression but it is not pan-Islamist, as freely alleged by a section of media coverage. What this global understanding has instead done is that it has made this generation insecure about India. The vocal nationalistic drift in mainstream Indian discourse underpinned by a veiled perception about Muslims as the other only adds to the alienation.
The cumulative effect of this perception is that this generation feels little stake in India's growth. They don't buy into the Indian dream. This, in turn has restricted them to the confines of Valley, the only place on earth where they could look for unemployment and of course, career. Unfortunately, both the employment and career in Valley are now in short supply. Government jobs have dried up and private sector is non-existent. The consequent hopelessness about future while staying as part of India has created a suffocating scenario that they feel needs to be gotten rid of. Hence the current unrest.
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 Aug 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Mon, 30 Aug 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Tue, 31 Aug 2010 00:00:00 IST
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