Continuing last week’s focus on Kashmiri (J&K) youth, I am reminded of a very important line of former Governor Satya Pal Malik of erstwhile J&K State who at a financial inclusion function picked the power of youth to achieve peace, prosperity and secured future for generations to come in Kashmir. Otherwise also, it has been a uniform line from all those who assume power at the helm to highlight the importance of the power of youth in socio-economic and political governance in a region like ours. But that day, Satya Pal Malik’s line seemed different. It was different in a sense that his concerning voice was echoing pain over the plight of Kashmiri youth.
A new dawn was set in motion some decade back when the central government despite being struck by two mass uprisings in 2008 and 2010 observed patience while handling Kashmir affairs. They tailored rehabilitation and pro youth developmental schemes in such a fashion that Kashmiri youth was lured to move out of the valley to shape their careers. Over a period of time the opening of career paths saw a crowd of Kashmiri younger generation coming out of the conflict-ridden home place and getting mingled into the Indian societies/culture to such an extent that they started forgetting their pain back at home.
As the seed of getting young Kashmiri generation into the mainstream had started germinating, things surprisingly started getting reversed. A wave of religious intolerance swept across the country. Kashmiris who were either working in different parts of the country or were pursuing their studies were targeted to an extent that they were forced to leave and come back to Kashmir. This left Kashmiri youth disillusioned.
Unfortunately, three-decade of armed conflict has consumed army of Kashmiri youth and has adversely impacted their mental ability. Today, when the youth looks at his predecessors, he gets disillusion; when he looks at his future, he encounters uncertainty awaiting him and when he look at his present, he finds himself in most pitiable condition. Precisely, he’s not independent at all and is confronted with safety issues even at home, which is otherwise considered as the safest place to live in.
There’s a phrase: “Problem-free isn’t fully prepared. And fully prepared isn’t fully engaged.” Supporting youth development should not just be about building their competencies and connections, it should be an act to actively engage them in their own development and that of their societies, communities and the nation. So, make the youth partners in tackling pressing problems confronting us. They alone are the architects of the safe and prosperous future.
If we historically look at the development of Kashmiri youth force from time to time, we are dismayed to find that the past of Kashmiri youth has always remained pitiable. He has always been exploited by the powers around, whether the mainstream politicians or the separatists cadres. We only see their plight as all have been exploiting (and continue to be exploited) their sentiments and feelings to paddle their political boats.
Exploitation of youth’s sentiments and feelings is not a new phenomenon, but it’s always remained there as an integral part of the system. A leaf from the past reveals that most of our political set up fashioned the mentality of the youth to suit vested interests of those who held the reins of power and hardly channelized their energy for overall development of the region. Strengthening the relationship between a government and the youth has never been a priority. People at the helm of affairs were not listening enough and not seeking participation of the youth which led to declining confidence among the youth on the governing system.
It’s also a fact that allegations of poor quality of governing institutions, the high level of corruption, influence of special interest groups, lack of competition, dedication, competence and sincerity on the part of all who hold powerful positions have always dominated the narrative. No doubt corruption is all pervasive and no society is free from it, but here in Kashmir, the terrible nature of its size and the haughty manner in which it is treated accelerated the youth’s distrust in the system.
For the last seven decades we still continue to look for a roadmap for Kashmir as far as its economic development is concerned. Throughout all these decades Kashmiris suffered from a stagnant economy and high unemployment menace. The system has failed the youth to translate their dreams into realities and no light at the end of the tunnel has haunted them for all these years.
Now channelizing power of Kashmiri youth into the mainstream rests on the intentions of people at the helm of affairs, especially those in Delhi Darbar. The most important thing is that exploitation and persecution of Kashmiri youth has to end. We have observed that routine space required for routine activities related to their diverse needs and interests is most of the times unsafe. Anything happening anytime and anywhere is a norm in Kashmir. Under these circumstances, carving a safe space with dignity for themselves has always remained a big challenge for Kashmiri youth.
Meanwhile, there is need to focus on youth’s potential to change and improve. Allow the youth to face the formidable challenge of transforming Kashmir from a mediaeval and backward society into a modern, mechanised and positively emancipated society. This task will become easier only when there is end to strife and coercion in all forms is stopped.
Meanwhile, Kashmiri youth too has a responsibility to pull out themselves of uncertainty. They should not get themselves engaged in a rewardless competition of achieving fame that too without achieving anything. With the advent of social media platform, most of our youth force has transformed itself into a Facebook community and many of these young people do nothing but sell themselves. They have dedicated their lives to self-promotion and have own desperation to be famous not for their values but for their visibility.
A quick glance at the engagement of many youth on social media networks sounds a matter of concern as the platform is simply used by them as a fame machine where majority appear sad, lonely, desperate, narcissistic browser who only want acknowledgement, even if it is from other sad, lonely, desperate, and narcissistic browser. This is the real tragedy. Today, every youth via social media like Facebook is engaged to become a celebrity. Almost every one of them runs his own show on the platform which means there’s no one to watch them. Youth constitutes more than half of our population and the irony is that most of the members of this youth generation are waiting for the future to arrive at their doorstep. During the course they lose time to garner opportunities in life to live in peace and prosperity.
So, the youth need to explore their capabilities on ground not only to earn their livelihood but also achieve real fame and should not turn themselves into fake junkies. Let their talent speak for them Otherwise, this is nothing but a kind of social aberration.
In rest of the world, countries have devised programmes to channel the promise and power of youth to change their communities and their regions for betterment. We are living in one of the most difficult socio-economic and political environments. So, while pursuing youth development and livelihood programmes, the government needs to ensure safe space for them. Once safety parameter is taken care of, the power of youth in a scare-free environment will automatically drive peace, prosperity and profits.
In succinct, we have nurtured a lot of social and political ills in Kashmir and these cannot be set right through primitive methodologies. The only way forward is to understand and guarantee prosperous future to the Kashmiri youth. So, handle them with care.
Let me conclude with a beautiful quote of Franklin D. Roosevelt. ‘We cannot always build the future of our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.’
(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)