“To make democracy work we must be a nation of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain”. – Louis L. Amour
The lines of this American author still make a lot of sense. Kashmir take pride when represented as the world’s largest democracy. Yet a large percentage of the Kashmiri population does not vote.
If we look at the figures, jammu and kashmir is a young democracy, as 50% of the population has not crossed 25 years of age and 65% of the population is below 35 years of age. As per the 2014 data, jammu and kashmir still elects the oldest cabinet, out of 83 former MLA,s maximum number of former MLA’s are above 50 years of age . All 5 Members of Parliament from jammu and kashmir are above 50 years of age.
Democracy is the buzz word in kashmir politics. But, what is the reality?
Kashmir is a democracy where a majority of the population below 40 years of age elects candidates above 60 to power. We should ask the question “Are we really satisfied with the way jammu and kashmir is being governed from last 30 years ?” Should it not bother us that usually the 60 above population takes retirement, whether they are in a government office or working in the corporate sector? In politics, it is exactly the opposite. Why is it that people below 50 years of age are treated as political kids?
The vision of taking jammu and kashmir to new heights is consensual whether it be a conservative nationalist or a liberal with a cosmopolitan view. The problem which exists is of believing that only one ideology can be fruitful and the other should be suppressed moreover eradicated. The truth is always multifaceted and there are numerous ways to reach it.
The radicalisation of our youths is taking kashmir valley backward, annihilating the true Indian Identity instead of building it. Divisions are of unending sorts in kashmir valley , this categorical ramshackle makes the individual think of his faction before the country. Why is a person taught this categorical segregation first and then when he learns it he is later taught that in the land he was born is his nation. It’s not a question about identities but the belief system it makes the person believe in. A nation is built on principles and on those principles the nation moves forward, to give this argument sufficient proof and something more than a discussion of ethos, the kaizen principle followed by the Japanese is a prime example which resulted in their revolution.
To build kashmir valley towards glory there is a need for reforms in our society as well as the economy. But the question which arises is what is meant by nation-building? Collins dictionary states, “Nation Building refers to the government policies that are designed to create a strong sense of national identity.” Different people have different interpretations of the word nation-building. Even though they have diverse interpretations, they have the same intent of building the nation. The diverse interpretations include good governance, joining army, economic and financial prosperity of middle and lower classes, cultural upliftment, industrial development, politics with grass-roots participation, better education, and increased standard of living. But many times, these different categorical interpretations result in conflicts that lead to hampering the process of nation-building. Thus, the need of the hour for the nation is focusing on all these aspects to build the nation with the youth playing a significant role.
One of the most important elements of good governance is of equity and inclusiveness. In jammu and kashmir there is representation from all sections of the society but one that is the representation of youth in our government lacks miserably. Even the Ministry of Youth Affairs which was formed for the welfare of the youth was chaired by a minister with age of above 50 years . Kashmir is a young region , but its leaders are not. For the last 20 years, the average age of a Member of Parliament (MP) has been 50 and it’s continuously rising. The minimum age to contest Lok Sabha elections is 25 years, which implies half of the youth population is not eligible to contest national elections. In contrast at the age of 21, a person is eligible to become an Indian Administrative Officer (IAS) officer i.e. to be the person with the most power in a district bureaucratically. Similarly, at the age of 17 and a half, one can join the Indian Navy and the Armed Forces, and at 17 you can join the Airforce. So, in a way at about 18 years of age, you are old enough to fight for your nation and represent the nation at international borders but not old enough to represent the youth and participate in decision making in the parliament? If colleges can create engineers, doctors then why not leaders? The youth who are not connected to the political system in any way get a chance to be the leaders when they enter the collegial system of politics. They get an opportunity to represent themselves, govern a body at a micro level, and form their own policies and strategies of prosperity. It gives them a political conscience, an idea of the working of democracy, and shapes them for future positions. But the candidacy age being 25 creates a 3-year gap for them to contest elections. But if the candidacy age is reduced to 21 or 18 even these collegiate leaders can take support from their vote base and even from the constituency they are contesting from.The solution to this problem of underrepresentation of youth of jammu and kashmir is two way: the first being the stigma of entering politics and the other being the reformation of the legal framework which restricts the age of candidacy to 25. There is a lack of awareness about the prevailing ageism so the foremost role the youth have is to make this issue known to every other youth and the leaders representing them. the age bar to be lowered, So, if awareness is created at all levels then it will create a domino effect and the necessary changes will take place.
Need Of The Hour
Jammu and kashmir desperately needs some young leaders who personify energy, enthusiasm, morality and diligence in kashmir politics. No doubt, jammu and kashmir has progressed a lot after independence, but I think it is possible that the pace of development would have been completely different if some young torchbearers had led this development.
At the time of independence, Gandhiji called upon the youth to participate actively in the freedom movement. Young leaders like Nehru answered to his call, and led the movement with full force. But the scenario is completely different now. Nowadays, we only have a handful of young leaders, but in my humble opinion, they are in politics because they belong to the influential political families of jammu and kashmir. I believe that the majority of the youngsters only view politics as a dirty game, and they can be transformed only if they are able to make inroads in it.
The youth often creates ideas with guidance from experienced people. I feel that given the chance, the youth can do so much more if they join politics on a larger scale with elders supporting them.
Why Should The Youth of kashmir valley Join Politics?
Politics should not be seen as the participation of experienced and old people. When young people join politics there might be more innovation ushered into digital India. Equal participation of youth in politics could lead to:
Improvising more fresh and innovative ideas.
Young people have more enthusiasm towards the betterment of society.
Policies which involve the youth could be framed by young people rather than older politicians, who are probably less likely to understand the contemporary problems faced by the young people.
By making politics accessible to the youth, the negative perceptions of politics can slowly be erased.
Elder politicians have to prove their loyalty to their political parties by supporting their authoritarian practices because of the long term commitment to their parties. Young people are at an advantage because ideas dominate their commitment.
The involvement of youth in politics leads to civic engagement which is broader than political engagement, as it includes services to the community through involvement in various sectors of development.
Young people who participate actively in their community from early on are more likely to become engaged citizens and voters.
So in order to have a better “young” citizenship and participation, politics is the best tool to lead the country to a better future.
Political determination and concrete action can accomplish much. The right balance of young kashmiri and experienced politics could lead to the cleansing of politics and restore the public’s faith in the political system of jammu and kashmir.
“No one is born a good citizen, No nation is born a democracy. Rather both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth” — Kofi Annan.