I love to be concerned with the issues of youth. I still cherish the days of my youth and do dream-wish if I could reclaim those days. This is inter alia why my pieces in this daily started with issues and concerns of the youth in the Kashmir region. Today is important not only for today itself but also for what might happen tomorrow; youths of today are relevant as determinants of the social scenario tomorrow.
As I have been reiterating, I have my love lost for the land and people of the Kashmir region; the land for being a most lovable natural region of the world and the people for the unstinted effort to sustain the natural values of the region. It is exactly in this background of shared ethos and longing for reclaiming the youth that I read the news of the Kashmir region day in and day out. Two news – one recent and another recurrent – would be flagged for today. The recent one relates to the determined efforts to transform administration and improved the governance capability to deliver responsibility and performance for the land and people of the Kashmir region; this was the focus in my last piece in this column. The second news relates to death of youths in counter insurgency responses and to a lesser extent young security personnel in ambushes inflicted by the anti-state youths; in either side, it is the youths who are paying the price with their lives.
While the young security personnel die consequent upon the ambushes by the armed youths, we can understand the purpose and appreciate the sacrifice. The security personnel are performing their avowed duties for the cause of the nation; they have a socially accepted purpose and get rewarded for attending to the calls of their engagement. But the rationale of the youths engaged in ambushing the security personnel is hard to digest. They are at the prime of their lives and still losing them. One common refrain is that they are sacrificing their lives for contesting the prevailing truth and to reclaim their “truth”. Now time has come for the youths in Kashmir to re-ponder, and seriously at that, on how far the mission of contesting the prevailing truth can be rationalized, justified and achievable. Well, we understand that the post-modernist thinking has emphasised the difficulty of establishing an absolute truth. But we must also hasten to add that challenging an existing truth is always a hard call unless it relates to an experiment in a physical laboratory with machines around. This is particularly so in the context of socio-eco-politico existence. The contest to the prevailing truth in such cases should invariably be founded on irrefutable historical, social and cultural foundations. It should also be something in which the social commitment is singular. In the present case, it should also have a robust support in the international political economy environment. But in the case of the Kashmir region, none of these conditions is satisfied. On the contrary, two realities are becoming very salient. First, the involvement in contesting the truth is not something organic and endogenous to the thinking of the youths; the push factor is exogenous and the source happens to be a minuscule group of disgruntled elements. Second, the number of youths involved in contesting the truth has been declining over the years, and the disgruntled groups have been finding it increasingly difficult to recruit new cadres for sustaining the disturbance.
It is exactly in this context that the recent initiatives for administrative reforms and thus enhance governance capability to converge with the requirements of the people become significant. But social improvement and economic transformation are never a result only of the government. The role of the community is paramount. We all know that youths are passing through a very malleable period in the various epochs constituting life. We must also accept the fact our own community must have erred somewhere in giving leadership and direction to our youths; playing these roles are not only of the families, but there is a huge interactive role of the communities in which the youths grow up. This aspect has been very wonderfully articulated by Scales and Leffert in their 2005 book titled Developmental Assets: A Synthesis of Scientific Research on Adolescent Development. In this, Scales and Leffert divide the assets into two primary groups – External and Internal. Both External and Internal are again divided into four asset categories each; the External consists of Support, Empowerment, Boundaries and Expectations, and Constructive Use of Time while the Internal consists of Commitment to Learning, Positive Values, Social Competencies, and Positive Identity.
As stated above, the period of youth is a very malleable stage. But the psychologists say for sure that this is also the most uncertain period for any youth. This uncertainty can definitely attract some to mis-adventurism and take the route of contesting the truth as the right path. There is every possibility for this to have happened to the youths in the Kashmir region. We have had decades when the disconnect between the government and the governed was the rule rather than the exception. This definitely must have caused the community too withdraw from the social scene. This is a perfect breeding ground for the disgruntled elements to engage in their trade. This is also the period the uncertainties being faced and to be tackled by the Kashmir youths have also multiplied.
Now the social challenge is a collective one and we cannot afford to fail by any means. The governance has shown definitive signs for connecting with the people. There has to be moves from both the sides of the government and the community to converge to a common cause. The common cause is fully converting the Youths of Kashmir into the Assets for Development which they are. The collective mind has now to be applied in evolving social policies and community engagements to achieve this transformation. History is now knocking at the door. It is also the time for the youths to respond to the times and rise to the occasion as trend-setters. The pandemic tells us that none is safe unless everybody is safe. The youths can perform two tasks at one go – A. they can save themselves by spontaneously responding to the medical initiatives; and B. they have the highest command over energy to attend to the public needs of the troubled times. Right now the Positive Kashmir, as an example, is performing a yeoman’s service by attending to the medical needs of the people affected by the pandemic and in collaboration with Seva International, helping and facilitating O2 Concentrator supply to Jammu and Kashmir, If the youths come together and start engaging as developmental assets, none can match that as positive social agents.