The Kashmir valley was declared as paradise on earth in 17thcentury by Mughal emperors and was also written about by several poets for its great heritage. In 1947 it become focus of dispute between India and Pakistan. Pakistan backed separatist insurgency against India has turned it into an ugly proxy war between the two nations. The Kashmiris were the ones caught in the middle who faced the brutality and extortion. Kashmir went from poetically imagined place to a potential nuclear flash point between two nations.
Kashmiri youth have grown up in a society where civil and political life have always been through these conflicts.The Kashmir valley has been bearing the brunt of radicalisation. Kashmiris need to change their thinking pattern. The youth are overly influenced by the social media and share anger and frustrations of youth elsewhere which leads to rejecting politics and democracy. The youth demand “azadi” without knowing the reasons for which they are fighting for. The attitudes have shifted so frequently over the years. If minds can be changed once, they can be changed again. There should be space for younger generations to articulate better and explore the meaning of “azadi” by writing their own destiny. Economic challenges such as unemployment has been a huge concern for the youth of Kashmir. After the abrogation of Article 370, Kashmiris can now make decisions in the manner that they deem fit. The situation has opened a window of opportunity for the Kashmiris to strengthen the roots of democracy and integrate with the nation in order to exploit resources being provided to them. The Kashmiris have started to realise that they have been puppets to these masterminds all these years and have been exploited through radicalisation. There has been a shift among the youth towards fulfilling their ambitions and be the cause of change in the society.
Youth in Kashmir aspire to contribute towards the society, yet the continued challenge of finding educational and meaningful employment opportunities due to political insecurity hinders their ability to do so. Socio-economic developments that engage the Kashmiris will be better able to move the society as a whole from the current conflicts. The Kashmiris should understand their priorities and work towards their interests in order to become young achievers.Kashmiris should lead by example similar to the ones such as Nidhi Razdan hailing from Budgam who is a well known anchor of NDTV and Mehvish Mushtaq who was the creator of Dial Kashmir app and was awarded the Nari Shakti Puraskar in 2018.
Young social activists like Miss Nadiya Mir R/o Chodoora,Budgam is an engineering student and are an inspiration for the youth of Kashmir. She started an organisation named “Not Afraid” which works against child abuse. She provides counselling to children and their families by organising awareness campaigns and also educating them through social media and interaction. She got herself trained in self-defence from Chandigarh and also shares the techniques learnt, with the women during her awareness campaigns. She has shown the world that no matter which part of the world you belong to, with determination and zeal one can achieve great a height.
Another such example is Shahid-Ul-Islam Bhat, R/o Thokarpura in Pulwama, a teenager who transforms trash into artistic toys. He aspires to become an engineer. His creativity and passion for cars has shown him the way to transform something ordinary to something extraordinary for the world to see. This highlights that “Success automatically becomes our fate when we are passionate”.
The only way forward is now to address the root cause and to propagate the spirit of Kashmiriyat. Spirituality can play an important role in guiding the youth only when the essence of it is understood. Initiatives by the Army and police such as youth recreational centres can change the perception of the Kashmir society. Upgrading school curriculum through effective teaching will hold greater significance in empowering the students and enhancing their potential. The schools should incorporate vocational training and hands on experience to refine them in order to face the outside challenges. Family members also play a crucial role in shaping the careers of their children and directing their energies in the right path. Private foundations should support entrepreneurship so that economic opportunities are provided for the youth in order to reduce the dependency on private or government jobs. This would not only provide scope to excel but also provide more employment opportunities for Kashmiris. Opportunities such as fellowships, specialised programmes of study, research & development are the way forward to aid in the growth of the Kashmiris. This would make the youth of today into leaders of tomorrow.