As a scholar and a person of keen interest in the sociology of Kashmir society, I keep on meeting Kashmiris both inside and outside Kashmir to listen to their current views on the region. While talking to a chunk of youth both inside and outside the valley in certain group discussions on the theme of ‘thinking Kashmir’, ‘is Kashmir growing’, ‘Kashmir’s young minds”, etc, one comes across certain sets of suggestions and answers. A chunk of youth (though not substantial) directly brand the whole Kashmir issue as an Islamic issue and want it to be restored and live an Islamic life, even some of them (mis)quote verses of the holy Quran as well to substantiate their emotional arguments and political rhetoric. They also believe that Kashmiris are subjected to Zulm (oppression) by the elite in power and to them striving or fighting for Azadi means all efforts to get rid of the Zalim (oppressor). Hence by their pseudo-theological connotations they paint the whole idea of K-issue as religious.
I met a group of teachers and youth in a school about six months ago; most of them abuse the modernity in Kashmir and treat the west responsible for all the contemporary evils. On K-issue, they even ignore the minority voices. The other group however, in similar tone, talks about the need for efforts to change the perceptions (of being Indian) among Kashmiri youth and give credit to the whole concept of Tehreek (Movement) that started in 1989. They laud the same Tehreek however simultaneously argue that the very Tehreek was initiated so hurriedly without a proper strategy and methodology. They ignore civilian killings and violence perpetrated by non-state actors (NSA’s) during turmoil and brand all the bloodshed and devastation merely as the sacrifices by people. I was wondering about how can we brand someone’s killing/murder/deliberate torture by forces or others as his sacrifice. The question is, were those really ready who made such so called sacrifices (actually their victimization being legitimized)? Some youth even hail the contribution of the last few (devastating) summer uprisings (of 2008 and 2010) and believe that uprisings worked in favor of Azadi and changed a plethora of motivated minds back to Azadi sentiment due to oppression and killings by forces.
Another group of youth argues that Kashmir needs a mental change/psychological transformation among youths so that we can transform those minds who do not identify themselves with the freedom sentiment either fully or partially. “Ab Ek Naya Rujhaan Ban Raha Hai Azadi Ka”, (a new thinking for freedom is developing now), says a student in an emotional voice. Critising each other and rubbishing each other’s arguments, some voices say, “What exactly our so called separatist leadership has done so far? Nothing”. We are in utter leadership crisis, had it not been so, we would have achieved freedom long ago.” A smiling voice in the middle of the discussion utters, “I have to be aware about things around, I need to know what is right and wrong, why should I follow a particular leader, it is not necessary to follow leaders, I am a leader of my own self”. I could make out that a small crowd of youth is fed up with hollow slogans and discard any leadership or their ideologies.
I came across some voices who believe that the fact of us being Muslims is our problem otherwise America and other big powers would have pressurized India to liberate Kashmir. On asking is K-issue all about Jihad and a fight for the sake of Islam they seem to be sure of that but most of the times contradict their own statements. It reflects there are so many confusions in understanding the true lexicon of the conflict itself.
Another section of youth does not totally subscribe to the Azadi sentiment and solution through the barrel of the gun; they believe education is the real weapon to liberate oneself from the shackles of slavery and oppression. They feel the fight or chaos is all out of the lack of feel secure psyche and once they feel secure psyche and human dignity is restored, one is already Azaad (free). A gentle man stands and cries louder, “stop this emotional stuff, we need some substance, we need some solid arguments, we need to fight their (oppressors) arguments with strong and equally valid arguments only, we need to fight their literature with a true counter literature only, gun has destroyed us, books will liberate us”. He goes on and on and even says, “One feels ashamed to see our leaders both mainstream and others representing Kashmir issue or problems thereof on TV shows or news channels. What do they say? Nothing, except emotions and even some of them abuse the anchors or display their immature attitude”. But a young student interrupting him again starts reciting Quranic verses (perhaps knowing that none of us know the meaning) trying to justify need for Jihad in the contemporary era of tyranny. What i could gather from both was that two extremes exist at the same time, a youth category in thirties want to represent Kashmir and its woes via ample knowledge, sound arguments, clarity of thought and emergence of genuine voices without any rhetoric. Another category of youth in late twenties, manipulating religion, misinterpreting religious commands, full of emotions and hatred.
A student refers Arab Spring as a big change maker and aspires for a Kashmir Spring without even admitting the mess and fallout of the Arab Spring in all the post-Pseudo revolution states. During all this discussion a small group of youth utters nothing but smile as the orators speak. On asking why they don’t say anything, they argue that thinking on a peaceful Kashmir is nothing but a utopia because it will never be so. On a further inquiry they open up saying that we label it badly as a religious issue, which it is not, we dream of Pakistan, we dream of referendum, sometimes demand right to self determination but again we the same people participate in all elections, even get elected as Panchs and Sarpanchs, it is nothing but a fight for employment, Bijli, Pani and Sadak. We are still with the false beliefs that world is looking at Kashmir and Kashmir issue is being seriously pursued by Pakistan, UN, USA and other powers”. We are living in a complete ignorance and overlook Pakistan’s internal chaos and priorities like keen to grant MFN status to India, its Taliban mess and burning frontiers, etc,. We ignore US and India relations, UN and its cold response on K-Issue, etc,.”
Listening to their say, another group of youth apparently of hardliners mentality, argues: “suppose all these issues like unemployment, Bijli, Pani and Sadak are addressed (though such problems will prevail for ever), do you guys believe that Kashmir will be all peaceful and quite for all times to come?”.This argument shocked me also though I was merely facilitating the discussion. I realized that something has seriously gone wrong with the people’s aspirations and that is why such a negative collective mindset has grown up. I owe such a mess to continuous crisis mishandling and civilian killings, closure of important HR violation cases like nameless graves, Shopian case, Pathribal, Kunan, etc,. I realized that scars of suffering and injustice meted out to common people have led to such a mentality.
When I was leaving the group and saying goodbye to all, a young boy told me,” Sir Tehreek Dubti Zaroor Hai Lakin Marti Nahi, 200 Saal Baad Hi Sahi,HamKo Azadi Milegi” (movement though is suppressed but it hardly dies, even after 200 years we will achieve freedom”).I realized the earlier indoctrination of the younger lot has turned to a spirit of radical thought process and is reaching its peak. I also realized that for people K-issue is a long issue perhaps for many ore decades now. They want a leader like Geelani Saheb to fight for Kashmir. Even one gentle man told me, “I wish Geelani Sahib would have been in his forty’s at the moment”. When I inquired what does he mean by that, he said, “do you know when the head of the family (Father) dies when he has small children, what happens to his family? They turn orphans and the family and all of its dreams collapse”.
From talking to youth in valley I learnt many things perhaps that I couldn’t have conceptualized. As a Kashmiri, now who is living outside Kashmir for many years now I realized that dissent is still there especially among the younger generation? The dissenting voices have increased though suppressed most of the times. the question that struck my mind was ‘Why so’ and who is at fault, forces, local police, crisis mishandlings by security apparatus, impact of last summer unrests and bloodshed on youth psyche, what?. I also understood that a conflict generation has grown up who though do not subscribe much of the separatist camps or follow them staunchly but their psyche reflects that Kashmir is in a mess and it needs a solution. They are conscious of Zulm (oppression) and have developed a sense of alienation while living in the conflict and treating themselves the children of conflict. Even most of them have developed certain security phobias. Some of them believe that Kashmiri’s are insecure everywhere outside their own territory. Some argue that they feel insecure everywhere. Some believe intelligence agencies are after every Kashmiri and feel alienated both inside and outside Kashmir.
Though we must never judge Kashmir situation today by such small group discussions and generalize the total situation or collective mindset on such a few voices, but at the micro level one definitely gets a perspective, a perspective of a hijacked psyche, a new conflict socialization that has laid an impact, a new motivation among youth that they feel is true, a growing conflict generation, who feel alienated by the system, a culture of hatred against the other, a culture of dissent against the system, a new political culture shaping a new but unstable Kashmir, etc,. A significant chunk of youth hardly consider Jammu perspective or Ladakh opinions as valid and for Jammu and Ladakh’s different opinions’ about conflict situation in Kashmir, a chunk of Kashmiri’s paint the whole struggle as Islamic, giving hardly any consideration to the aspirations of other people and other regions of the state.
They blame separatists for not handling the unrests properly. They also curse the absence of a dynamic separatist leadership. Reading the psyche of most of such youth clusters, I hardly found any idea of the aspiration for reconciliation in Kashmir or any peace building desire. Learning from listening to such youth clusters I happen to prove one of my hypotheses wrong, i.e. ‘youth are being motivated or indoctrinated’. This was true but earlier during the violent conflict but youth now are self motivated, no body re-socializes them or tries to induct them into the culture of turmoil. Perhaps they don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel and are hopeless with their political utopia.
The need of the hour is to have an extensive field work on conflict situation and work out some effective paradigms of reconciliation in Kashmir. Further interaction must be enhanced at grass roots by significant stakeholders to know the field and other perspectives and aspirations of masses especially of the youths. A public dialogue policy must be initiated and unheard voices given a genuine space. Youth of Kashmir need sympathetic listeners where they can express themselves freely and with any fear. Peoples’ genuine woes need to be addressed and we should seriously ponder over the already matured and growing conflict generations of Kashmir. Peace building efforts need to be enhanced, zero tolerance towards Human Rights violations and promote better infrastructures for education, employment and sustainable development.