“I come as a friend to offer my help to this very interesting republic,” wrote a 19-year-old Marquis de Lafayette from aboard the ship he was sailing on from France to fight alongside the Americans against the British in 1777. Lafayette was to become an iconic figure in the American war of independence. And that is a good reference point to ask questions about the youth, Indians, yes, but primarily Kashmiris, who find themselves in the situation Kashmir is beset with. It is by now a truism that, particularly, the uprising of 2010, soaked in the blood of over a hundred Kashmiri youngsters, marked a turning point of sorts. The whole apparatus of a sham democracy came crashing down, and a younger generation of Kashmiris became more aware of their circumstances; the utter discrepancy between what the media, the state discourse – sometimes even their parents – had told them about the ‘Kashmir problem’ and what exists. That uprising did result in a younger generation of Indian students and activists, albeit small in number, question state narratives. But what of the young generation of Kashmiris?
The bitter truth seems to be a generation that is either unaware of what has been done to their people, their land, and some who take up cudgels, or a diametrically opposed section that just seems not to care. Another bitter truth is about incipient stages of a class divide. Many of the youngsters hounded, arrested, and charged with draconian laws, belong to the ‘not so well off’ sections of Kashmiri society. One contributing factor in this might well be that the massive campaign of erasure, of wiping out memory, the state has been engaged in has been successful. A section of Kashmiri youngsters seems to be conflating the apparent ‘freedoms’ cited to them by that most dangerous section called ‘Indian liberals’ with what their actual aspirations are. Scratch the surface, and most Kashmiris have the same aspirations, but fogged over by a multitude of discourses they are subjected to.
Thus, it is the basic duty of younger Kashmiris to not forget, to seek answers, to delve into ‘what happened,’ to reject the idea that their aspirations have to be dictated by someone else. And, importantly, to remember that they need to obliterate class divides, and see themselves for what they are. They may not have a Lafayette, they will need to depend on their own will.