A tragedy is in the making in Kashmir. It is unfolding as this essay is being written and as this newspaper goes to the press. The implication that I am drawing out is that the youth of Kashmir’s saga of tragedy is an ongoing and a continuous process which appears to be never ending. What, the question is this tragedy that I am alluding to? The nature of the tragedy lies in the fact that the youth of Kashmir actually have nothing to look forward to. This is one facet of the epic misfortune that defines the existence of Kashmir’s youth. The other, which is psychological or even psycho-emotional, flows from it: given Kashmir’s youth have nothing substantive to look forward to, there is a comprehensive mismatch between their actual and realized potential, psycho-emotional world(s) and aspirations, which include both the prosaic and the political. What all this has bred is a curious (or paradoxical) outlook and condition: Kashmiri youth are apolitically political. The corollaries that flow from this condition are that there is a structural gridlock in the unconscious and consciousness of Kashmir’s young.
A digression might be warranted here. In the final analysis, we (humans) are the product of nurture than nature. That is, it is largely the environment that determines the locus of our beings, our world views, outlook, aspirations, and ambitions and so on. Our environment- political, cultural, social, economic, and emotional- structures our collective and individual consciousness, unconscious and psycho- emotional universe(s), which in turn determine our perspective(s) and overall approach to life. Consider an example. In many parts of the world, say for instance, the United States, at one point in time, the so called American Dream, gave the youth of America hope and thereby the energy to work towards better prospects. This gave them optimism and verve. And, in a way, that this American Dream is actually over and done with for most people in the United States, on account of a whole host of reasons, there was a reaction in the country. But, returning to Kashmir, there is neither hope nor any prospects of improvement in the conditions for the youth of Kashmir. The reason(s) are all too obvious and pertain to the resistance of powers that be to the overall resistance and inertia that has descended upon them to arrive at a conflict resolution paradigm in Kashmir. The attendant uncertainty, political gridlock in terms of the conflict, the overall torpor and the conditions of conflict in Kashmir create what may be called the “perfect storm” in the consciousness of unconscious of Kashmir’s youth. While storm connotes disruption and a maelstrom, but in terms of the young of Kashmir, while it has similar connotations but it also means a grim but a psycho-emotional condition, wherein actual potential jostles against realized potential, to repeat. Broken down, this means that while Kashmiri youth have great potential and they believe that they have this potential but it is actually not realized. The psychological implications that flow cannot be clearer than this. And, the structuring context of political conflict and uncertainty only exacerbates it. An addendum to this condition are the hostile, unfriendly and, in fact, discouraging systems like the educational- primary, secondary and tertiary (which includes university systems of Kashmir) that, at the end of the day, prevent our young from attaining a fuller potential.
The conventional or even typical response by the administration(s) and the so called political classes of Kashmir has been to trot out clichés and corny banalities like “youth engagement” and so on. A statist diagnosis and response, it merely implies that if youth are, for example, engaged in sport, or take part in civil services, or other similar endeavours, all will be fine and hunky dory, at the end of the day. That is, things will be fine for the state. This is a crucial point. The state, which sits atop an estranged society in Kashmir, feels that this kind of engagement will dent the estrangement. But, this is what amounts to a fatal misdiagnosis (and a self serving one). The real reasons for the condition of our youth which has been described in this essay flows from the conditions of conflict, the uncertainty thereof and its attendant corollaries. This is as obvious as can be. Anything that seeks to purport otherwise is mere pretence.
The question is: Can the youth of Kashmir look forward to a better future where their actual and realized potential is aligned? Can they be released from the burden(s) of history? And, can hope be the actual and determining locus of their psycho-emotional universes? Yes is the unqualified answer. But, a caveat is in order here. Kashmir’s youth can only look forward to a better, hopeful future if and when the conflictual conditions that obtain in Kashmir give way conditions of hope, a condition where young Kashmiris can dream again. And, this re-inculcation of the ability to dream can only happen when the burden of history is alleviated and a forward looking idiom of hope created in Kashmir. Decoded, this means creating and developing conflict free conditions in Kashmir which, essentially means the primacy of wisdom, prudence and sagacity over the politics of truculence, under which remain buried the detritus of Kashmiri hopes.
—The author can be reached at: [email protected]