Sajad Farooq Rather
If we believe that not all is lost in Kashmir, then it is important to find ways of bringing some peace and normalcy in the valley. The Kashmir situation is one of the most confounding in politics and has impacted society at all levels, but youth in particular have been caught in its whirlpool. Conflict, and conflict, results in killings, destruction of property, loss of livelihood, lack of opportunities in terms of human development and economic growth. Following the killing of Burhan Wani, the popular commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, the Kashmir conflict seemed to have entered into a new phase, with society becoming more radicalised.
In India right now, every third person is a young person (15-24 years). The population size of young people in J&K is 2.39 million according to the last census in 2011. This is the reason why youth have the most potential for bringing social change. Unfortunately, the ability of Kashmiri youth to be engaged in socio-political transformation is often left unexplored because of dearth of safe spaces amid the constant conflict in the valley. The older generation finds it hard to forget old wounds and grievances but the young can start from a clean sheet. Kashmiri youths can become agents of change. Their inclusion in the peace process is key to building and sustaining peace. Young people also have an important role in deterring and solving conflicts, and are key constituents in ensuring the success of both peacekeeping and peace building efforts.
In the J&K Union Territory, for well known reasons, youth related matters have assumed central importance. It is an established fact that militancy in Kashmir is led by youths. There is need for a new social contract to reintegrate youth in the mainstream of social, economic and political life.
Any solution to the conflict in Kashmir will require goodwill gestures and compromises not just from New Delhi but also from Kashmiris themselves. The Kashmiris have to understand that radicalisation and wielding a gun is not a solution, New Delhi, too, has to change its bullet-for-bullet stance towards Kashmir. Lending an ear to the alienated youth and the masses is the only way to bring lasting peace to the valley. Genuine leadership at the national and regional level is required to overcome the enormous challenges. The national media not only contributes to the escalation of conflict in Kashmir but also alienates Kashmiris from the rest of India. The media should debate on good governance in J&K rather than creating false narratives to portray the common Kashmiris as “agents of Pakistan” or as terrorists.
The writer is President, Kashmir Law Circle. [email protected]