The Kashmir Valley was declared as paradise on earth by the Mughal emperor in 17th century. It was a peaceful and tranquil region until the partition of India in 1947. Since 1947, the region has been in constant state of flux and has seen four wars between the neighbors India and Pakistan in last 70 years.
The highly contested Line of Control dividing the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Indian side has profoundly shaped the vision and experiences of youth in the valley. National politics, both in India and Pakistan has also played out in the region. This has led to disillusionment with the established political system of the region and contributed to heightened tensions. The conflict continues to have a strong impact on the life of youth in the region.
The violence in the region has had an adverse impact on the economic situation of the young people, particularly in gaining access to work and livelihoods. High rate of unemployment in the region has led to deep sense of frustration among youth. All of this has also led to a deep sense of disillusionment and lack of confidence in the government and authorities at various levels.
The impact of protracted conflict, combined with lack of faith in government and sense of exclusion from the political processes has led many people to believe that the situation will never change. This has significant psychosocial and emotional impact on young people. Many young people have come to believe that violence is the most effective way forward. This makes the youth of the region easy targets to be radicalized and recruited as militants. Various separatist groups in Kashmir have conveniently exploited the sentiments of youth and misguided them for their own selfish gains. While who escape radicalization, become victims of drug abuse and end up as drug addicts. In all, the potential of youth in the region is going to waste.
In spite of the potential for young people to be drawn into violence and militant organisations, the actions and resolve of young people is often the key to a future full of hope and peace. On the positive side, we have youth who are committed to moving on in the modern world, determined to brighten their prospects, improve their quality of life and benefit from the enormous and hugely lucrative openings in government as well as corporate sectors. They concentrate on their studies and dedicatedly prepare for competitive examinations or what-ever tests the corporates, in both national and international arenas, prescribe. A large number of younger populations from Jammu and Kashmir are joining the armed forces and administrative services by preparing and qualifying defence entrance exams held by UPSC like CDS, NDA, AFCAT and CAPF which is a positive sign.
The solution to the issues lies with the people. They have to generate the will to give peace a chance so that the development activities can be carried forward. With development will come jobs, which will channelize the energy of the youth towards productive pursuits.
It cannot be denied that the government is attempting to remain focused on the issue development despite the law and order challenges. The elders and the civil society of Kashmir will also have to play a vital role to removing the prevailing feeling of hatred and frustration that envelopes’ the youth of the Valley. This is undoubtedly a long term process but a beginning has to be made.
Youth should become the center of gravity of the government policy to curb terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. Sincere efforts in this direction have the potential of changing the sociopolitical landscape of the trouble torn region.