Kashmiri Youth: Accepting the Challenges

By K.N. Pandita

The history of a nation is usually interspersed with moments of passivity as well as of activity: it is seldom smooth and even. How the nation reacts to the upheavls or how it conducts itself during the interrugnums of peace and turmoil is the interesting chapter of its social history.

Kashmir is passing through an unprecedented period of turmoil. This nation of fairly substantial antiquity has seen through the millennia, short or long, periods of chaos and confusion as well as of placid peace and prosperity.

But the history of past one decade and half has no precedent. It is not one warlord pitted against the other: it is not one ruler bent on undermining the other. It is a period of deep divide within the civil society. It is a period just short of civil war.

Fifteen years is a long period in the sense that this is the age of scientific, technological and economic development. The speed with which the world is changing tells us that having relapsed into sort of a chronic retardation for last one and a half decade, the given situation has very adversely affected the future development of our youth.

It is true that when the youth passes through a long period of turmoil, it becomes weather beaten. It becomes hardened to the impact of disruption. But in any case that is abnormality and the search for normality must continue.

The Chinese say that if you want to plant for centuries, plant the youth. What we need is plantation of our youth. It means that if the nation is looking forward to a bright future — which might appear elusive at times — yet it is the youth that form the vehicle and the conduit.

Fifteen years of turmoil, of bloodshed and destruction has made our youth hard skinned. It is not their fault. They have been dragged into circumstances where abnormality is considered the order of life. This is not the truth and they need to be dragged out of it.

Our youth is faced with formidable challenges. In the first place, it has to decide about the political dispensation that will carry the nation along the path of progress. Asiatic countries are notorious for bad governance. These are also known for their distortion or rejection of popular democracy. We have passed through long era of authoritarian rule. Not only that, we have struggled relentlessly against the authoritarian rule in pre-independence period. Our youth is unfortunately either misinformed of not at all informed about our nation’s struggle for freedom. The long and exhausting struggle has been obliterated by a new perception that predicts the reversal of the aims and objectives of that struggle. This is unfortunate. The history of any nation becomes meaningful when it is studied and understood as well as interpreted in its continuity. A piecemeal treatment is dangerously adverse and should always be avoided.

There has been much talk about freedom from oppression and suppression and domination etc. This was the slogan of our freedom struggle from early twenties till 1947. Thereafter a new political era was ushered upon us. The new era was not a windfall but the result of a long and continuous struggle in which many sacrifices were made and many lessons learnt. In the process of history in continuity, this struggle and its salient features should have become the beacon light for a long time to come. Unfortunately the moment lost sight of the high standards of political governance and social reformation that it had set forth for itself. The Naya Kashmir was not just a slogan but an ideal very considerately devised and presented. It died with the achievement of only a finge objective of land to the tillers. Thus its wide social implication was relegated to oblivion.

The most popular political party of our state that could have become the effective instrument for the change of destiny of millions of people had the fullest support and trust of the people. Alas it failed to maintain that trust just because personal aggrandisement hijacked it soon after the stalwarts lost sight of the carefully constructed aims and objectives. The result is that today nearly sixty years after independence, we are still in search of our direction and destination.

Our youth has met with a severe trauma during the recent days of cataclysm. It is mentally shattered and morally made bankrupt. It is a rudderless boat swayed down the waters by any and every rising wave. It has lost control over the ship of its destiny and is looking here and there for the steward to show him the destination. This is very unfortunate.

The biggest calamity for a nation is that when it surrenders its own power of thinking, decision and action to others. It is enslavement and the worst part is that we ourselves rush towards those whom we want to enslave us. This malaise cannot find a remedy. The only remedy is self-introspection and self-confidence. Therefore this is one of the formidable challenges before our youth. Is or is not our youth the master of its destiny. This is the crux of the whole issue.

A wise man learns from the mistakes of others while a conceited man learns from his own mistakes. Kashmir’s ten thousand years of history tells us that this nation never enjoyed self rule. It was either dominated by foreign intruders or targetted by domestic power brokers. Kashmir has a long, nearly five thousand years of the history of the rule of Maharajas and Rajas and Sultans. A careful study shows that these ruthless rulers were engrossed in internal intrigues of keeping all authority concentrated in their hands. The question of making common people share power was never there. In such a situation, where the society is oblivious of its historical responsibilities, it had become easy for the Kashmirian elite to worship the rising sun. Instead of establishing its identity and instead of declaring to be the masters of their own destiny, there was timid surrendering to the impostors and intruders. Thus our own people became the vital instruments through which intruders and local satraps managed to monopolize political power in their hands. It was only during the last of these ruling houses that a brilliant man rose to the occasion and infused his people everywhere in the State an urge for self governance. At the end of the tunnel there appeared a flicker of a dim light.

But alas, we did not give proper value to this phenomenon. This has left our youth guessing whether our half a century long movement was in our interests or not. How tragic that this question and this doubt should have found place in the minds of the people.

Our youth is faced with a myriad of challenges. It is not only political challenge or economic challenge. The foremost challenge is to our thinking capacity and to our creativity. There is challenge to the capability of our youth to leadership. There is a challenge to our power of making a decision. These are not small discrepancies or challenges. Naturally to meet these challenges, our youth need the equal understanding, determination and dedication.

The world of contemporary times is fast shrinking. Distances are getting bridged and differences are getting ironed out. Globalisation has its impact on different societies in different ways. Today we are an excellent consumer society in Kashmir and we have lost the faculty of creativity. We have begun to compromise with degeneration of values and deformation of synergies. And where is this going to carry us, we are not prepared to produce an answer to that question.

History of the past is a treasure to be guarded and maintained. But its maximum utility lies in deriving lessons from it in the context of shaping our future course of action. But holding the past as a legacy to be strictly adhered to is a painful and retrograde step. Human history is the complex history of evolution, spiritual and temporal. The march of history needs to be promoted and pushed and not reversed. Any attempt for its reversal ends up in social chaos and confusion, precisely the situation in which we are steeped today.

It has to be realised that every new generation of the youth has the potential to change and improve. It has the potential to adopt and adapt. The question is that of developing a clear concept of the future shape and contour of society. Any euphoric approach to problems and situations is bound to blur the vision and turn the problem into a virtual monster. This has to be avoided. No sensible approach can flow if sentimentality is allowed to have its way.

One of the challenges to our youth is that of transforming Kashmir from a mediaeval and backward society into a modern, mechanised and positively emancipated society. This is a stupendous task and cannot be achieved as long as the society is bogged down with internal strife and external coercion.

There have been armed movements in the past given the name of freedom movements in various parats of the world. There are very few instances of a community achieving freedom ( from what is also a question here) through armed struggle. And if there are instances, it will be seen that the struggle against the organised states have always ended in a fiasco. It is only a chaotic state which has surrendered to the diktat of armed insurgency. The reason mainly is what after an armed struggle reaches it logical conclusion. In the case of Kashmir situation this question is rarely debated freely and fearlessly. An alleged national movement that does not have a viable blue print of the structure and nature of society that it aims at creating as a result of armed struggle, is not only disloyal to the society but is taking it down the precipice of destruction. That has been in store of many an armed struggle movement in different parts of the world. And if the entrepreneurs of freedom movement pull out from their sleeve a blueprint of a conceived state and society of post-struggle era, then a big responsibility devolves on the shoulders of the civil society and its representative bodies to subject that blueprint to thorough and threadbare debate in widest sense of the term. This entails a dispassionate study of what we have in hand and what the freedom movement proposes to bring. Names can be attractive and nomenclature can be thrilling. It is the hard core of the blueprint that will decide the issue. The Kashmir youth need to have this approach to the present situation.

Seizure of political power is not the ultimate destination of any political party or any political ideology. The ultimate destination is the welfare of the civil society, good governance and responsive behaviour of the management. The challenge before our youth is how to address these requirements. Remember that present social and political ills cannot be set right through primitive tools and outdated methodologies. No rule is everlasting and no law is flawless. Finality is a much mutilated word in the lexicon of political philosophers. Resilience and responsive mode have no substitute.

In final analysis, it will be strongly recommended that no emotional or sentimental approach is considered an effectively useful tool to shape the future of a given society. There are harsh realities mankind has learnt from its past experience. There can be no exclusives and no homogeneity of faith, ethnicity, culture and language in any given society that is vibrant and forward moving. This means that peaceful coexistence among the people of various faiths, ethnicity, languages and cultures is an unavoidable imposition which cannot be fought against. Any resistance to it will end up in a disaster. The answer lies in introspection, adaptation and mainstream interaction within the bounds of social parameters and not outside it.

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