Why Kashmiri Youth Like Mannan Wani Are Turning to Militancy
AMU scholar Mannan Wani’s joining militant ranks in Kashmir points to disillusionment among the youth.
Violence is not something new to Kashmir’s youth. My generation has grown up amidst the roar of guns. Our adolescence has been disrupted with public humiliation and harassment at the hands of uniformed men who had taken the oath of protecting us. As our teens elapsed and we entered our youth, our careers or jobs offered us the opportunity to visit, study and settle in different parts of India, a country whose name is synonymous with everything that is wrong in a Kashmiri’s lexicon.
Kashmir’s Ties With Rest of India Transcend Petty Differences
The interaction with citizens from other parts of India have not been fruitful and joyous for every Kashmiri. Time and again, we have had to face this question — why do we not consider ourselves as Indian? Why are we throwing stones and waging a war against the Indian Army?
The most hateful part of the tirade is being dubbed as ‘Pakistanis,’ a country that most Kashmiris have never visited, not even those in the part of Kashmir administered by Pakistan. To add insult to injury, whenever any Kashmiri is invited to be a panelist on a news channel he/she first has to prove his /her loyalty and patriotism towards India.
This does not in any way mean that we have not cultivated, nurtured and sustained relationships with the rest of India. We have been communicating and will continue to. We share emotions, sentiments, food tastes, attire and festivals with our Indian counterparts.
Our friendship is far bigger than what can be confined within the petty boundaries of nationalism, borders, and communal interpretation of religions. If Kashmir becomes an independent nation one day, our friendship will still survive. Humanity, its values and pluralism are greater than what nationalists, politicians and communalists intend for us to believe in.
Rise of Communalism
India is not merely the name of a nation, but of an entire civilization that believes and upholds certain core values. With the advent of modernity and colonialism, these values have been retrograded to oblivion. Now, even the Indians, particularly those who are upholding the ethos of ‘Hindutva,’ are oblivious to this.
They are the real threat to Indian values and even to Hindu religion that they allegedly adhere to. The concept of nation states, petty nationalism and electoral politics have retrograded them to such a position where they construct every person, community and minority as the ‘other’ — those who dare to dissent.
They have become the ‘authority’ on who is a ‘real Indian’ and who is an ‘outsider.’ This rabid communal atmosphere has affected Kashmir too.
Kashmiri businessmen, employees and students who are stationed in other parts of India too have been unable to negotiate between their Kashmiri and Indian identity. To put it bluntly, the Constitutional values of secularism, democracy, freedom of speech, rule of law, pluralism and republicanism have not inspired Kashmiris to believe in them.
Why AMU Scholar Mannan Wani Took up Arms
Thus, when it comes to Kashmir, the whole idea of India and its civilization loses its sheen. The renewed spate of violence, particularly since 2008, is a glaring example of Kashmiris’ disillusionment with the idea of India. The youth have become so disillusioned that they now seek refuge in violence and armed insurgency.
Mannan Wani, someone I knew personally, a scholar at a Aligarh Muslim University, has recently joined the armed insurgency. He had the potential to become a good researcher and social activist, and it shocked me to find out in the first week of January 2018 that he had joined militancy in Kashmir.
When I saw his picture in the news, holding a heavy weapon, I could not believe my eyes. I tried to console myself through false assurance that it must be a morphed image. But my apprehensions were proved wrong when his parents and family issued appeals to him for his safe return. I was numb for the next few days as I became nostalgic about him and his conversations. I could never believe that such a bright scholar could join militant ranks. His demeanor and conversation never reflected any inkling towards insurgency.
No Opportunities for Youth
When I began to ponder about the apparent reasons that drove Mannan to militancy, I realised that one reason could be the humiliation faced by Mannan on his last visit to the Valley, as the vehicle he was travelling in was stopped more than seven times en route to his native village in the district of Kupwara.
According to reports, security forces commented on his long hair and beard being synonymous with the image of an insurgent. In many cases, youths have been driven to the wall by the undue harassment of security forces and police. But this alone did not seem to be adequate reason for a bright youth like Mannan to join insurgency.
The other reasons that I uphold as the catalysts, that pushed Mannan to the path of insurgency, are the failure of the idea of India, to inspire Mannan to believe in the values of pluralism, democracy and dissent. This failure is disturbing for a youth like Mannan who had experienced and spent some years in a prestigious Indian university. If Indian educational, cultural, social and political system failed to inspire a bright youth like Mannan, then it simply means that we are staring at a bleak future where youths see salvation through the prism of violence.
With Hurriyat Losing Ground, Youth Turn to Militancy
A bigger failure that stares us in the eye is our party system that has the least prospects for the youth. Neither pro-Indian nor pro-resistance political parties have any programme or vision for the youth. They want them to either work as volunteers or workers with no prospects for grooming them as future leaders.
If Mannan could have found the space within resistant politics and parties, he would certainly have chosen political nonviolent activism over militancy. The resistance triumvirate (Geelani, Mirwaiz and Yasin Malik) who founded the joint resistance leadership has no mandate for the youth. They have become so dictatorial that even other senior leaders feel suffocated.
With each passing day, the Hurriyat Conference is losing its sheen and ground. First it was confined to the Valley, now it has been reduced to a few pockets only. With the marginalisation of the Hurriyat Conference, militancy is becoming a potent mode of resistance, and with each passing day they are calling the shots.
If the Hurriyat does not democratise its ranks, militancy will be the only lucrative option left for youths like Mannan. In spite of it all, I hope Manaan finds it in him to look at the bigger picture, give up armed insurgency and take up nonviolent civil resistance to fight for the rights of the oppressed.
I hope Mannan comes home soon.
(The author is a writer-activist based in the Kashmir Valley. He can be reached at @Mushtaq_haq. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
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