India Can Win Our Hearts, but Please Do Things Right: J&K Youth
With Independent India at 70, a Kashmiri youth narrates how he feels about his relationship with the country.
As India is set to commemorate it's 70th Independence Day with patriotic fervour and gaiety, Jammu and Kashmir, a picturesque state resting on its north most frontiers, has a lot to hope for.
On this day, when the Prime Minister from the ramparts of the Red Fort shares a collective voice, Jammu and Kashmir, often a victim of prejudices and social biases, too has a narrative to share. Today we stand at the crossroads in conflict with our identities as Kashmiri Indians.
Belonging to a violence hit state, where life is different and uncertain from what the rest of people in India enjoy , we are often haunted by ghosts of horror that question our being Indians and Kashmiri at same time. The biggest problem confronting us has been of militancy over the years.
‘At Crossroads, Militancy is the Biggest Problem’
It has affected the overall health of the state, fractured the social and communal structure, curtailed our civil liberties, and stifled our voices.
The youth appears to have lost focus and a sense of belonging to the state in the absence of a viable political engagement, and years of broken promises from New Delhi has contributed to the growing alienation. India was to have its first Muslim Union Home Minister who belonged to the soil of Kashmir, and today, the country has credibility issues with our mainstream local leaders.
We don’t like our jawans or locals to get martyred to this senseless violence, but there needs to be an acceptance that educated youth are taking to militancy.
All this is symbolic of the struggle against anarchy and integration into democracy.
Militarily, the approach adopted would be correct and as per the book. However, in order to prevent recruitment of more youth to armed rebellion, there needs to be a viable political engagement, both from the centre and the state.
The perpetual denial mode of not accepting the fact, and the absence of confidence building measures and reach out to the youth has contributed to the sense of frustration that prevails.
‘Move From Damage Control to Confidence Building’
New Delhi must move away from damage control policy to confidence building policy and talk of Kashmir during days of normalcy as well.
Jammu and Kashmir is a small state, and small initiatives with integrity can win the hearts of people, and this includes addressing the return of the Pandits, unemployment, infrastructure development, and above all, accountable and responsible state institutions.
‘Every Kashmiri Earns A Bad Name’
At times, it confusingly seems that territory is more dear to the nation than the people.
What disheartens more is to see unjustified and bigoted criticism of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, its own flag, and the Constitution.
This population already has a heavy baggage of exodus of the pandits, who formed an integral part of our composite culture. The Muslims also have been the worst sufferers of militancy, which has earned every Kashmiri a bad name. However, roots of it are to be traced in the rigged assembly elections of 1987, that forced contesting candidate Yousuf Shah to become Salahuddin of Hizbul Mujahideen, and pick up a gun instead of the ballot.
‘We Are Not Anti-Nationals’
Although there can never be degree or grades of being patriotic, but when a Kashmiri, who is faithful to his nation, stands up for the flag of his nation during the peak of militancy and ideological dissent around, what more is there to test his loyalties and rob him of his sentiments for his nation by terming him a separatist, soft separatist or even anti-national?
Thousands of political workers were silenced to death for their choice of voicing a strong opinion in the favour of this great nation, and now who are left are often discredited, humiliated and trolled, creating a deep vacuum in their psyche.
It's their nation as well, and they too are affected by happenings around. Mothers have lost their sons, fate of thousands is still unknown. One can only guess how difficult it is to live in uncertainty that we have been enduring for more than two decades now.
Still finding a balance between our emotions and what's been given to us in return, the trajectory of violence is bitter. What disheartens more is the assault on thought, closure of talks, and our question of being Indian.
(Mir Imaad Raf is a Srinagar based Lawyer and Columnist. He can reached on @imaad_mir. The views expressed above are of the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor takes responsibility for the same.)
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