Kashmir’s Bitter New Generation

  • GOWHAR GEELANI
  • Publish Date: May 6 2017 2:17AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: May 6 2017 2:17AM
Kashmir’s Bitter New Generation

                                                                File Photo

The ill treatment meted out to the teenaged boys at the hands of the government forces has deeply hurt the collective psyche of people and cemented their anger against the security apparatus

 

In the absence of any hope for a better political and economic future under prevailing circumstances in Kashmir, the youths are moving further away from the pro-India mainstream.

Moreover, there is also the absence of spaces for debate, dissent and student activism in all educational institutions of the Valley, which is limiting options for a large section of the youth.

The situation awareness among children is pushing many in the vulnerable age-group to the wall.

That’s perhaps why Kashmir’s youth is angry and assertive as never before.

Why is there so much of rage on Kashmir’s streets today?

Why has stone become the symbol of resistance?

Why has the stone replaced the pen?

And what has changed so drastically in the Kashmir Valley that we are where we are, as of now?

At an impressionable age, Kashmir’s youth is routinely witnessing killings, strikes, curfews, cycles of strife, and, above all, no dignity attached to their lives.

Since the mass summer uprising of 2008, over 350 civilians, most of them boys in teens, have been killed in government forces’ action in different parts across Kashmir. 

Thousands others have been wounded, over a 1,000 hit by pellets in their eyes while hundreds arrested and subjected to alleged humiliation and torture in jails.

During the latest cycle of instability, many purported torture videos also went viral.

In these horrific videos, the army personnel, paramilitary troopers and policemen could be seen ruthlessly beating teenaged Kashmiri boys and forcing them to raise anti-Pakistan and anti-Aazadi slogans.

The footage established what many already feared was happening as a practice.

The ill treatment meted out to the teenaged boys at the hands of the government forces has deeply hurt the collective psyche of people and cemented their anger against the security apparatus.

“Children absorb and assimilate what is happening around them. They express their traumatic experiences in their own way,” said a leading psychiatrist.

He argued that while “flight from fear is the reaction by default”, but Kashmir’s children from 1989 onwards have “imbibed fears to an extent that they have become fearless”.

“Our homes have become so politicised because of the situation we are facing. Our children have become what trauma makes them,” the psychologist added.

Other experts argued that “anger can go away”, but insisted that “hopelessness is a long-term phenomenon”.

The anger against pro-India politicians, especially with regards to their failure in respecting the dignity of lives of people in Kashmir besides other failures, has prevailed in post-2008 Kashmir.

The latest cycle of student driven agitation began when government forces entered the premises of Pulwama Degree College in volatile south Kashmir and allegedly thrashed many young students, resulting in injuries to over 50 of them.

This happened soon after the protests during the just-concluded by-elections in Srinagar parliamentary constituency on 9 April and re-polling in 38 booths in Budgam district on 13 April, which resulted in killing of nine young boys.

“There is a deep sense of injustice and anger against civilian killings,” Dr. Shabir, brother-in-law of 22-year old Zahid Ganaie killed in firing by government forces in Chadoora town of Budgam district on 28 March, told me.

A week before the by-elections, mourners assembled at slain Zahid’s house in Chadoora were disconcerted.

They were sure that the election boycott will prevail.

Many of them, especially the young ones, said they won’t cast their vote on the day of by-polls for Srinagar parliamentary constituency comprising three districts which include Budgam, Ganderbal and the summer capital.

“The mainstream politicians have not given us anything except body bags of our young,” said one of the mourners, adding that “politicians siding with New Delhi are forcing our old fathers to lower their young sons into the graves on a daily basis.”

Traditionally, Budgam is known for reasonably good voter turnout in the Assembly and Parliamentary elections.

But everything changed in 2017.

The Srinagar parliamentary constituency witnessed record low voter turn out of 7.14 per cent, the lowest in five decades, while on the day of re-polling in 38 polling booths in Budgam district only 2 per cent voters came out to vote.

Through election boycott the people had made a massive political statement.

Waheed Ur Rehman Parra, president of the youth wing of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), acknowledged that Kashmir’s “youth are not identifying themselves with the mainstream at the moment”.

“Problems faced by our youth go beyond elections. Today, it is our eight-year and 10-year olds who are venting their rage on the streets, not elders,” he told me.

After the recent by-elections, massive student protests have rocked the Kashmir Valley from south to north, forcing authorities to close down all educational institutions, colleges and universities for one whole week, beginning 17 April.

Hundreds of girl and boy students from Srinagar to Sopore colleges came out on roads to register their strong protest against the forces’ action in Pulwama Degree College.

Prior to this, Kashmir witnessed the biggest youth-driven and youth-led protest cycle during the civilian uprising that began in July 2016 following the killing of young tech-savvy Hizb commander Burhan Wani.

Sources within Jammu and Kashmir Police conceded that the kind of rage that is prevalent on the streets of Kashmir today has no precedence in recent history.

“The whole society led by the youth has lost the fear of the state. The fear has taken a backseat,” they maintained.

Another pro-India leader requesting anonymity said that on seeing the indifference in people’s eyes for the mainstream politicians “I felt like leaving politics.”

“A young Kashmiri sees the Indian state as a symbol of oppression today. Delhi has left no stone unturned to delegitimise its own democratic institutions,” he said adding that “I felt like a renegade on Kashmir’s abandoned and deserted streets on the election day!”