What have Burhan Wani, Pulwama suicide bomber Adil Dar, Zakir Musa , stone pelters have in common ? They are young teenagers from Kashmir who are willing to carry out attacks on Indian forces. The aim of these young teenagers is very simple ‘Azadi’, but from whom? Many teenagers who have been caught have given vague answers – Azadi from Indian Armed forces, Azadi from Pakistan, Azadi from India . The point here is why are our kids from Kashmir after the age of 8yrs getting lured into armed struggle for Azadi? What is serious are two issues – one , girls are actively participating in stone pelting ; two they are not afraid of ‘death’ for this cause. So what today is the situation in Kashmir ? Home Ministry sources say five districts in South Kashmir are completely out of the hands of Indian forces because these have become breeding ground for Jaish militants. Besides, there are nearly 120 youth the highest ever have gone to Pakistan to be trained in 2018.
Given these inputs from Home Ministry what are we confronted with in coming days ? Militancy in Kashmir has been there since decades. But what is a sign of worry is that now our Kashmiri children are going for training to Pakistan. The difference today and between few years back is- Earlier Pakistan would train Pakistani militants and send them across border, today Pakistan has started training our own Kashmiri teenagers against us . These are the Adil Dar, Burhan Wani, Zakir Musa (the boy who takes over from Burhan Wani and is hiding in some city of Punjab) and many other Kashmiri kids going to Pakistan for training to kill our security forces.
Is our enemy changing its tactic of attacking us ? Pulwama suicide attack is an eye opener for us as it confronts us with a larger question- Can India afford to let Pakistan brainwash our youth against us? Will these Kashmiri teenagers carry out suicide attacks only in Kashmir or will they go to other cities too ? It is deeply worrying for us as Indian citizens because today the attacks are Kashmir centric if not checked it could be Indian cities where our children and families are vulnerable.
How do we correct the course of our Kashmiri teenagers who are going wrong ? How do we as Indians absorb our Kashmiri kids into mainstream ? The present governor of J&K Satyapal Malik upon his assignment on 21August 2018 had indicated that Kashmir is fast losing its youth to militancy. This was indeed a warning that came from highest authority .Today Governor Malik is trying to get private investments in entertainment sector in Kashmir to absorb the youth into something more productive. There is a multiplex opened in Srinagar which has restaurants employing youth. But investments are very slow to move into the strife torn valley. There is no life after 6 pm in the curfew bound state in such a situation what hope does a young teenager in Pulwama, Anantnag or other small towns have. In other Indian cities teenagers meet friends, learn new vocations ,discuss ideas , work towards an ambition etc. But what does a young boy in Kashmir do ? He does not have any access to realise his dreams or any hope, has no clear goals in life because life itself is curfew bound. That is not to say that young Kashmir’is are not getting into IAS or becoming engineers etc. But for every 1 successful boy/girl there are 9 others who are rudderless. This is where the festering problem of young Kashmir today. Today we cannot just be satisfied with only building schools and colleges. It is not just education but also avenues to keep the Kashmiri youth absorbed that are needed. Govt could look at giving tax holidays to IT sector to set up BPOs , Film training institutes, Nurse training institutes, Music production institutes and other kind of vocation in which a youthful energy can be channelised. Indian govt can also look at developing something similar to a para military force only of Kashmiris (Boys and Girls). This could mean we turn our young against the enemy itself. Thereby frustrating the enemy .Agreed these issues will not come without finances but then why can’t we as citizens urge the govt or we ourselves set up a special fund for the youth of Kashmir ? There could be many ways to solve the issue of teenagers of Kashmir. Let us understand that the Kashmir issue will have to be handled by us Indians as a ‘movement’ not as yet another issue. We can take any number of action against Pakistan removing the MFN status, not going to SAARC summit , isolating it from the world or even waging a war on Pakistan but what is happening in our house is for us to solve the answer is for us to find as citizens. It in our larger interest as Indian citizen to ponder over the question of Kashmir it is irrespective of which govt comes to power the solution is for us to seek.
*Bhagyashree Pande is Sr Journalist & political commentator lives in Mumbai