On “World Youth Day,” I pray for children and young people, the future of every and any nation, the world over. I condemn the use of unwarranted force, pellet guns, the policy of shoot to kill employed to disperse crowds in Kashmir! I condemn the glorification of the “matrydom” of our young, whose families will be devastated forever and will never know any relief! The physical and psychological incarceration of our alienated young people is part of the problem, not the solution!
We, as a people, cannot afford to ignore the empowerment that critical intelligence gives us; the credibility that articulate expressions of our discontent give us; the international forums that are made available to us because of the intelligence that we have employed to create a national identity. We have witnessed the militarization of the sociocultural fabric of Kashmir; we watch with remorse the clamping down of intellectual freedoms in Kashmir and the growing influence of fanatical elements in that polity; we are saddened by the shutting down of dissenting voices; we mourn the erosion of women’s activism in Kashmir by the reduction of their identities to grieving mother, martyr’s mother, or rape victim; we grieve the relegation of sane voices in civil society to the background; we are pained by the scathed psyches of women suffering psychosomatic illness in conflict zones.
We, as a people, have recognized and availed ourselves of the myriad political, sociocultural, and economic forums that education, historically, has created for us.
In order to question inequities—the alteration of the political and cultural milieu by the forces of rampant corruption; state supported institutions where young boys are indoctrinated in right-wing nationalist and religious fundamentalisms of various hues; Pakistan’s shift in strategy that revolution cannot be exported but has to be built in target areas by various means, including indoctrination and inducements; the complacence of the Indian government if the batons of police and the guns of the Central Reserve Police Force make the political milieu in J & K look calm on the surface —we require an education to be able to counter the instances of injustice and unfairness created by such institutions/ ideologies/ doctrines. How can we, as a people, develop the ability to organize and mobilize for social change, which requires the creation of awareness not just at the individual level but at the collective level as well? How can we develop self-esteem for which some form of financial autonomy is a basis? A lot of work needs to be done for these mammoth tasks.
Civil society and political institutions are closely interconnected. In order to substantiate democracy. A consolidated democracy has to be open to diverse opinions, which is the edifice that India was initially built on; dissent and conflict on specific policies is an important element of every democratic system. There must, however, be some shared consent on fundamental principles.
Democratic, social/ educational institutions cannot function in Kashmir without participation by citizens. Nurturing a civil society that bridges regional and communal divides is a prerequisite for the effective and legitimate functioning of educational, political, economic, and bureaucratic institutions.
To my well-meaning and progressive friends in mainland India, of whom there are many:
The Constitution of India seeks to guarantee respect for the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary, and the integrity of the electoral process. But time and again, provisions of the Constitution of India have been flagrantly violated in Kashmir, and the ideals that it enshrines have been forgotten. In Kashmir, rights relating to life, liberty, dignity of the people, and freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution, embodied in the fundamental covenants and enforceable by courts of law, have been gravely violated. The much lauded parliamentary democracy in India has been unable to protect a genuine democratic set-up in Kashmir. The Government of India cannot continue to install Heads of State in Jammu and Kashmir, and claim that it is not plutocratic. The non-governance in Jammu and Kashmir, and the growing disconnect between the rulers and the ruled in the State seem to have lulled the Government of India into further apathy. Heads of States, particularly of trouble-torn ones cannot avoid their ethical and moral responsibilities toward peoples of the States by letting their lives be torn asunder by paramilitary forces and other “upholders” of the law.
The diversity of India cannot thrive on facile attempts to create the homogeneous category of “Indian.” Nor can it thrive on dubious attempts to gloss over xenophobic provincialism or a highly culpable state-sponsored marginalization of a minority community. The increasing communalization of Indian politics is a juggernaut that annihilates the myth of secularism in India.
Insurgency, counter insurgency, flawed institutions, unaccountability in political and bureaucratic offices, tenuous infrastructure, rife unemployment, languishing prisoners, a bankrupt state exchequer, and a civil society that is gasping for air. Is that the Kashmir that our ancestors fought tooth and nail for? Is that the Kashmir for which our previous generations sacrificed their youths, their comforts, their lives? Will the toll that the past twenty-seven have taken on the lives of the people of Jammu and Kashmir be brushed aside in a bid to integrate the State even further into the Indian Union?