Bhopal: Present tense, future uncertain, say Kashmiri youths

The young adults from the valley of Kashmir are extremely worried and concerned over the adverse impact militancy is having on their education and future careers.  They say that the actions of the militants on one hand and of the security forces on other are leading to forced closures of schools and colleges. The job opportunities are shrinking and fear and uncertainty pervade the air. They feel as if they are living in an open jail.

This was the gist of the conversation Free Press had with Kashmiri students of 18-22 years age-group, who are in the city to take part in a six-day Kashmiri Youth Exchange Prorgamme 2018-19, ‘Vatan Ko Jano’, underway at the Water and Land Management Institute (WLMI). The event has been organised by the Nehru Yuva Kendra in collaboration with the Union ministry of home affairs.

The event has been organised by Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, govt. of India) in collaboration with Ministry of Home Affairs, govt. of India. Nearly 127 students from six sensitive districts of J&K – Anantnag, Baramulla, Budgam, Srinagar, Pulwama and Kupwada – arrived in the city on December 1.

Yawar from Budgam told Free Press, “Who doesn’t want to live in peace? We also do.” Rejecting the Pakistan’s claim over Kashmir, he said, “India is much better than Pakistan. I think, jo apne desh (Pakistan) ko nahi sambhal sakta wo humein kya sambhalenge.” Yawar, who is pursuing post graduation added, “We Kashmiris have been caught in a bind. If we don’t give shelter to militants, they threaten to kill us and if we do, security forces take action against us. Kashmir lacks educational facilities and industry. There is hardly any scope for business.

We run a mobile repairing shop but we had to keep it closed for two weeks in November due to strike. It is very difficult to run our households. We also used to export dry fruits but it has become financially unviable. Four years back, Akhrot (walnut) sold for Rs 300 per kg but now the rate is down to Rs 120. “I think, Kashmir issue can be solved easily if politicians stop meddling in it. Politicians are only interested in building their vote banks.

But we are still hopeful that koi to aisa leader aayega jiske dimag mein ye baat aayegi ki chalo main apne swarth ke khatir kyon kisi ko marun…, but at present, things are difficult,” he added. Similarly, Taufeeq Ahmed Bhat, 18, from Tral Tehsil in Pulwama district said, “I study in class 11 and want to be an engineer but most of the days, my school remains closed, either due to attack by militants or stone pelting.

Sometimes, it remains closed for a week at stretch. We take tuitions at home to appear in exams. We want peace and want to live happily. Government is doing nothing. Army is unable to protect us from the militants.” His father is a carpenter and mother is a homemaker. He said that they have to remain confined to their homes from 9 pm to 6 am. “Schools run from 10 am to 4 am but often sound of gun fire distracts us.”

“Srinagar is better off than South Kashmir. Education system is good but educational institutions remain closed for long periods. My school is closed for the past one month so I am studying at home,” said Danish Gul, 18, who lives in Srinagar and studies in class 11. On being asked which stream he would choose for further studies, Gul replied, “Let’s see, kismat mein kahan tak padhna likha hai… waha per to kismat hi aisi hai”. The sadness in his voice could hardly be missed. Gul, whose father is farmer and mother, a homemaker, wants to be a businessman.

Madyalaar who studies in first year said Kashmiris think differently. “We don’t want to see bloodshed daily. Schools and offices remain closed there. Business is down. We have no work.”  “I want to be a cricketer. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Hashim Amla are my favourite players. I don’t have much interest in studies. I want to play cricket but there is no playground there. My father is a labourer and mother weaves shawls,” said 18-year-old Amir Shakeel Bhat from Budgam who studies in class 12.

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