Kashmir Youth: A Possible Way Out

Aadil Gulam Dar

A growing number of young people in Kashmir are suffering from emotional despair, low self-esteem, a lack of cultural connectivity, and a loss of values, writes A. G. Dar.  According to him low esteem makes youth susceptible to drugs, violence and suicide.  Such a situation provides an opportunity for the exploitation of certain groups and individuals for political purposes. Educating young people about peace would mean those aspects of daily life, which are deeply connected to our identity, become part of curriculum. Education is key to empowerment.

 Excerpts:

 

The Problem:

“A growing number of young people in Kashmir are suffering from emotional despair, low self-esteem, a lack of cultural connectivity and a loss of values. They are angry at their situation and susceptible to political overtures and groups that hope to profit from their situation. If the current negative attitude that permeate through Kashmiri society are not dealt with and brought to the foreground to be explored, many fear the situation will worsen. One answer to the turmoil may lie in the edu­cation system, where current teaching methods can be supplemented with peace driven initiatives. We need to educate our children and youth about values, respecting their parents and teachers. Young people in the last few years of violence, disturbances and shut downs have lost their sense of roots, the rich cultural heritage Kashmir has and parents and grandparents who earlier had time for their children and grandchildren are caught up in their own turmoil. It’s worrying! The youth too are lost in this chaos. However this is a universal phenomenon with young people as societies across cultures are facing these challenges. Here in Kashmir it is different because the parents cannot reprimand or guide their children. We are scared they might just run off and join some rebel group or commit suicide. According to various newspaper reports, there have been 1100 suicide attempts registered in police stations or hospitals from last few years. These statistics include men, women and teenagers between the ages of 17 to 25 years. Mental health profes­sionals are worried that political insta­bility, violence and uncertainty about the future are strong factors for the growing number of suicides.

 

Loss of values:

A counselor with a reputed school in Kashmir Valley says that the youth’s capacity to face difficult challenges and situations has been weakened. They also suffer from low self-esteem and are therefore more susceptible to drugs, violence and suicide. The young people have no reference or recollection of co-existence, communal harmony, and the diversity of people in the re­gion and their histories. Their refer­ence is the current external reality of polarized communities, social apathy, a decadence of values, divisive polity, anger and aggressiveness. It becomes a vicious cycle of ignorance, violence, an­ger, hatred, despair and response that impacts relationships, both politically and socially. This creates an opportuni­ty for the exploitation of certain groups and individuals for political purposes, and is true for all three regions of La­dakh, Kashmir and Jammu but mainly to Kashmir region. Furthermore, these regions have many sub-regions with dif­ferent histories and cultures, and thus it is imperative that the next generation should learn about each other in the context of shared and collective history, culture and traditions in order to build unity and a common perspective.

 

Education is key to empowerment:

“Educating young people about peace would mean those aspects of daily life which are deeply connected to one’s iden­tity become part of the daily school level curriculum. The Jammu and Kashmir State Board for School Education needs to look into this aspect. Thinking back to the time at school and thereafter up until 1990, the classroom space was a diverse mix of Hindu and Muslim children study­ing together. Besides school, however, the opportunity for a secular experience for children is limited in the Valley. Further­more, teachers are also detached from an experience of diversity. If the children do not find it in their text books neither in their associations, it’s naturally going to be an insular experience of education. As well as individual experiences, there is a desire for intervention in addressing the psychological trauma and the loss of val­ues in society. We have lost morals and our values. We are going away from what our religion teaches us.

 

An Inclusivist Approach:

“Ironically with no alternative or secular platforms, schools and teach­ers find they must resort to religious Quranic teachings as a resource for moral values for the students, a trend that most schools and families are now following. In an effort to address this gap, The Global Education and Leader­ship Foundation (tGELF), a New Delhi based organisation, has initiated a pio­neer programme for schools in Jammu and Kashmir. The idea is to build emotional, mental and intellectual ca­pacities of teachers within the formal school space so that they can apply the same capacity within their classrooms for student leadership and change. Today’s child is going to grow up in a very complex world. Our values, the core aspect of our fundamental beliefs, therefore need to be built, for anchoring and enabling us to become centered in thoughts and action.

 

The Peace Dimension:

“Yes, education is key to empower­ment, yet if the content of peace is added in it, it becomes the way to sustainable peace, understanding, co-existence and development in the state as well as beyond. Thus, introduction of Peace Education at all the levels especially at pre-school and school level is the need to change the traditional stereoscopes of budding minds and build their minds on positive lines towards one another, and en­able them to be responsible citizens over time, hence prevent future con­flicts, overcome the communal riots within national boundaries or combat the so called terrorism beyond the borders. Peace Education can be answer to many questions. Sustainable peace and devel­opment is possible only through the peace education. Thus, there is urgent need to instill peace in education if we want to prevent future generations from the scourge of war. Education is the key solution to de­feat and resolve all wars.

 

[Courtesy: Daily Kashmir Observer, Srinagar, Kashmir, October 20, 2018].

 

 

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