We have heard of brain drain phenomenon and most of us would be aware of what it implies. However, today, I’m going to talk about another phenomenon, which is draining youth from Kashmir. Young lives are being lost, literally and figuratively both! We have been reading, hearing, watching news regarding young boys being captured, murdered brutally, bodies mutilated, thrown by the roadsides, in the fields, for loved ones to pick up, and mourn the departed. These young men could have done so much more with their lives but who cares! As long as the jehad lives on, as long as the call for azadi is able to draw out hundreds on to the streets, young lives don’t matter. They matter only till their purpose is fulfilled, whether it is in their brutal killings, or in keeping them under the influence of drugs, or in not allowing them to have a normal youth, where education matters the most.
Till November 18th, seven young men had been abducted in the Valley in just four days. The latest victim is Suhail Ahmed, a 19-year-old, abducted by unidentified gunmen in the Shopian district. Suhail’s is the third such abduction in 24 hours. His abduction came just 48 hours after another abducted teenager’s bullet-ridden body was found in the neighboring district of Pulwama. Another heart-rending case is that of an 11th grade student, Nadeem Manzoor Dar, who was abducted and executed earlier last week by being shot in the head multiple times. His execution video was also released on the social media by the terror outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen. So much for azadi of Kashmiris!
However, it is not just about dead Kashmiri youth. The youth in Kashmir has been pushed against a wall for quite some time now. While the Kashmiri Hindus, who were forced to leave their home and hearth during the 1990’s exodus, found their feet, after much heartbreak and difficulty, again in various parts of India, the youth belonging to the majority community in Kashmir were not that fortunate. They could not find an escape anywhere else and, thus, had to bear the brunt of the ongoing turmoil in the Valley. This turmoil not only cost them lives, it also cost them normalcy. But is that going to be the everlasting legacy of Kashmir’s older generation to its youth? A disgruntled psyche, a disturbed social fabric and constant fear of death looming large over their heads! I sincerely hope not.
Once a leading society in terms of education and career-building, Kashmir has lost much of its sheen in terms of imparting a normal, regular educational environment to its young men and women. Apart from regular disruptions like hartals, encounters, stone-pelting, etc., there is the constant fear of terrorist attacks, pseudo-religious diktats, watching one’s back that the students have to encounter in order to travel to and back from their schools, colleges and the university. Nobody knows when a class would be stopped mid-way because the situation outside has turned bad for students to continue their studies! The Kashmiri youth has been like the proverbial ‘ghun’ or husk, which is being crushed between the two opposing sides in this war – army and terrorists. And while you may find a lot of people taking sides either with the army or with terrorists, depending on which side of the truth you are on, nobody is speaking for their hapless youth, who are losing precious years of their lives for no fault of theirs.
In a time when young people in rest of the country and world are enjoying unprecedented freedom in terms of making life choices, the youth in Kashmir seems to be stuck in a time warp, where their future is the least of worries for everyone else, except for the hapless parents, maybe. While it is difficult for the girls to go about their daily lives in such a milieu, the boys don’t have it any better. The biggest incentive for receiving a good education is a bright future, which can only be calculated in terms of a substantially lucrative career opportunity. In absence of such an opportunity, the youth have no choice but to be nonchalant about their studies too. And who would blame them when the environment around them is hardly conducive for a positive thinking. Even despite all those roadblocks, the youth in Kashmir is trying, to some extent, to keep a semblance of normalcy in their lives by way of education and by dreaming about a secure future, in whatever humble way they can.
But even that minuscule opportunity is being robbed off by the persecutors, who come in the garb of jehadis. These brutal killings would put even the most barbarian of sects to shame because these killings are robbing the Kashmiri society of its most treasured gift – its youth. If the youth in Kashmir keep being abducted and killed like this and the society doesn’t rise as one against this new wave of, what should I call it, Jehad (certainly not!), then there is no future for Kashmir, neither with India, nor with Pakistan and certainly not on its own! The so-called leaders are silent, the Centre is silent, the right-wing, left-wing, centrists, journalists, crusaders, human rights activists, all are silent.
However, surprisingly most of all, the common Kashmiris are silent at this obnoxious turn of events! No public processions, no hartal calls by the mai-baap of the Hurriyat, no stone-pelting, nothing! One needs a stone-cold heart to tolerate the news of such young lives being snuffed out so easily. What purpose are these young men and, even women, serving in the ongoing politico-religious onslaught in Kashmir? This is one question every Kashmiri should ask of himself as well as of their so-called leaders. And it needs to be asked before another Suhail is sacrificed at the altar of this nonsensical war on our country’s resources. If we don’t ask this question today, then we don’t have any right to complaint tomorrow.