(Since the start of the uprising in 1989, youth have borne the brunt of political violence in Kashmir. This has continued despite the shift from an armed struggle to unarmed street protests )

National Youth Day is celebrated every year on Swami Vivekananda’s Birth Anniversary i.e. on 12th January . In schools and colleges and programmes like processions, speeches, recitations, music, youth conventions, seminars, sports competitions are held on this day. Swami Vivekananda, born as Narendranath Datta on January 12, 1863, he was interested in spirituality and started meditating from a young age. He was a voracious reader and used to read a wide range of subjects, including philosophy, religion, history, social science, art and literature.

Why the youth day is celebrated ?

As the development of nation is depend on the development of youth. Younger generation is more creative, energetic, hardworking and innovative. That’s why they are great in technologies, sports, business, education, health and politics. Today’s youth will be future doctors, sports personalities, entrepreneurs, educator, and leaders. Even economic development is highly depending on young generation efforts. So, it is highly important for any country to help, support, encourage, and inspire

young generation in their personal and career development. That’s why the national youth day is celebrated in India and in other countries every year.

But when it comes to youth of Kashmir , the scenario is quite different . The continued political stalemate and day-to-day violence experienced by youth have increased scepticism of the use of non-violent means of protest to bring about change. There are concerns of a growing sentiment that political violence may be the only option left to push the relevant governments towards dialogue and negotiation. A cursory analysis of recent militant activity in Kashmir supports the claim that many young people are ready to join the ranks of armed fighters, despite the experience of violence by Kashmiri society in the recent past. Recent funeral processions of militants show increased attendance of youth shouting slogans in their support and demanding freedom despite the fear of repercussions.

Ramifications for participation in protests

Since the start of the uprising in 1989, youth have borne the brunt of political violence in Kashmir. This has continued despite the shift from an armed struggle to unarmed street protests. For example, 80 per cent of the 120 people killed in police and paramilitary action to control the street protests during the uprising of summer of 2010 in the Kashmir valley were below thirty years of age. A study conducted by the Center for Dialogue and Reconciliation, a Delhi-based NGO also found that 39 out of the 97 cases of killings, whose demographic information was documented, were students .  The 2008 protests, in which over 70 people were killed – the majority of them young – tell a similar story.

A number of other incidents involving the arrest of youth, including juveniles (youth aged below 18 years) have been documented. This has included reports of youth accused of attempted murder, charged under laws like the Public Safety Act (PSA) or detained at police stations and humiliated along with family members for participating in protests and stone throwing. There is growing criticism that acts like the PSA, which allows state authorities to place people under administrative or preventive detention without charge or trial, and the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives state security forces increased powers to ensure ‘public order’, grant impunity to security forces and have led to gross human rights violations.

The ability to speak with fellow citizens on issues of mutual concern is an invaluable tool to promote understanding of different perspectives and transform competing narratives on political, social and economic issues into narratives of shared concerns and coexistence. Dialogue within communities as well as between communities across Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh has proved challenging and presents a barrier to widespread youth engagement with political processes.

An atmosphere of fear and censorship The experience of violence, the fear of repercussions for speaking out, the shrinking of traditional social spaces (such as public parks, cultural gatherings, platforms for showcasing art and debating issues of concern), and the frequent restrictions put on the movement of people and modes of communication, have negatively affected the mental and physical health of Kashmiri youth. They often describe life in Kashmir as “living in constant fear of being watched.” Fear, anxiety, unhappiness, aggressive behaviour and psychological distress are commonplace . The lack of diversity in education spaces In times of distress and insecurity educational spaces can play a key role in providing a sense of safety and hope, and room for productive engagement with a diversity of perspectives. This can support the capacity of young people to take ownership of issues that affect them and contribute to the desired transformation of their communities. Yet education institutions in Kashmir have struggled to provide such a space. For example, some student union associations have been restricted in their operations and faculty members at some institutions assert that they self-censor events and initiatives by students. In the current context menonly interactions are also the norm; these tend to focus on the issues and perspectives of men, who often end up representing women in public forums on issues concerning them.

Many young people choose to leave Kashmir to study at institutions in India or elsewhere. In some of these institutions, Kashmiri students are able to engage in formal and informal dialogue and debates on various issues including the conflict in Kashmir. These students have asserted that if they, to an extent, can debate and organise peaceful protests about the situation in Kashmir at these institutions, why is it not possible to do that inside ‘their own’ institutions like Kashmir University?

Creative expression and use of social media Many young Kashmiris have turned to creative expression to tell their stories and voice their opinions. This includes writers, poets, filmmakers, musicians, cartoonists and others. They are now narrating the Kashmir story through these mediums documenting the history, the political conflict, and current situation in Kashmir. The use of online social forums and street graffiti has provided an avenue for them to voice their aspirations and share information about their situation. However, this has also faced restrictions – engagement in such activities is discouraged and there is limited space on the ground where youth can freely articulate their stories, discuss their positions or pursue artistic activities.

The role of civil society Civil society can play a key role in providing spaces for young people to come together and discuss issues of common interest – cultural, social and political. However in Kashmir, civil society has faced a number of challenges in doing so. Where normally civil society can be a space to embrace and promote a diversity of voices, in Kashmir any difference can become a fault-line. The exacerbation of such fault-lines – various political preferences, religious beliefs, rural-urban discourse, the Kashmir/ Jammu/Ladakh discourse, a modern rather than an integrated indigenous development model – impacts the ability of youth to move beyond such stereotypes.

Non-GovernmentalOrganisations (NGOs) The nascent civil society in Kashmir was severely destabilised by the escalation of conflict in the early 1990s and has only recently begun to resurrect itself. There are a number of factors that contribute to this, including the difficulty in bringing together people with different political or religious ideologies to have an open dialogue and the lack of transparency and accountability of many NGOs. In a politically contentious environment, initiatives set-up by the military or police such as youth recreation centres can reinforce the perception that independent members of Kashmiri society are not leading socio-political change in Kashmir. International NGOs face a similar operational challenge, which hinders their ability to support meaningful socio-political change. As a result, and together with the lack of any meaningful progress on socio-political issues, a large section of the Kashmiri youth has come to believe that NGOs do not or cannot work on the core issues of concern to them, and that they are ineffective at best.

However, in addition to some effective relief and rehabilitation work, some NGOs have been able to generate support for confidence building measures, build loose networks across different parts of the region, and have helped build some individual and institutional capacity for socio-political transformation. This has generated some hope in a section of youth.