Kashmir unrest and its toll on the youth

Vaibhav Karajgikar

Over a hundred days of unrest in the Kashmir valley is having devastating effects on civilian life on either side of the Line of Control (LoC).  Repeated ceasefire violations from both sides has stripped the region of any normalcy, forcing people caught in the cross fire to seek refuge in safer regions (Rising Kashmir; October 22, 2016). The violence has been escalating not just in terms of clashes between military forces, but also in the form of protests by pro separatist groups, resulting in an increasing number of casualties as a consequence of police action to curb such demonstrations (Pakistan Times; October 22, 2016).

With a significant percentage of those partaking in protests being youth, the authorities are now stressing on more restraint on the part of police forces to prevent further bloodshed (Rising Kashmir; October 21, 2016). However, there seems to be a lack of a cohesive strategy in the approach towards rectifying the damage done as a result of schools in the region remaining shut for over three months. Amidst mounting tensions, loss of life and damage to property, the State Government is pushing for important Board level examinations to be conducted in November. Without sufficient time to practice and poor coverage of the syllabus content, students are simply not prepared to appear for the exams (Scroll.in; October 16, 2016). Furthermore, there are a number of students that have been detained by Indian authorities on charges of rioting and inciting violence. Such students have been temporarily jailed, some of whom are under the age of eighteen years, drawing criticism from a wider international audience on the violation of basic rights and the treatment of underage offenders. Instead of releasing detained youth so that they may appear for the exams, an absurd proposal by certain officials from the education ministry to conduct examinations for such youth within jail cells and police stations is yet another example of insensitivity towards the plight and future of students (Greater Kashmir; October 22, 2016). The situation only seems to be getting worse with certain organizations from Pakistan calling for overt military support to the separatist groups to aid with their struggle for freedom (Dawn; October 21, 2016). Apart from the fact that such action would tantamount to a full scale war, the influence of political and militant groups is serving to shift the mindset of people in the region towards a violent solution rather than a bilateral one as may be achieved through discussions at state level.

A baseline issue captured in the Border Times Pakistan article (August 14, 2016) is that of inculcating divisive mentalities in young students through an inherently biased approach in the curriculum. With such opposing viewpoints on a shared history, children in both the nations are exposed to narrowly interpreted view of events that have shaped and are continuing to influence the region. The prejudices instilled in young minds serve to perpetuate the cycle of animosity. The History Project is an example of how a deeper and inclusive understanding of different points of view can be instrumental towards changing the outlook of young children. In the long run, inculcating values of tolerance and an unbiased approach to alternative narratives through curriculum design can go a long way to bring about a change in the mindsets.

References:

  • “400 border residents evacuated after Pakistani firing”, Rising Kashmir; October 22, 2016; http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/400-border-residents-evacuated-after-pakistani-firing; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • “Indian forces kill youth, death toll in occupied Kashmir rises to 111”, Pakistan Times; October22,2016; http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2016/10/22/national/indian-forces-kill-youth-death-toll-in-occupied-kashmir-rises-to-111/ ; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Faisul Yaseen, “Stop policing, start parenting: Mehbooba to JKP”, Rising Kashmir; October 21, 2016; http://www.risingkashmir.com/news/stop-policing-start-parenting-mehbooba-to-jkp; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Rayan Naqash, “In Kashmir, students lost out on school for close to three months – but still have exams coming up”, Scroll.in; OCtober 13, 2016; http://scroll.in/article/818275/in-kashmir-students-lost-out-on-school-for-close-to-three-months-but-still-have-exams-coming-up ; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Syed Rizwan Geelani, “BOSE censures Education Minister’s ‘jail as exam center’ proposal”, Greater Kashmir, October 22, 2016; http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/front-page/bose-censures-education-minister-s-jail-as-exam-center-proposal/231507.html;  retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • Tariq Naqash, “Pakistan urged to extend ‘military support’ to Kashmiris”, Dawn, October 22, 2016; http://www.dawn.com/news/1291318/pakistan-urged-to-extend-military-support-to-kashmiris; retrieved on October 22, 2016
  • “Why do Indian and Pakistani textbooks tell wildly different histories?”, Border Times Pakistan, August 14, 2016; http://198.178.127.12/~borderti/?p=2122; retrieved on October 22, 2016
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