Kashmir has a long history of violence between separatists and security forces, with tens of thousands of troops stationed there. Over the past few years, the stone-throwing protests have begun to fuse with revived armed militancy as locals try to prevent Indian security forces from chasing down militants. Unlike the separatism of old, the newest incarnation of the unrest in Kashmir is far more nihilistic and frequently leaderless. Moreover, while earlier iterations of the conflict stressed Kashmiri ethnic identity and tended to meld religious, political, and economic grievances, the current conflict reflects a far sharper communal divide.
Two-thirds of Kashmir’s population were born after the separatist insurgency began in the late 1980s. Like other younger generations around the world, Kashmiri youth are influenced by the hyper-connectedness brought about by social media. They share some of the same anger and frustrations of youth elsewhere. But they have grown up in a society where civil and political lives have been hollowed out by conflict. They have less recourse to political processes that might address their grievances. Having largely rejected their ideas, some are turning to a violent strain of Islamism and rejecting politics, democracy, and the nation-state altogether.
One thing is clear, writing young Kashmiris off as either helpless victims or dangerous secessionists driven by dreams of jihad does them no service. But, Kashmir needs people’s struggle, not terrorism. The so-called mujahideen have damaged Kashmir cause immensely. Become a Jihadi and lead an enjoyable life with service to Islam seems to be the new age marketing mantra to misguide and attract Kashmiri youths to join militancy in Kashmir. How can you serve a religion by letting your parents alone with trauma, and your homeland in this chaos?
What are you contributing for? Is this a rational decision? Isn’t this a suicide? Can’t you do anything constructive for this cause? Is this the only type of jihad left? Whatever losses India and Pakistan may have sustained, Kashmiris have suffered immensely more. This is certainly true in terms of lives lost and people maimed, but also in other essential ways. Kashmiri nationalists are, of course, key to determining whether the level of violence goes down or spirals up once again. All will be lost if its youthful majority succumbs to extremist ideology, the cancer destroying Kashmir the cause of self-determination.
The road to peace has narrowed but remains open. Every conflict in history, no matter how bitter, has ultimately been resolved. If there is a glimmer of hope that attitudes have shifted so frequently over the years, and in the ambivalence and variety of views both within and between generations. If minds can be changed once, they can be changed again.
The seemingly inevitable descent into violence can be reversed. There is a need of positive transformation, civically engaged and active youth can be positive change. They need to concentrate on their studies and stay away from the armed struggle. Because occupier forces will try to take advantage of it and adapted to kill youth has backfired as more and more educated and qualified youth are joining jihadi ranks.