Inspiring and not-so inspiring stories amidst the climate of insecurity

Despite the unending nightmare, both physical and psychological, that she has had to go through since she lost her eye-sight due to pellet injuries, 16-year old Insha Mushtaq has not only managed to continue her studies in Braille but also last week passed her matriculation examination with distinction. About a year and half ago, she became the defining symbol of the state repression and vicious cycle of violence in the Valley. She has channelised that victimhood into an agency of her own with a firm resolve to continue her studies come what may. Ghalib Guru, son of Afzal Guru, the man whose execution is yet another symbol of tyranny and injustice for Kashmiris, cleared his Class 12th examination with distinction and proudly announced his will to pursue his father’s wish of him becoming a doctor. In Tral, the hot seat of militancy, Naveed Alam, brother of slain Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, who is yet another symbol of brutal tyranny that inspired him to pick up the gun after 2010 and embark on a journey of violent defiance against it, too cleared his class 12th and wants to be a doctor. In the everlasting climate of despair, these inspiring stories imbue hopes. Three young teenagers, who have so far been symbols of the tragedies and travesties in the Valley have courageously decided to transcend their victimization and rise. Does this signal a change? Not necessarily so.

For much of the Delhi based media and intellectuals, these three stories would be milched to the maximum to talk about the opportunities that Indian state gives to Kashmiri youth or about Kashmiri youth ‘coming out in support of Indian democracy instead of the gun while overcoming their pain’. As per the tutored module of New Delhi, while mentioning these stories they will conveniently forget what the pain was; and cleverly enough not qualify it or elaborate it any further than that. Like they did before while scripting the narrative of stories of youngsters from Kashmir earlier, for instance the surrender of footballer turned Lashkar militant Majid Khan or the successful tales of Parvez Rasool, Merajjuddin, Shah Faisal and Zaira Wasim, whose stories have been warped and woofed in the mantra of ‘vote for peace’ and presented like a referendum against the slogan of Azadi. Cherry picking stories and distorting them with a twist to suit a particular narrative has become fashionable but does not stand to reason or explain the myriad narratives churning out of Kashmir on a daily basis.

What explains the story of 25-year old Mannan Bashir Wani, a research scholar in the prestigious Aligarh Muslim University, who is reported to have joined the ranks of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen last week. His Facebook posts unravel his earlier belief in peaceful protests, in which he had been participating as a student. What brought that change from the belief in peaceful resistance to violent defiance? Or, the story of a policeman’s son who picked up the assault rifle of a slain militant at an encounter site in Pulwama and joined the ranks of militants. 16-year old Fardeen Ahmed Khanday, son of a serving policeman, was killed after he and two other Jaish militants attacked a paramilitary camp in Pulwama in south Kashmir earlier this month. Before that attack, his video went viral. Seated between three assault rifles and a huge cache of ammunition including grenades and communication devices, Khanday in a composed tone is seen saying that “by the time this video reaches you I would be a guest in heaven”. Was it a betrayal of his father’s profession or something else?

Both the inspiring and not so inspiring stories are true and a part of the fabric of Kashmir today. They are an outcome of the situation, violence and crisis prevailing in Kashmir for almost three decades. The psyche of every youngster in Kashmir today is scarred by the suffocating environment he or she grows up in since their birth. They grow up with stories of tyranny around them, get accustomed to the vulnerability and uncertainty of life and often face meager or strong doses of repressive atmosphere that stems from excessive militarization or violence, whether it comes from the barrel of the gun of the state’s security forces or the militants. Many youth swim with the tide, the overall situation and their own personal circumstances dictating the course of their lives. Some wish to rise above this tyranny and adopt different modes of defiance – pick up the gun or strive for the best in life and contribute to society in whichever way. None of these journeys gives clear betrayals of their political aspirations, wherever they lay.

Caught between the fear of militants and the more dreaded state repression that scars their psyche so badly, imposes curbs on their civil liberties, the youth and teenagers of today are inspired by their own history of collective pain and suffering. They are a generation of people who were not born in normal atmosphere. They grew up to witness the horrors of 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016. Whether they channelize their energies towards a direct defiance to the repression and humiliation they constantly face by picking up the gun and joining the street battles with stones in their hands or decide to overcome the oppression by focusing on their own careers and employment, it is just a response to the burden of history and scarred psyche they carry around with them.

Howsoever, they decide to lead their lives, they know that vulnerability and uncertainty of their lives and their safety is a permanent fixture. Who will be the target of the next bullet or the next wave of repression is a query embedded in their minds. Their constant humiliation fills them with the bitterness in which the seeds of inspiration germinate. This sense of insecurity is more or less uniform, though youth from the economically vulnerable sections will always feel the heat much more. Their anxieties and sufferings are similar. Only their responses of resistance methods are different, whether they choose to be a militant, pursue their bright careers as civilians or join the security forces and police to improve or even securitise their own lives. Whatever their choice, they know that the next moment they could be killed unsung, draped in a tricolor or lowered down with slogan of Azadi. The funerals would usually be well attended whichever side of the war they will be seen as representing. This is the only truth amidst which few have the courage to raise their heads, whichever road they embark on.

News Updated at : Sunday, January 14, 2018