S Affan Yesvi
Often, perceptions regarding the Kashmiri youth are colored by the shrill judgments on the media. In the midst of this cacophony, the outsider who interacts with the youth in the Valley can be pleasantly surprised by their warmth, their political and social consciousness, and their desire to do something for the larger good of the society.
News-anchor Rajdeep Sardesai was recently in Anantnag, the bustling town near Srinagar, for two youth conferences. His tweet on the experience was telling. Sardesai noted that the common refrain of the students was: We want education, not curfews. We want a resolution, not a conflict. The youth in the Valley are aspirational. They want to achieve, and they want to show – See, we are Kashmiris, and this is what we have accomplished.
There is a positive feeling of community, and of identity. They don’t just want to live for themselves, but also contribute to their society, their community. Over the last one month, I interacted with students of various educational institutes in Srinagar as part of our campaign to be launched against the worrying trend of substance abuse by a section of the youth in Kashmir. We want students to be part of the core committee that designs and implements the project. The enthusiasm among the students, their willingness to contribute their time and energy for creating awareness against substance abuse was inspiring.
It has been my abiding experience that while Kashmiri students are politically highly conscious, they are equally aware of the social issues confronting the Valley. When the girl students found that we want to closely involve the youth in the campaign, they offered to lead the movement. I found that there is no dearth of positivity and enthusiasm in the Valley. What the youth lack are avenues and opportunities to channelize their energies. This lack of avenues and opportunities also impacts the over-all well-being of a society. When a well-educated youth is unable to find gainful employment, the failure impacts other youth psychologically. We need to focus more on our traditional skills, on our rich arts, crafts, and tourism to develop more opportunities and avenues for the youth.
In February, I had participated in the three-day United Nations Global Sustainability Development Goals SDGs Conference in Bangkok, and had interacted with some youth leaders there. The youth I met at some educational institutes in Kashmir exhibited the same positive energy. We have great potential here. We need to develop it more and more, and channelize it constructively and productively.