Home Minister Amit Shah’s recent statement that the Government of India will only engage with the youth of Kashmir has once again shifted focus to the restive group grappling with plenteous problems at present.
Return of the jumble-sale methods has already made fall a chilling winter in the valley. The metaphorical contrast of the withering landscape has its genesis in the recent unfolding events revolving around the young blood.
Be it the home minister’s three-day JK visit or a general’s southern Selfie-saunter, New Delhi seems quite convinced about its young target audience in Kashmir now.
Amit Shah would even raise the bar of this restive group during his recent valley visit — stating that Government of India will only engage with youth of Kashmir, rather than with Islamabad or Delhi’s hackneyed local allies.
The regime appears rigid in its resolve as some 4200 youth clubs have been reportedly floated across Jammu and Kashmir as part of an outreach program. Last time these youth clubs were started to curb stone-pelting and that too a year after the Government of India faced the 2010 simmering streets in the valley.
But now, a certain scheme is being followed in letter and spirit. And fuelling this mission is Delhi’s blue-eyed babu lately swooped by snoops. However, beyond this young blood optics, the engagement seems gritty and goal-oriented.
The Modi-led government’s youth engagement resolve is already witnessing a change in Delhi’s handling of the Himalayan crisis. Post-abrogation of Article 370, a fresh crop of youth were supported and hailed as the difference-makers of “Naya Kashmir”.
This bureaucratic bodybuilding saw the oldies—the tested loyalists, the young blood of yore—getting sidelined. Even those who faced slurs and stigmas for holding tricolour have been brushed aside. And there’s a reason why it’s happening.
That youth is an agent of change in the restive region is now a consensus. Even the statist narrative is focused on the fresh-faces. But as some young lots are still reluctant to farewell to arms, attempts are being made to raise the counter crop to cut iron with iron.
That the stage is being set for politics is a forgone conclusion reminding many of the nightmarish nineties.
Back then, like now, Kashmir was ruled by New Delhi appointed governor with prime posts held by non-Kashmiris. The youth were pushed to the wall as a certain premier would dare to repeat Punjab in Kashmir from the ramparts of Red Fort. And the rise of an armed militia called Ikhwan only made it worse. When the night became the darkest, the “Trojan horse” was thrown on the political chessboard of Kashmir.
While the feeling is that the past is once again crippling the present, the things have taken toxic turns.
Inflation is surging, so is the graph of unemployment. The land for security barracks is being freely allotted after the rights of riverbeds to non-locals. While local “anti-nationals” in government ranks are being fired, employment opportunities are getting tough due to the probing background check.
As all this directly affects youth, the motive seems to follow the Fairview script — Come to the rescue of the distressed. And the manner in which a certain northern alliance is surging its ranks, mainly through political poaching, the wind is only favouring political mood.
And then there’s a hostility that often takes an atrocious form of a campus assault, as seen during the recent Indo-Pak contest. On the heels of that attack, a military man, who once wanted parents to bring back their armed sons with their pleadings, put the Kashmiri identity on the anvil. The silence of the majority might earn them a “Paki” tag, is what the general said addressing a recent Srinagar seminar.
Amid all this, the youth engagement is happening when the security grid is once again turning Srinagar into a security fortress. With additional deployment and the rise of bunkers, the decks have been reportedly cleared for the face-detection devices. The parts of the city at the same time are facing internet curtailment schedules.
All these measures have been reportedly taken to keep the so-called hybrid militancy in check. In this new faceoff, the lines stand blurred, as an unassuming defiant with a hidden handgun can trigger a fear-flight and gumshoes in groups return with payback.
At the receiving end of these harsh measures are the youth, now being engaged by New Delhi in the new scheme of things. This makes it a classic case of hunting with hounds and running with hares. And if stated at its face-value, then it’s an oxymoron in itself.