Suppose you grew up with very strict parents. They didn’t allow you to go for sleepovers. Even getting permission for a birthday party was one huge task. You weren’t given access to mobile phones. You were not allowed to watch television for more than a limited time. Even the programmes that you could watch were fixed. You couldn’t even choose your friends.
Sounds like a tough life, right?
But hey, it was all for your good. All of this, only because you were too young and too naive to differentiate between right and wrong. Except, now you are a grown-up who works round the clock, but the rules of your house remain the same. Any attempt to protest against this strict regime would mean that you don’t love your parents and want to get rid of them.
Well, that is Kashmir in a nutshell. The people of Kashmir have spent a lifetime trying to search for their true identity in between violence and violation of their rights. And throw in some internet shutdowns, banned television channels, no network zones, curfews, closed schools and colleges. A war hysteria.
One fine day, when the Narendra Modi government suddenly decided to scrap Article 370, a war of opinions took over the country. Even people with minimal knowledge of the Kashmir issue applauded the move. They said it would bring development to the state. Tourism will flourish and the youth will be exposed to better opportunities. Within hours, we heard politicians say that the state (now two union territories) will have IITs, NITs and IIMs. If this happens, the students of Kashmir will get quality education. The businesses that will spread in the Valley will bring opportunities for the youth.
All these plans and decisions about the ‘bright’ future of the youth while keeping them in darkness, under house arrest. The removal of the special status might bring in opportunities, but on what terms? How bright is the future, if the roads of progress are built on a failed and broken system? A system that venerates the execution of human rights and seals the deal with a sign of victory. A victory that is highly polarised, manipulated and self-mandated.
The civics textbooks for students of Class 5 have a section called ‘fundamental rights’. When the youth are denied the rights that they had once learned by heart, is it politically correct to celebrate a noble future? Any negative reporting is immediately labelled fake. Any voice of protest is put behind bars. This propaganda has been so successfully embedded in the system that people are unable to find anything wrong with execution.
If you look at the current scenario of locked institutions, sealed mouths and a controlled media, the future of freedom for the youth looks murky, and undesirable.
Growing up, one of the most surprising things for me was finding out that the map of Jammu and Kashmir showed in schools was in reality completely different. Yet somehow, the beautiful land remains everyone’s favourite political battleground.
Hritika Singh is the winner of the opinion writing contest on the first edition of Democracy Wall, Season 2. This was in response to the question asked by ThePrint: Will scrapping Jammu & Kashmir’s special status ensure a better future for its youth?
Democracy Wall is a monthly free speech campus initiative organised by ThePrint in collaboration with Facebook.