Frequent shutdowns in Kashmir bring life to a grinding halt and this causes a lot of hardships to the people, but these miseries can still be endured since losses suffered due to shutdowns can always be compensated to some extent subsequently. However, as educational institutes are also closed whenever shutdowns are observed, education is recurrently being disrupted due to which the prescribed syllabus is seldom completed. This has an adverse effect on career prospects of the younger generation as they become handicapped when it comes to competing with students from other states whose education hasn’t been plagued by frequent interruptions.
Besides impeding the process of education, shutdowns also have another very damaging effect on young minds. Due to closure of schools and colleges, students get automatically drawn towards protests and being juveniles are unable to foresee the consequences of their impulsive actions. They often get embroiled in clashes with the police and while many find themselves getting arrested for rioting, some also get injured or even killed when the police or other government forces have to resort to firing for controlling violent crowds. There are numerous cases of school boys in Kashmir who after being booked on charges of stone pelting and some who have left their studies midway and joined militant ranks only to end up getting killed in an encounter with security forces.
In order to keep the youth physically and mentally fit there is requirement of providing them with adequate opportunities that will encourage them to develop a mindset and adopt a routine that keeps them healthy both their body and mind. At the same time, counseling and monitoring of the young is necessary so that they appreciate the pluralistic culture of Kashmir and respect traditional values so as to prevent them from going astray or falling prey to fundamentalist ideologies. This is a combined responsibility of parents, teachers, religious heads and leaders which will only succeed if each one does his duty with utmost sincerity.
Today, drug addiction amongst the youth in Kashmir is a very serious problem that needs the immediate attention of one and all. It is not enough to say that since drug addiction amongst the youth in conflict zones is a universal phenomenon, it is bound to find users in Kashmir also and that nothing can be done about it. Drug addiction has to be checked at all costs since it’s a menace that can destroy an entire generation and elders can’t remain aloof or unconcerned and let the young ones be devoured by drugs. This again is a combined responsibility that falls on sections of society, from parents, friends, teachers, to preachers and leaders.
Along with drug abuse, social media is slowly poisoning the minds of our youth and the most dangerous thing is that many of them are being brainwashed by propaganda being churned out by radical groups who are misinterpreting Islamic teachings just in order to pursue their unholy agenda of promoting sectarian thoughts and spreading hatred. Religious heads need to take up the challenge and work extra time to defeat these evil forces so as to ensure that the youth is protected from being misguided by the vicious misinformation programmes of organisations with dubious antecedents.
Despite the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir, many young boys and girls have brought laurels to the state by excelling in the field of education, sports and arts, both at the national and international level. This shows that Kashmir has no dearth of talent and if the youth can be convinced to remain focused on academics and co-curricular activities then by becoming competent administrators, professionals and artistes, they can improve their own lives as well as help their people. Youth holds the key to the future and history has proved that no civilization or society which neglected its youth was able to survive. Since young minds are susceptible to external influences they need to be carefully guided through their teens so that they don’t end up as drug addicts or fundamentalists and destroy the society in which they grew up!
Author is a social, political activist.