Kashmir: The Children of Conflict

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By Zahid Mushtaq

In the contemporary world, human resource assumes greater importance than the economic and natural resources. A developed and skilled human resource changes the very fortune of a nation. The responsibility to secure and develop a skilled lot depends upon the states endeavor. The quality of education and states investment in the human resource development must be sound and cater the contemporary demands. It is prerequisite to have well draft plan for the future personality development. Thus, a skilled youth and educated class will guide the nation tomorrow.

Children during Curfew. (Photo courtesy: Umer Asif)

But unfortunately, in Kashmir the children have been deprived of all this. They are more entangled in the conflict than to their education. The blame largely lies on the state. The political climate and uncertainty have affected their personality. The political socialization over the years has created fear psychosis and uncertainty in their mind. Therefore the wealth of a nation is not so much in its economic and natural resources but it lies decidedly in the kind and quality of its children and youth. It is they who will be the creators and the shapers of the nation tomorrow. The children of today will be the adults tomorrow, today’s leaders and activists. The quality and personality will determine the kind of destiny that beckons the nation. The children and youth of a nation are its powerhouses with boundless stores of energy, with capability, zeal and enthusiasm.

The children of the valley of Kashmir feel cramped, shut in a hovel, fettered and imprisoned because of the insolent doubts and fears.

The mixture of oral histories with a historical and political analysis of Kashmir reveals, without a doubt, that the children of the valley in general and of the conflict zones, in particular, have suffered much more than commoners. The Kashmiri children who witness Torture, Detentions and Trauma every day has put the next generation of Kashmir at stake. While the children in the other parts of the world enjoy the privilege of being children, the children of Kashmir have been robbed of their childhood. They are being jailed, treated adult criminals and receive the same punishment from the authorities as are meted out to the criminals. The complete lawlessness in Kashmir has to lead to many unrecorded instances of detention and torture faced by the children. The ill behavior towards the children in the valley has ruined them physically, mentally as well as psychologically. The children of the valley of Kashmir feel cramped, shut in a hovel, fettered and imprisoned because of the insolent doubts and fears.

A child taking part in protests in Srinagar seeking (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

As the circumstances require, the trees and flowers of a garden have to be trimmed in order to make it look beautiful and appealing or otherwise the plants and bushes will go haywire and spoil the beauty of the garden and will not reap proper blossoms, but contrary to the said maxim, the situation past the 2016 uprising and before reveals an altogether a different picture of the children of the conflict. General Hooda Opines” it is too simplistic to label everyone as paid agents. Initiatives for the Youth of Kashmir have been half-hearted and ineffective leading to radicalization and rebel recruitment.” The situation in  Kashmir reflects the tragic fate of the children when otherwise they were supposed to bloom. The everyday traumatic effects have had a profound and long-lasting impact on the emotional, cognitive, behavioural and psychological functioning of the children. These children find themselves through no fault of their own lacking the opportunity to learn and develop the necessary skills to become fully functional members of the society. This lost generation of our time is the tragedy of our time. For these children, in the future, the possibility of finding gainful employment as an adult becomes increasingly challenging. To sum up in poetic terms

Those children of mine, you stare at so

Please come closer so you will know

Just who my child is and what I see

When those lusty sweet eyes stare back at me

Stare to ask hundreds of questions unanswered,

Puzzles unsolved and dream unrealized

The children of Kashmir in particular and the conflict zones, in general, are lacking necessary social and mental skills that facilitate growth. To narrate a practical experience, every time my eight-year-old nephew sees a man in Uniform with his Gun, stares back and starts asking the reasons as to ‘Why they murder the Rebels and the Commoners in Kashmir.”Such deep impressions have had the conflict on the minds of the kids, let aside the elders. To add to the trouble in the ongoing video war, to me, the most defining clip was a five-year-old boy, walking around a group of security forces on a street in Srinagar. He strikes, glares and shouts at the security personnel and then attempts to kick a soldier three or four times. This was like staring at the “Future of Kashmir”, knowing the critical importance of somehow rescuing his boy from himself. The “Toy Gun” is the favourite toy of the children in the valley and the sole reason for the unconditional love for such toys is the hatred that has been inculcated deep into their minds and which now seems too difficult or one may say impossible to replace. This has to lead to the radicalization and the results are on the ground; Young Boys picking up arms against the state.

Students protesting in Srinagar (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

Gordon Brown, The former British Prime Minister in this regard says, “Children living in conflict zones are more likely to become the youngest soldiers in a trench.” In the minds of our children the song of freeing their land always keeps playing. The song of such a nature that I have heard reads as:

In spring the flowers bloom; ours die

The tumultuous cadence of deaths begins

And ceases and then begins again

Sons, brothers, lovers and those

Whose places are the nearest, know

We will establish our state, our state

Upon the plenteous heart of our oppressor

Stars hide your fires; let not the light

See my deep desires; call the instead

Awake him from the slumber;

it’s time of freedom

Post Script: This Kashmir dispute which is claiming precious innocent lives, inviting human rights violations, continues to be unresolved after more than six decades, driving the conventional nuclear arms race between the two countries India and Pakistan. The children who are the worst sufferers of conflict and prime victims of violence have been exposed to different kinds of vulnerabilities in conflict-ridden Kashmir. They have not only suffered direct injuries with bullets, with pellet guns, with pepper gas, with tear gas shells but they have been witnessed to all the gory incidents that have occurred in Kashmir. The children of this lawless land are being arrested and harassed to the level that it has traumatised their psyche. They continue to be victims of torture. They have seen blood spill all over their neighbourhood. Unlike in other parts of the world where children share stories about the fun, in Kashmir, they do only recount the tales of horror, oppression, killings and slogans for Azadi. They heard stories of their loved ones being tortured or disappeared or killed. This all has radicalised them to the extent that this finds its expression in their behavioural problem, their emotional problem, their poor intellectual development and to their poor physical growth. All this is attributable to the violence which the children have not only seen within their homes but on the roadside, in relation to their neighbour’s friends and in schools.

KL Image

Students protests against killings in Kashmir (KL Image: Bilal Bahadur)

These children who are facing the brunt of this conflict have lost their childhood, their innocence, their hope and they will continue to be victimised until the peaceful resolution of Kashmir issue is not settled down. To take the younger generation out from the wrath of this deadly conflict, there is a prime need to look seriously into this burning issue as early as possible, the sooner the better.

(The author is a student of English Literature, Department of English, Aligarh Muslim University. He can be reached at szahid023@gmail.com. Ideas expressed are his own)

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