There seems to be a lot of debate going on these days about ‘educated youth joining militancy’ in Kashmir. Even the New Delhi supported Chief Minister of Kashmir recently raised concerns about ‘highly educated joining the armed struggle’. But rather than searching for reasons of militancy in Kashmir (assumed that the politicians are willfully blind to these reasons for decades), this debate in itself aims to create a wrong impression that militancy in its inception was embraced by the illiterates and politically immature youth. Nothing could be more far from the truth in Kashmir.
Kashmir has been at the receiving end of political denial and state oppression for decades and it was in this backdrop that the armed movement of 90’s took shape. Some of the pioneers of this armed struggle were well educated and politically aware young men ; Ishfaq Majeed one of the founding commanders of JKLF studied in Kashmir’s prestigious Tyndale Biscoe school and followed education at Srinagar’s SP College. There were hundreds of such educated and aware youngsters who joined militancy, viewing it as a fight against oppression. Nadeem Khateeb a pilot from United States (and son of a chief engineer) fought alongside militants in Kashmir in early years of militancy. The founder of Allah Tigers, Tahir Mehmood was a qualified engineer. Cases where highly educated youth joined militancy were abundant in Kashmir, India only pretended blind to this trend in an attempt to portray militancy here as ‘the escape to gun of the have-nots’.
Young men don’t wish to die for nothing especially when they have grown well educated and aware of the political and economic scenarios they are living in, unless these political and economic systems have become chains of oppression. Resorting to an armed struggle hence could be the last resort for these political aware youth, who see no hope when the state disallows peaceful resistance and suppresses every form of political dissent. Had the state (read India) allowed alternate political platforms for political dissidence, not resorted to colossal human rights abuses in Kashmir and been serious of resolving the Kashmir conflict, would these youth resort to an armed struggle in the first place? In a scenario where the state is seen as the overwhelming oppressor against a civilian population, which seeks nothing but political and economical justice, what alternatives does the state leave for such young men? This argument is not to justify a call to arms, but the reasons for such actions, which the Indian state is well aware of but in perpetual blind denial.
Recent incidents of highly educated youth having joined militancy happened only by New Delhi’s reluctance of decades in Kashmir. Engineer Saifullah and Masiullah Khan, Sajad Yousuf (with an M.A), Omar Ahsan (with an M.Sc) and Hilal Ahmed Rather (Scholar in Islamic Law) are repetitions of what happened in the 90’s and they happened by continuance of a state iron fist.
While India may still like to sell the Kashmir resistance as ‘extremists against the state’, the fact remains it is the state that acts as the ‘extremist’ against the common population in Kashmir, forcing an undercurrent of discontent. And it is this discontent that is being channeled by militancy. Nobody wants to die young, but in politically oppressive environments those pushed to the fringe by oppression search for ways to confront the state. Even though these educated youth understand the overwhelming military power of such a state, they still resort to an armed confrontation, having lost all hope in any political resistance. Education only acts as a stimulus making the youth aware of the historical injustices meted out in Kashmir and the political resistance elsewhere across the world.
(Writer has an MBA in HR and is also pursuing journalism.)