Go West,Young Kashmiri!

wajahat-qazi

Wajahat Qazi

I recently, had the opportunity to grade and mark the examination papers of job aspirants. I also had the good fortune of interviewing the candidates who were successful in their exams. Both exercises were revelatory: young Kashmiris are as good as their counterparts in any other part of the world. Almost! I qualify my assertions because, despite the high quality of the candidates, there is scope for refinement and sophistication in terms of both intellectual and emotional caliber of young Kashmiris. (These assertions are not in the nature of self congratulatory and uncritical evaluation of drooling over my ethnic kinfolk but premised on a reasonable assessment and comparative analysis. I was fortunate to study and live in three different continents: Australia, North America, Asia and Europe which helped me learn about diverse cultures and people).

The revelation of young Kashmiris being at par with the best and the brightest in the world is all the more poignant because of the structural impediments young people face here: the legacy of the conflict and a somewhat restricted and narrow academic environment and a narrow base for expanding their skill sets. The lack of refinement and sophistication can then be rationalized. However, it cannot and should not be justified. Above all, this structural deficiency should be addressed and remedied.

The good news is that in today’s globalized world, it can be eminently so. The world, to iterate a cliché, is a more open one. The barriers which impeded flows of capital, trade and people have diminished in scope and size. This is where the opportunity for Kashmiris lies. Young Kashmiris should take advantage of this more open world and forge a niche in the interstices of our globalized world. The opening which they can best exploit is the opening up of the Western University systems.

This can potentially set them on pathways that are bold and beautiful and the structural impediments and constraints they face here would dissipate and disappear. An education in the west is not only skill enhancing but also something that opens up the horizons and vistas of an individual. The critical method employed by the western academy, the problem solving approach as opposed to rote learning and an open pedagogical approach enhances the intellectual horizons of an individual. The product of a western academy is then intellectually more vigorous and confident.

Moreover, an education in the West and living in the West with exposure to different people and different perspectives enables an individual to put himself/ herself into perspective. In short, it is also about self discovery and self understanding. This may be perhaps the most important in the personality development of an individual. The weary cynicism Kashmiris have developed over time about themselves, society, culture and politics could be ameliorated if we develop a sober and rational perspective –individually and collectively. This is very important. We are at a delicate moment of our history. Sober appraisal of ourselves is the need of the hour. This can happen if we have relevant points of comparison, benchmarks and emotional and intellectual tools. And these, in turn, can develop in milieus where critical appraisal, introspection and intellectual curiosity is encouraged. A western milieu does this.

-(Wajahat Qazi is J&K Government’s Policy Analyst)

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