More than a year after the death of a popular young militant, Kashmir’s youth are seeking independence and using social media to urge change.
Burhan Wani, 22, died in a gunbattle with Indian government forces in July 2016. Wani, who grew up in a well-educated family, was popular among young Kashmiris for his actions against India and his use of social media. Wani’s death sparked protests and violence in Kashmir, an Indian-administered, Muslim-majority state that has long been contested by India, Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, China.
Nyla Ali Khan, an Oklahoma resident and scholar whose grandfather was the first Muslim prime minister of Kashmir, says the situation in Kashmir is still volatile and young people feel alienated.
“Even now, educational institutions are closed. They have been closed for a very long time. So the future of the younger generation is terribly uncertain,” Khan told KGOU’s Dick Pryor.
Khan sees anger and desperation in young Kashmiris. So far, she says neither the state nor the federal government has addressed their growing resentment.
“Instead of alienating young people and marginalizing them even more, I think it is important to take cognizance of their aspirations, to take cognizance of the voice of millennials, of the younger generation,” Khan said.
Khan says some young people romanticize militancy and believe violence is the path to claim what they believe is rightfully theirs. However, she believes there is a growing number of young people who regard violence and the state’s prevalent gun culture as damaging to democratic institutions and to the socio-economic fabric of Kashmir.
“We have already lost one generation in Kashmir,” Khan said. “I do not want Kashmir to lose one more generation with the alienation of young people.”
Violence has marred Kashmir elections in the past, most recently in April’s by-elections. In order to rebuild trust in democratic institutions, Khan says leaders must incorporate young people into the political mainstream and let them become political stakeholders.
“The loss of faith in democracy, the loss of faith in constitutional reform, all that needs to be repaired because that is the only way to a peaceful transformation,” Khan said.
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