If the devastating ethnography of the raw realities of life and history in Jammu and Kashmir are looked into, it goes without saying that the most vital chunk of the society – our youth – are not only a disarrayed and disturbed lot but they are also exhausted in terms of their hope for a better future. And the simple reason for their frustrations is that they have always been exploited. They have been exploited by the politics as well as by the situational turbulence. The general developmental lag suffered by the state too has exacted a heavy toll. In such a situation if they crowd at the government’s recruitment centres, including those of the Army or the Police, to seek some meaningful job, they are despised and framed as “traitors”, and hurled with choicest invectives. What is really disconcerting is those who are denigrating and vilifying them with slanderous abuse, are actually the ones who have never really faced joblessness, nor have their kin gone through the trauma of redundancy.
Irrespective of their political beliefs and positions, Kashmir’s “rich and the powerful” have already managed to rise above the ordinary stations of life, so it is very difficult for them to understand what it is like to be with ‘no’ or ‘very little’ income, and that too after possessing all the qualifications that are ordinarily needed in a job market. It is also true that one of the disqualifications with our youth is that they seem to think and believe they are over-qualified to undertake vocational skills and jobs for which the Valley now has to import manpower from Punjab, Bihar, UP and elsewhere. They have been deliberately programmed for only one kind of job – engagement in government service, which of course is not and cannot be available for all. The enterprising among them, who want to break the jinx and do something new by generating their own employment, don’t have access to the avenues and opportunities for the same. Financial institutions and various governmental agencies are actually big hurdles despite the government’s pronounced invite to the youth so go for self-employment ventures!
As the reality has it, this jobless chunk of population, always eager and enthusiastic to enter an honest and respectful job market, fall an easy prey to the politics. They are promised economic and political “freedom”, better share in development, an emancipated life through their participation in politics of both hues. But what happens afterwards can be understood by the fact that today our youth hate the very word ‘promise’. They have seen it as meaning something which sets the process of their exploitation rolling. They know it as an attractive and catchy slogan which they know is meant for being consigned into the dark and dingy corridors of forgetfulness by those at the helm in positions of power.
Let this chunk of population wake up now and confront the culture of violence, both physical and structural as it exists in this society. Through a structural assessment of their (youth’s) ways of life, and with a comprehensive understanding of their situations and circumstances, it’s time that all sections and all people of the society understand the frustrations associated with joblessness and lack of opportunity to grow and contribute in developmental processes. Majority of our youth may have taken all this as an accepted rite, but it’s time for them to stir up their dissatisfaction and discontent so that those at the helm are forced to think about the gravity of the situation.
Young people also need to bear in mind that there is an urgent need of a mechanism that can drain off their underlying guilt for having accepted the situation as something that can’t be changed. Each time a political leader turns to the people, proverbial moon and stars for the youth always figure prominently not only in political speeches. However, instead of creating alternative spaces for the unemployed youth, instead of helping them generate their own avenues for meaningful life, they are allowed to drift away into the world of make-belief. Now it is for the youth to decide whether they could afford being fooled by hollow political slogans forever. It is time they try and change their orientations to lend meaning to their lives by creating meaningful spaces for themselves all by themselves.