To whom it may concern

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Barely four days after he was killed in an encounter with government forces, 25-year-old Khurshid Ahmad Malik’s name figured in the shortlist for a sub-inspector’s (SI) post of Jammu and Kashmir Police. A BTech graduate from Sri Mata Vaishno Devi University in Katra, and a resident of Pulwama in south Kashmir, Malik had taken the test for the police job in June this year. He had also cleared Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE). In fact the day he went missing and later was found to have joined militancy – just a month or so after taking test for the police job — he had left home to fill the forms for the Civil Service (KAS) examination.

Malik’s run as a militant proved a very short one. He was killed along with a colleague in an encounter with government forces at Sopore on August 03 – two days after he joined militancy. Though Malik’s is not the only case wherein a bright young man with lot of promise as per academic brilliance has joined militancy, but this one is certainly unique in many ways. It lays bare many a contradictions in today’s Kashmir – right from the popular orientations vis-à-vis militancy and separatism to receding trust in the structures and systems of governance. If it is a sad commentary on socio-psychological behavior of the Kashmir’s young, it also opens an important window into structural violence prevalent here in varied manifestations, which for some unknown reasons has never really been accorded the kind of attention it deserves.

Taking Malik’s case  as a  pointer, here are some pertinent questions: Like what people here are generally  expected to believe, was Malik also “radicalized” in his worldview about the religion or the politics? If yes, then how  does one explain his having pursued BTech at SMVDU, or having even thought of having a career in the police? Why is it that a young man with a degree in engineering aspires and competes for a non-gazetted police job? Isn’t this indicative of the lack of meaningful opportunities for the educated young people here? How does one explain that a young man who prepares for and writes an exam for a police job, just in over a month’s time, switches over to militancy and ends up losing his life fighting the same police which he too had wanted to join? Wherein lay his conviction — in the police or in the militancy? Doesn’t this contradict the narrative which claims that those who join militant ranks (or for that matter the police) do so because of their strong conviction and beliefs?

Here is a young man wanting to be a cop, and takes an exam for the same. But even before the results of this test are out, he joins militants. He also wants to join bureaucracy (through KAS) and leaves home to complete formalities for the same, but goes on to become a militant. Is it possibly because he too, like a huge majority here, had no hope and trust in the fairness of the recruitment processes for government services? Or is it because he too like most people of his age was like a free flying feather which dances to the tunes of even a mild breeze not to speak of gusty winds, without any sense  whatsoever of direction of its own? How does one explain his fluctuations from one extreme to the other?

All these and many more related questions deserve some careful thought, and possibly some answers as well from all those ‘to whom it may concern’!

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