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By: Dr Adil Rasool Malik

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.”

                                                                        – Edith Lovejoy Pierce

New beginnings always comes with new hopes, new dreams, new desires and new challenges. It’s only a matter of time that we have stepped into another year – 2022 – a year which every Kashmiri wishes brings peace into their lives.

The past few years have been nothing less than catastrophic for the residents of Jammu and Kashmir – with a failing economy, surmounting violence, riots, trans-border tension, internal governance turmoil and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all adding up to make the lives of the residents miserable. Leaving them praying that the forthcoming year comes with some changes that make their lives peaceful and better – for the community at large. Looking at each individual aspect to gain insight into the problems being faced is the only way to rectify them in the future and establish better times.

One of the most significant changes that has taken place in the recent times with its ripples still being evident in the valley is the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A, a decision by the central government to eliminate the boundaries and allowing people of the state to access government programmes such as reservation, right to education and right to information. The move was received and responded in various ways by different sections of the society. The transition saw unprecedented opposition not just from the ruling party but various opposition parties as well, the move on the contrary, was lauded by various international organizations alike.

According to the government this move also had another aim – to control the military insurgence and violence. A report published by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs states that, incidents of violence in Jammu and Kashmir have declined by about 36% after the abrogation of Article 370. In 2019, (from January to July 15), a total of 188 terrorism-related incidents had taken place in the valley, while in 2020 around 120 such incidents were recorded during the same period. In this one year following the abrogation, 22 terror hideouts were detected and about 190 weapons were apprehended, mostly AK-47 assault rifles. Not only that, but there has also been a decline of 40% in the involvement of local youth in militants outfits which has saved many from going down the path of terror and not getting a chance to make the most of their beautiful life.

According to recent reports by leading security intelligence agencies of the region, Kashmir at present has less than 200 active militantson its soil, this number is the lowest in the past 30 years and should act as a motivational building block towards a peaceful future.

However, all was not sunshine and rainbows for the people of the region, post abrogation there was a long period of disruption of internet services which invited severe backlash from various organizations and the citizen, however according to the government, the measure was instilled as a precaution to prevent any disruptions of harmony in the region. This consequently impacted the education and business in the subsequent times, which were mostly being conducted online due to the prevalent COVID 19 situation in the country. The internet services however in today’s time have been restored in various districts, keeping key developments in various areas in mind. The government today is still struggling to live up to its promises and needs to work harder to attract various industrialists and investors and create facilities as well as employment for the youth to regain the trust back.

This past year also saw a surge in innocent killings. Minority killings became a common offence with no tracks of the assailants, raising widespread fear amongst the populations once again. The killings that occurred in the valley over the past year just added to some of the targeted attacks on Kashmiri Pandits ,Sikhs & Kashmiri Muslims that were never eradicated entirely. In March 2000, unknown attackers shot dead more than 35 Sikhs in a village in Anantnag district. And in 2003, more than 20 Kashmiri Pandits were killed at Nadimarg, a remote village in Pulwama district. With every attempt being made to establish peace and harmony in the valley by the government, the ground reality is far from what meets the eye. The prevailing sense of deja-vu in Kashmir reminding of the horrors of 1990 has sent a chill down the spine of everyone. However, the responsibility to make our fellow brothers and sisters feel included in what is righteous theirs is a task that we all have to endow upon our self as a community.

Kashmir has been a battle arena since yester years, a battle is fought not just on the grounds but in the minds of every individual residing there leading to increase in signs of drug abuse, internet addiction in youngsters: whereas adults have been showing an escalated tendency for developing PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and various other mental ailments. Resorting to substance abuse has become a common way of evading from the realities of life that the youngsters are facing. The ongoing lockdown has severed them a blow from every direction, the academics are dwindling, and even more due to the transition to the digital learning platforms, people with limited access to the virtual platforms are facing a dead end.

This is also leading to an increase in the uncertainty that they are facing in respect to their careers ahead, the youth is eventually harbouring confusion, frustration and loneliness leading to manifestations of anxiety and depression. Their interpersonal relationships are also facing the wrath of the situation and are greatly affected. They are being submerged in feelings of self-doubt, hopelessness, sadness and uncertainty.

Being locked down at their places, a majority of the youth has resorted to internet, social media and gaming to while away their times. Initially intended for recreational purposes, getting addicted to them has unleashed mayhem in their physical fitness measures. We are witnessing increased complaints of headaches, backaches, migraines, disturbances in eyes & ears and other repercussions of a sedentary lifestyle leading to psycho-somatic disorders in the younger adults. All things being bundled up together have led to a provocative atmosphere owing to the frustrations they are facing, this has led to an increased incidence of anger outburst and outrage which is being noticed in the youth. Eventually, these built up emotions are leading them towards an unacceptable behaviour in the society.

The impact on businesses has also led to mass unemployment adding to the worries. Shops being shut, Offices being temporarily & permanently closed, Transportation taking a toll has all led to magnanimous financial instability and people are finding it hard to meet ends and are constantly worried due to their draining savings.

A grim scenario in today’s time also presents itself in the form of the prevalent negative chatter and a will to create unrest in the valley; most of which is often sponsored due to inter-border tension that runs through community today. There are innumerable Whatsapp groups, Facebook accounts, twitter handles and other social media holdings that exist with an aim for spreading hate and seed upheavals in the land. Such crimes often give rise to the activity of solitary incidences of violence – each causing the damage to life and property alike. Thus moving forward in to 2022, we should try and negate the influence such incidences have on our minds and should focus on the positive aspects and work towards communal development.

We, as individuals and as a society in Toto, need to honour our past, learn from our mistakes, their consequent circumstances and the aftermath that followed. We need to keep the focus on the development of Kashmir and need to unite with the right forces in order to achieve our goal. With this hope in my heart, I wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Author, besides being a Dentist, works on various trivial social issues especially related to youth. Author can be reached at [email protected]  & twitter @drmalikadil


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