Kashmiri youth indifferent to Mainstream politics; Valley’s young population increasingly turning to Islam: Study

By: Anil Anand
New Delhi: A vast majority of Kashmiri youth are disillusioned with mainstream democratic politics in the state with 50 percent of them having never voted and only 5 percent of them joining political parties.
An official study commissioned by Union Ministry of Home Affairs to study psyche and perception of Kashmiri youth has also revealed that the youth in the Valley are increasingly turning to Islam with 61% of them attracted to religious sermons.
According to the study conducted by Delhi based Institute for Research on India and International Studies on behalf of MHA, the most worrying factor was Kashmiri youth’s disillusionment with mainstream democratic politics, with just 5 percent of them joining any political party. Only 12 percent have voted at least once and 50 percent of them have never voted, says the study. Further, according to the study, only 9 percent expressed their support for the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.
The study pointed out a more worrisome dimension of the prevailing scenario involving youth. The youth is not reaching out to any political leader to seek redressal of their problems during political crisis.
The survey has highlighted serious concerns among youth about governance with 67 percent ranking corruption as the topmost important issue followed by human rights violations.
The study while revealing Kashmiri youths’ glaring disconnect with the rest of country has however highlighted the fact that present day generation was also uninterested about developments in Pakistan. The study has found just 20 to 26 percent of youth follow developments in India.
According to the study conducted in six districts of Kashmir including Srinagar, Budgam, Anantnag, Kulgam, Baramulla and Bandipora, only 31 percent of the youth were aware about the exact status of Pakistan administered Kashmir or “Azad Kashmir” that it’s autonomous but under Pakistan’s control. Interestingly, 17 percent of them were simply unaware about its existence and another 38 percent described it to be an independent country. Only 9 percent youth had a correct view about the political status of Gilgit and Baltistan while 50 percent of the youth interviewed had no idea about the products being traded across the LoC.
While 54 percent of youth identified Azadi as their preferred, final status of J&K, a further exploration found diverse meanings and much more nuanced picture. But just 6 percent identify Azadi with the promulgation of Islamic rule in Kashmir.
Idea of Azadi among others centers around the notion of a “territorially separate Kashmir” with 8 percent envisaging a sovereign and independent state, 11 percent wanting “freedom from India” and 10 percent talking of a separate Kashmir without furnishing any further details.
An overwhelming 75 percent feel that peaceful political protests are the most effective means for achieving their political aspirations with 72 percent rejecting the gun option.
A substantial majority, 67% of the youth believe that Kashmiri Pandits should return to the Valley, though 70% of them acknowledged that they hadn’t done anything about it while only 18% publicly supported their cause.
A noteworthy fact brought out by the study is that the Kashmiri youth is turning to Islam in many ways though the scale of this phenomenon varies considerably across its different manifestations. It can be gauged from the fact that 61 per cent of the Valley’s youth is listening to religious sermons on their audio/MP3 players, 25 per cent of them identify with local mosques and graveyards as places for getting together with friends, to get news on Kashmir and gain more knowledge about Islam. A small segment is also regularly watching Islam centric programs on Peace TV, Press TV, Al Jazeera and PTV.
The study suggests pluralizing the discourses on Kashmir by the government, civil society and media through debates to generate informed public discussions and educational institutions encouraging students to engage with socio-political and economic issues facing Kashmir with an open mind to promote an independent thinking are some other recommendations.


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