Kashmir needs a leader who can tell its people truth

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by Farooq Ganderbali
National Conference founder Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah was, indeed, tallest of tall leaders Kashmir produced in contemporary history. He dominated Kashmir’s political and social landscape for several decades (1932-82). He was as a revolutionary and visionary leader, who championed the famous Land Reforms. It was late Sheikh Abdullah, who signed instrument of accession with Union of India in 1947, when tribal raiders, supported by Pakistani army tried to annex Jammu and Kashmir.
However, when in 1953, late Sheikh was arrested and later jailed, accused of conspiracy against the State in the infamous “Kashmir Conspiracy Case.” From 1953 till 1975, Sheikh was selling dreams of ‘Rai Shumari’ (plebiscite) to the people of Kashmir. However, after realising his mistake, he accepted the status quo by happily approving the accession in 1975.
Moving a step ahead he dubbed the 22-year-long struggle as ‘Siyasi Awaragardi’ (political wilderness) and preferred to become head of the government with the support of the party (Congress) against which he himself had launched ‘Tarki Mawalat’ (social boycott) campaign. After realising his follies late Sheikh had courage to accept it and also tell the people of Kashmir the reality.
It was his secular ideology that drove him closer to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru’s and India in 1947 than Ali Mohammad jinnah’s Pakistan. Today when Kashmir is going through tumultuous period, it needs a leader of Sheikh’s calibre to tell its people the truth. For the last 30-years, militants and separatists at the behest of Pakistan have destroyed Kashmir. Regional political parties like NC and PDP have been part of this game. To remain glued to the power, the NC and the PDP leadership have been lying to people.
They sell dreams of so-called ‘azadi’, autonomy and self-rule to people of Kashmir. They never tell them that hollow slogans don’t yield anything on ground. The children and grand-children of separatist and regional party leaders in Kashmir are enjoying the perks of life within and outside the country, while poor man’s son is being asked to pick up gun and throw stones at security forces to “throw India out of Kashmir.”
Why Farooq Abdullah or Omar Abdullah don’t tell people that late Sheikh Abdullah realised his mistake after 22-years and reconciled with the reality. Why out of power they sell dreams to people?
Young people can play a distinct role in the socio-economic and political development of their communities. Education and livelihood options that support the development of relevant skills and capacity can better support youth to constructively contribute to their communities and Kashmiri society as a whole.
An environment that enables youth to help address community issues should also be encouraged. These could include opportunities to affect change to the local education system and support localised entrepreneurial capacity.
Civil society can play a key role in providing spaces for young people to come together and discuss issues of common interest – cultural, social and political. Civil society initiatives that provide safe spaces for participatory dialogue should be supported at a community level across the region. These could be based on the public libraries infrastructure and local youth should be allowed to take a leadership role. Specific groups could take up issues such as leadership capacity, sustainable livelihoods and entrepreneurship, socio-political concerns, creative expression and recreational activities.
These steps are need of the hour rather than keeping the youth of Kashmir engaged in emotional and sentimental issues which have yielded nothing for them. Kashmiri youth wishes to grow wings and fly out but is not getting the right opportunity or the environment to do so; it is suffering due to no fault of its own.
The deficiency of job prospects has led to too many young people remaining idle. The situation is being exploited by the forces inimical to the development of the state. The younger generation is being led, by these inimical forces, along the wrong path where vices like drug addiction and a bias towards counter-productive revolutionary ideas are being imbibed in them.

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