“You have to dream, before your dreams come true.”
– Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam
Kashmir, nestled in the lap of the Himalayas, was in the past a region marred by political unrest and conflict. Amidst the challenges and uncertainties, the youth of Kashmir continue to harbor aspirations, dreams, and hopes for a better future. In the ever-evolving landscape of youth concerns and aspirations, a recent survey across 18 states in India sheds light on the shifting priorities of the young population. The survey highlights the rising prominence of unemployment and price rise as pressing issues, the intersection of these concerns with economic classes and gender, and the evolving preferences in job aspirations. The youth of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are no exception when we talk about aspirations and dreams for their future, in this article we will make an attempt to fathom the diverse aspirations of Kashmiri youth, shedding light on their resilience and determination in the face of adversity.
Education stands as a beacon of hope for Kashmiri youth, offering a pathway to a brighter future. Despite the challenges posed by conflict-related disruptions, many young Kashmiris aspire to pursue higher education. These aspirations range from fields such as medicine, engineering, humanities and the arts. However, the lack of access to quality education due to ongoing unrest often hampers their dreams. Non-profit organizations and educational institutions play a crucial role in providing scholarships, mentorship programs and counseling services, empowering these youth to pursue their academic aspirations. The efforts are on to develop a comprehensive skill ecosystem that combines formal education with experiential learning, apprenticeships and online platforms. This will certainly bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical skills, enhancing employability. One of the most pressing aspirations for Kashmiri youth is to attain economic stability. High unemployment rates in the region pose significant challenges, leaving many well-educated young individuals without job opportunities. Aspiring entrepreneurs face hurdles in accessing capital and resources. Skill development programs and vocational training initiatives are instrumental in equipping them with the skills necessary for gainful employment. Moreover, the promotion of local businesses, startups, and the encouragement of private sector investments is now providing the youth with much-needed economic boost, aligning with their aspirations for financial independence.
Kashmiri youth aspire to actively participate in shaping the social and political landscape of their region. They yearn for social equality, gender empowerment, and opportunities to express their political opinions. Despite the challenges posed by political unrest, young Kashmiris are engaging in community development projects, advocating for human rights and raising their voices against social injustices. Women, in particular, aspire to break traditional gender roles and contribute meaningfully to society. Youth-led initiatives, such as awareness campaigns, art exhibitions and public forums, are empowering them to voice their concerns and aspirations effectively. Kashmiri culture, with its rich tapestry of art, music, literature and vivid traditions, is a source of immense pride for the youth. Despite the conflict, they aspire to preserve and promote their cultural heritage. Artisans, writers, musicians and craftsmen among the youth are working tirelessly to keep their traditions alive. Cultural events, festivals and heritage workshops provide platforms for them to showcase their talents and connect with their roots. These efforts not only preserve their identity but also serve as a means of catharsis, helping them to cope with the challenges posed by conflict. The central Government is providing opportunities to foster entrepreneurship among young artisans by combining traditional crafts with modern design and marketing techniques. Efforts are on to create platforms for selling handcrafted products online, preserving cultural heritage while generating income for youth in rural areas.
Amidst the turmoil, Kashmiri youth share a collective dream of peace and stability. They actively engage in peace building initiatives, inter-community dialogues and collaborations with international organizations. By fostering a sense of understanding and empathy, they work towards bridging divides that have persisted for generations. Youth-led initiatives, such as peace marches, cultural exchanges and educational programs, play a vital role in promoting harmony. By turning civic participation into an interactive and rewarding experience, these platforms are now encouraging more and more informed voting, increase political awareness and fosters a sense of ownership in grass root governance. These efforts not only reflect the aspirations of the youth for a peaceful coexistence but also demonstrate their resilience and determination to overcome the challenges posed by political tensions. The aspirations of Kashmiri youth are diverse, encompassing education, economic stability, social and political participation, cultural preservation and peace. Despite the adversities they face, their determination, creativity and resilience shine through. It is imperative for the global community to recognize these aspirations and provide support through educational scholarships, economic opportunities and platforms for cultural expression. By empowering the youth of Kashmir, we can contribute to building a future where their dreams are not limited by the constraints of conflict, but are instead nurtured and realized, fostering a generation of leaders, thinkers and harbingers of change.