They like Irfan better than Shoaib, think Rani is cool, want to study at IIT, would rather work and shop in Mumbai, and want to party in Goa.
They were born around 1989. They grew up during the height of Kashmir’s turmoil, a time when children’s games were a metaphor for the violence that gripped the Valley: snowballs became grenades and kids pretended to “third degree” one another.
Now, 16 years later, a path-breaking HT-Cfore survey shows that Kashmir’s next generation — those between the ages of 15 and 19 — does not bear the scars of somebody else’s battle.
It’s a tribute to famous Kashmiri resilience. It’s also an indicator of India’s growing soft power.
The HT chose the 15-19 age group because conventional wisdom said new generations of Kashmiris would be most disaffected with the Indian State.
We deliberately steered away from the usual political questions, instead asking them questions like which cricketer they’d rather spend the day with. The choice of Irfan Pathan over Shoaib Akhtar, Sachin Tendulkar (though he won among male respondents) and Inzamam-ul Haq is more surprising when you consider how many Kashmiris supported Pakistan over India during matches.
Their choice of holiday destinations showed 50 per cent opting for Goa and 45 per cent preferring Kashmir (which, in fact, was the winner among girls).
The fact that so many felt so positively about their Valley is an encouraging trend. Ten years ago, the violence made kids see a bleak future; it is a concrete sign that things have changed for the better.
An overwhelming 57 per cent would rather study at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) than at the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad or Deoband’s Darul Uloom.
Nearly half said Mumbai was a better shopping destination than Delhi, Lahore or Karachi. And the clincher: 61 per cent preferred being a Muslim in India. No wonder Firdous Syed, a former militant who now runs an NGO, says Delhi ought to invest in Kashmir’s youth for a long-term solution to this political problem.
News item published in April 3, 2005 edition of HindustanTimes. Its nice to read something different than routine political stuff and about brutal killings.