Kashmir: A special report -- by Ajoy Bose Back   Home  
More than a decade of bloody conflict between militants and security forces in the Kashmir valley has taken a heavy toll on the psyche of the younger generation.

With no end in sight to the relentless cycle of violence, there is an increasing sense of drift and despair amongst Kashmiri youth.

"We can't study properly. Nor do we feel like having fun. It is difficult to think or behave normally under the constant shadow of the gun," lamented Yakub Butt, a university student in the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar.

He and his friends now spend all their time searching for an occupation outside Kashmir.

People here keep getting killed every day but we don't know why

Irshad Hussain
They are openly envious of Mushtaq, a second year medical student who dropped out to get a job as a cosmetics salesman in Kuala Lumpur.

"Lucky chap, he managed to get away," his friends were unanimous.

There was a time when the cafes and street corners of Srinagar used to bustle with political debate.

Today there is sullen silence.

Nor is there any display of insurrectionary zeal that marked the start of armed insurgency spearheaded by the youth in the early 1990s.

Life is anything but normal
With shadowy foreign mercenaries steadily edging out local insurgent groups from militant politics, few want to get involved.

"Frankly, we are scared to get involved. People here keep getting killed every day but we don't know why," said young Irshad Hussain.

Yet, despite the growing apathy of the youth with the politics of insurgency, some get inadvertantly sucked into the cycle of violence.

Suicide attack
The most recent example of this is the mysterious suicide bombing by 18-year old school student Affaq Ahmed Shah.

He didn't even know how to drive a car

Parents of Affaq Ahmed Shah
He was blown to bits after ramming a car full of explosives into the army barracks in Srinagar.

His father Mohammed Yusuf Shah, a retired lecturer and mother Halima, a teacher, are devastated not just at the loss of their son but the inexplicable circumstances of his death.

"He was a meek, religious child and least interested in politics. He didn't even know how to drive a car," they said amidst tears.

Some are inadvertantly sucked into the cycle of violence

A new militant group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, has hailed Affaq as a martyr claiming him as one of its activists.

But police investigating the case are still not sure whether the schoolboy - who went missing from home three weeks before the bombing - was indeed Srinagar's first suicide bomber or whether the bombs in the car were actually detonated by remote control, without his knowledge.

Juvenile crime
The daily uncertainties of life and death have fuelled an alarming rise in psychotic disorders among the young.

"It has got to the stage when even when we go down with a slight fever, doctors here feel it may be due to nervous tension and prescribe tranquilisers," said Fayaz Fani, a student.

In Srinagar's main SMHS hospital, there are three to four cases of suicide or attempted suicide by young people reported almost every day.

A paradise lost?
Doctors say that girls appear far more prone to suicide than boys.

With the growing violence on the streets and strict restrictions on dress and behaviour imposed on them by militant groups, girls spend most of their time indoors.Those who venture outside do so at a risk.

A few weeks ago, a girl was shot at on Srinagar's main boulevard for wearing jeans. Juvenile crimes, virtually unknown before in the Kashmir valley, are also mounting.

Many of these are believed to be committed by children of families affected by the conflict which is estimated to have left nearly 10,000 orphans in Srinagar alone.
This article, I read in www.kashmir.co.uk site. I feel sad whenever I read a article about bloodshed in Kishmir.