Kashmiri Definition of Freedom Shifts with Young Population
by Shubha Bala, associate producer
Wikileaks has been the latest entry point into examining what freedom, in practice, really means. It’s a discussion that has been taking place as long as people, and nations, have been in conflict. No place is this discussion more alive than in the Kashmir Valley, where a bulging generation of Kashmiri youth is redefining azadi.
With the recent protests of young Kashmiris demanding independence from India, the current generation of leaders are struggling to understand and address those needs. As op-ed in The Hindu illustrates, this definition of azadi may be shifting and becoming more complex with a change in demographics:
"For Kashmiri youth, their lack of freedom hangs heavy in leading their lives in the shadow of a heavy military presence. ‘All my life, I have known only guns, bullets, curfews, checkposts. Mine is the fourth generation of Kashmiris living in this uncertainty. I don’t want to pass this on to the fifth,’ said Tawqueer [Hussein].”
Since this summer, according to Sumantra Bose, a professor of International and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics, Kashmir has experienced “the most severe unrest … since the early 1990s,” which is primarily instigated by young men.
Subramaniam examines whether these youth under 30, representing at least 64 percent of the population, are in fact looking for financial freedom. The unemployment rate is over 50 percent, despite high levels of education, and the Indian government has tried to quell the riots by promises of jobs. But some youth think that’s avoiding the issue. He quotes a post-graduate journalism student as saying:
"Did you hear anyone raising slogans on the streets that they want jobs? Our aspirations are entirely political, it is not an economic issue or a social issue."
"What azadi actually means beyond ‘freedom’ is not always clear to everyone,” Subramaniam writes, “and perhaps this is where an opportunity still remains for building bridges with Kashmir.” Perhaps this thought is applicable beyond the borders of India as well.
Kashmir Through the Lens of Ami Vitale
by Andy Dayton, associate web producer
News broke last Thursday that mass graves were uncovered in Indian Kashmir containing 1,500 unidentified bodies. This is sad news, but it stood out to me especially because I had just finished reading an interview with photojournalist Ami Vitale in which she discusses some of her photos of Kashmir.
The interviewer mentions that Vitale had come under criticism for photos she took of the area during conflict, that they were “too pretty.” Vitale’s response:
"There are beautiful human beings caught in the middle of something much bigger than themselves. Unless we can see the humanity that exists everywhere and allow the people to touch us in some way, then there will never be resolution. We must be forced to see ourselves in the faces of war and realize that in fact, we are all no different from each other."
(photos: Ami Vitale/Getty Images)