This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pratishtha Chhetri. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

The One Thing You Haven’t Considered About ‘Stone Pelting’ Kashmiri Youth

More from Pratishtha Chhetri

Youth in conflict zones are most commonly depicted as either passive victims of trauma who are emotionally volatile, or active security threats. There is fear breeding amongst the government and societies that write off a generation as prone to militia and violent behaviour. As a result, wide swaths of youth are dismissed , isolated, or more often portrayed as militants and insurgents just by virtue of being from a war-torn region. Such depictions of the youth of Kashmir leads to a hostile outlook towards them, and creates a huge gap between them and youth in other parts of our country.

The most renowned description of how war traumatises children (which includes adolescents or those at the lower end of the youth category) is Graça Machel’s landmark 1996 submission to the UN General Assembly—the Report on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children. The report describes the ruinous effects of war on all children. Machel has since conducted a follow-up study, which reasserts that “Children spared the direct experience of violence in armed conflict still suffer deep emotional distress.” All children, she added, “who have lived through conflict need psychosocial support”. However, not to deny war’s negative effect on young people, this dominant trend that emphasizes child and youth “vulnerability rather than resilience” spontaneously puts them in a category of damaged humans.

We are as far from conflict as one can be and our conceptions of childhood tend to regard children as “vulnerable, passive beings who need to be protected and cared for”, instead of active community members. These young people are capable of understanding their community far better than any outsider making an attempt to improve their situations. They collectively make an effort to deal with their current scenarios in a more holistic, productive manner than resorting to guns and pelting stones, as Kashmiri youth (or for that matter youth from any conflict zone in the world) are portrayed by media. What we seldom fail to notice is how this youth is also capable of rising above violence to nurture peace through their art, music, and knowledge, to forge ahead in life.

The growing fear of Kashmiri youth or youth in other conflict areas of our nation in popular media poses a barrier against carrying out programs to assist them or to reach out to them. Such fear does not inspire people to try to understand and work with youth. Instead, it encourages the idea that one must protect themselves against such young people. This is a preposterous idea, and it deeply affects the youth movement at large.

This lack of engagement with most youth aggravates the feelings of many youth that they are insignificant castaways. And as Graça Machel puts it:

Youth need to connect, work together, developing synergies, identify the commonalities they have, what their mission is, a common agenda, define priorities so that they have collective engagement and they will be able to reason clearly what are the impact they are looking at making. Change requires big movement , a youth movement based in common vision and agenda. We need a youth movement, not a small initiative or movement in isolation. Recognizing the need to work together and how we can work together.”

Popular depictions of youth as security threats also arise, for the most part, from Western sources. For instance, American author Robert D. Kaplan has famously characterized male youth in urban West Africa as “out of school, unemployed, loose molecules in an unstable social fluid that threatened to ignite”. This notion is widely believed and has many supporters. Such menacing descriptions were supported by political scientist Samuel P. Huntington’s argument that societies are particularly vulnerable to war when people aged 15-24 (that is, youth) comprise at least 20% of the population. His thesis basically illustrated the demographic dangers created by these ‘youth bulges’, also defined as “extraordinarily large youth cohorts relative to the adult population” by Henrik Urdal, another political scientist. Urdal’s statistical analysis neither supported Huntington’s argument regarding a 20% threshold nor Kaplan’s argument that the world is “moving toward a new age of insecurity” with the increase in young population in underdeveloped countries. Instead, it depicted high numbers of youth as “blessing and a curse.”

A large youth population can “boost an economy”. But poorly performing economies and weak governance, when mixed with a youth bulge in the population, may lead to violence. What we need to take cognisance of here is how best our government along with the youth in peaceful contexts can create means for our youth in conflict areas, in order to turn them into productive assets instead of fighting them as a vessel of disruption. We need to start focusing on the ‘pull factors’ (religion, group norms, ideology, education and more) rather than the ‘push factors’ (conditions that alienate people, or cause them to reject mainstream society, such as poverty, youth unemployment, endemic corruption, elite impunity, and vastly inadequate public services).

We Need To Recognise Youth Resilience

The idea that perpetuates a certain kind of mistaken image of young talented Kashmiris that are granted the status of belligerents have to be dismantled. War’s impact on youth is complex, but a one-dimensional idea is easily co-opted by the media or the government to sideline them or have them controlled by the military in the nastiest of ways one can imagine. Additionally recent research indicates that child and youth experiences of warfare are far more varied than had previously been assumed.

 

This guy knows what is going on there in Kashmir. The kids are not able to go to school, people living there need to think ten times before stepping out of the house. Its not easy, not at all. #kashmirisburning

It’s an arbitrary decision to call a youth violent by society at large, and brand them as ruthless rebels, instead of giving them a chance. This has as severe an effect (if not more) on them as war. Our government needs to recognise this youth, provide for them better, and give them the environment that they rightfully deserve, rather than push them towards a dead end by fearing them and acting in an hostile manner. The intention is not to underplay the prodigious damages of warfare on children and youth, it is indeed well worth contemplating the multitude of ways that children and youth are exploited as porters, domestics, sex slaves, spies, human shields, minesweepers, miners, military policemen, and suicide bombers in addition to soldiering mostly because they lack viable education or deprived of employment options. Poverty, loss of families in war, and peer group pressure is additional motivations for enlistment in armed militia.

Heavy youth involvement in conflicts puffs up civilian fears of youth as menacing destabilizers. Nonetheless, if we expect a positive outcome we need to stop brandishing them as potential terrorists, as well as view them less as damaged victim, but more as fairly adept actors in difficult war and post war realities. We need to tap into their resilience and harness it.

Jo Boyden & Joanna Berry in their book, “Children and Youth on the Front line: Ethnography, Armed Conflict and Displacement”, talk about “shifting the paradigm” away from “accepted wisdom” about war’s punishing effects on young people to argue that “age is not necessarily the critical determinant of vulnerability.” “Even when confronting by appalling adversities,” Boyden and de Berry explain, many youth “are able to influence positively their own fate and that of others who depend on them” . Part of the authors’ critique is that “Too often programmes for war-affected children are dictated by adults’ perceptions of the impact of war on young people.”

Therefore, programs must start with “children’s and young people’s definitions of constraints and opportunities” when policies and programmes are developed for them. It is important to give them agency and see them as core formulators of their own assistance. After all, they are the primary building blocks for peaceful futures.

You must be to comment.

More from Pratishtha Chhetri

Similar Posts

By shweta srivastava

By Shreya

By Kalpana Shah

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below