September 2017 News

Risk Of Extremism, Criminalization Of Youth Inevitable In Present Scenario: Study

24 September 2017
Rising Kashmir
Yawar Hussain

Srinagar: A recent study by non-governmental organization Chinar International has raised concern about the risk of extremism, wide scale criminalization of youth, chronic unemployment, drug abuse and psychological disorders among youth in Kashmir if the conflict continues in its present form. The study-titled 'Education and Unrest in Kashmir: The Way Forward'-is yet to be formally released but has been put in the public domain for consultation. The study is based on a survey of around 3,000 stakeholders, including students and parents from all income groups. It includes inputs from teachers, administration, youth and community heads. The researcher Jahangir Raina also conducted focused group discussions with the members of the civil society, resistance groups, Directorate of School Education, Kashmir, and media persons. The study states the students are aware and concerned about the impact of unrest on their education. It claims to have found 37.5 percent students considered leaving Kashmir during the unrest of 2016 to continue their education, out of which 12.3 percent migrated later. The study says students have been considerably supporting shutdowns as the study found only 25 percent students were against it even though the remaining agreed it impacts their education. It states the students' support for shutdowns is based on their political beliefs and lack of belief in the education system. 'While the resolution to the conflict remains elusive, students also perceive education as a dead end. Kashmiri students are increasingly becoming aware that their learning levels significantly lag behind their counterparts in other states,' the study states. 'There is no evidence that support for Hartal (shutdown) is confined to a specific socio-economic profile or group,' it added. The study says a healthy proportion of teachers also support the shutdowns. It found the schools witnessed near zero attendance of teachers even in the areas relatively untouched by the unrest last year. 'While it is true that teachers fear isolation from the society if they attend duties, however we need to bear in mind that during unrest no one targeted the employees of other departments including health, power, public distribution, water works etc.,' the study reads. The study further says the general disillusionment with the wider establishment being corrupt also hampers the ability of students to pursue career goals and contributes to a broader support for boycotting the system during unrest. According to the study, the students primarily blame the state for the academic loss as over 60 percent respondents of the study said the education in last year's unrest was impacted mostly due to restrictions imposed by security forces on public movement. However, the study concludes the shutdowns impacted education more than curfews (restrictions) as curfews were usually confined to urban areas, but the schools did not open even in rural areas that did not witness the curfew for long periods of time. The report states, 'During the unrest of 2016, there were 53 days of curfew. However, for the remaining and cumulative period of approximately three months the educational institutions in townships did not open which makes us conclude that the Hartals impacted education more than the Curfews.' The study reiterates the shutting of schools and colleges during non-curfew periods was because the teachers and students subscribe to a certain political sentiment. On finding substitutes for formal schooling amid unrest, the study states over 78 percent students favoured an e-learning channel that could be broadcast over television, radio or internet. The study also says only 15 percent of the students, who responded to the survey, reported a community school was functional in their localities during the unrest last year. 'Footprint of community schooling was limited and participation minimal.' On lack of student politics and unions, the study reveals a third of the respondents believe student politics will give vent to political views and keep the tempers down. The study says 44 percent respondents believed exams played the biggest role in ending the unrest. The report concludes education has not remained immune to the unrest. 'Syllabus curtailment, mass copying, lenient marking, lack of teacher accountability, and - most of all - the prolonged shutdowns have compromised the competency levels of students significantly below peer level,' the study reads. It suggests education should be exempted from shutdowns, like the health sector and other essential services. 'If students, including their peers who participate in stone pelting and Hartal vigilantism, value education and regard it as essential, they will grant the same exemption to education and facilitate the movement of teachers and students during unrest,' the report reads. While pointing out the state as well as resistance groups use education for politicking, the study states, 'Hartal is successful only when it spans to all sectors. Protestors could therefore be disinclined to exempt education from Hartal.' 'State on the other hand may use education, and exams in particular, as leverage to end Hartals. The state could therefore be reluctant to invest in contingency plans that dilute the leverage,' the study reveals. Speaking about the risks of not delinking education with the unrest, the study says a leadership vacuum in Kashmir will be created with students left with limited choices in terms of their aspirations. 'According to a survey conducted by UN Drug Control Program survey in 2008, there are over 70 thousand drug addicts in Kashmir. We have suffered sustained brain drain since 1990 due to the conflict. Each spell of unrest causes a spike in that process,' the report reads.