Born in 1990’s and beginning to grow under the shadow of gun in Kashmir where insurgency was at its peak and the fight for Azadi (Freedom) had already began. I was admitted to one of the schools in my vicinity for the early education. My purpose of writing this article is to make you realize the difference between ‘what does being a student in Kashmir mean and what it means to be outside Kashmir? What challenges and difficulties a student in Kashmir faces?

A catastrophic by-product of ongoing conflict in the Kashmir Valley has its effect directly on its students. The students find themselves, through no fault of their own, not only displaced but lacking the opportunities for proper schooling and thus denied a chance to effectively learn and develop the necessary skills to become fully functional members of society. Besides this, their minds remain always preoccupied by the things they face on daily basis in their everyday life. They live in a situation where ‘keeping a personal identity card in pocket’ may determine his survival in the street. Contrarily, students studying outside Kashmir get good and healthy environment, they receive good quality education for pursuing their careers.

As we all know that Education provides students with the necessary skills to develop into productive members of society. Unfortunately, in Kashmir students struggle to find a good and violence free environment where they could settle. For these students, the possibility of finding a gainful employment as an adult becomes increasingly challenging and difficult. Because of ongoing conflict Kashmiri students are denied the opportunity to develop necessary social and mental development skills that facilitate growth. In addition, we all know that students in conflict zones (like Kashmir) face severe trauma through the loss of family members to violence. This is what I have personally experienced as a student being in Kashmir for first 18 years of my life.

Due to the ongoing violence and bloodshed all around, students can have a devastating effect on the development of the brain and all functions mediated by this complex organ. Posttraumatic stress responses have been documented in students who have suffered traumatic loss of their parents, siblings or their fellow batch mates. The more severe psychological reactions are associated with variables such as a higher degree of exposure to life threat, direct physical injury, witnessing a death or injury, closer proximity to the battles fought on field (like nowadays stone pelting etc), history of prior traumas. While rest of the students in India are free from all such kinds of problems, a student in Kashmir has to battle enormous issues on daily basis. Yet the creativity, potential and talent of students in Kashmir is enormous. When put to competition with other students from mainland India, he does not lag behind, but compensates his losses by working hard irrespective of huge inhibitions.

Now after completing my 12th standard, I tried my luck and applied for the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) and got selected for BA (Hons) in Economics. Now my environment for studying has completely got changed. There I personally experienced how students other than Kashmir are different and have a high level of exposure. It is not they have a natural talent of all these things, but they get lot of chances and opportunities.. This is where Kashmiri students are lagging behind. Our thinking is preoccupied by the wars, bloodshed, grief and horror all around. Just imagine a student attends school and while returning home romanticizes pelting stones on security personnel without any fear! I personally want to share a little story, when I was preparing for 10th class exams, curfew had been imposed by District Administration in my hometown and the situation was very tense. I always wanted to see a glimpse of stone pelting whenever it happened outside. I was looking through the window, little children not more than 13 years of age, where carrying big bricks in their hands and pelting at the men in uniform. A children in whose hands there should have been a novel, a book, a toy like any other normal child, was proudly carrying a big brick in his hand!

An Indian friend at AMU ridiculed me: Ghar kab jana hay? Acha pathar bazi karke aana!

His words initially looked like conversation on lighter note. But after sometime I realized the fact that this is how I, as a Kashmiri Student, am being understood. My identity has been reduced to a “stone pelter”, as if it is the only thing children in Kashmir do. Kashmiri student outside the state are always looked with suspicious, a regular watch is kept on him. So overall these miseries are with him everywhere, wherever he goes?

That is why I strongly believe that it is high time for the international community to look into the matter of Kashmir, open their mouths, don’t just limit it to the India and Pakistan. They should come and solve this pending and long lasting bloodiest conflict according to the people’s aspirations to set stage for economic, political and social empowerment of all the common masses in general and of the students in particular. The worst victim of this conflict has been the education sector. Nowhere in the world a PhD scholar picks up the gun? This depicts some malaise is diseasing our region? Let peace prevail.

(The author is pursuing B.A.(Hons) in Economics from Aligarh Muslim University: Email:[email protected])

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