Guns and Youth: Preserving our Future

13 Jun, 2013    ·   3992

D. Suba Chandran deconstructs who should be held responsible for the wanton destruction of self and the rest

Shujaat Bukhari in his column Treading a dangerous path published in the Rising Kashmir on June 5, focussed on the educated youth picking up guns in J&K. A cursory look at the rest of South Asia will also reveal a pattern – from Pakistan to India’s Northeast – of unrest amongst the youth, especially the educated ones with the existing state of affairs. Even outside India, one did notice a trend that could be observed during 9/11 and its aftermath in the London bombings – of educated youth deciding to take up a violent path to express their anger.

While the anger is well justified in many cases, it is the expression that is major cause of concern. The violent expression not only results in their own destruction, but also the entire environment – starting from their immediate family to the social fabric, which they are very much a part of it. Who should be held responsible for this wanton destruction of self and the rest?

The question or bewilderment– why is the youth angry – is an irredundant one. By nature, the youth is supposed to be angry; he or she is supposed to be angry at the injustice around, question discrimination and demand justice. If the youth sees inequality and discrimination around, and sit quite about it, without doing anything, then there is seriously wrong with him or her.

So the real question – should not be why the youth is angry, rather, investigate what makes him or her angry? Also should this be seen as a “personal decision of an individual,” as Shujaat suggests, or is this a result of a collective failure of us – the State and the Society, which is pushing them?

Undoubtedly, the State should take the primary responsibility. The State has a duty to provide a conducive atmosphere for every section of the society – from the youth to the elderly. The fact that the State is entrusted with so much of power by the constitution, goes side by side with its duty to protect. Right to live, which is enshrined in the Indian constitution as a fundamental right, in the recent decades has been adequately by the society and the learned judges of the Higher Courts. It has been interpreted not merely as livelihood, but rather in a broader context of humane existence.

Clearly, the State has to provide a fair environment where there is societal, political and economic justice. This is where in many parts of India and in the rest of the world, the State has failed substantially. While, there is an overall development all around, in terms of infrastructure and basic livelihood in the last few decades, this has not reached every segment and every sub-region. Either by design or by default, there are sub-regions and substantial segments of the society, which is actually discriminated, or strongly feels so.

In the case of India, not only in J&K, but in most of its Northeast and the naxal affected regions, there are serious grievances on issues relating to governance, autonomy, independence, and also issues relating to inter-personal and inter-communal relations. While some of these grievances are real, some are imaginary and the rest are exaggerated. If the grievances are real, the State has a primary responsibility to address them and alleviate them. In case if the grievances are imagined or exaggerated, then the State has a bigger responsibility to address them, by talking to the various segments, and especially the youth.

One of the biggest failures of the State in India and the rest of South Asia has been its inability to enter into and more importantly to sustain a dialogue with its own people, especially its youth. When was the last time that the State seriously engaged its people, especially the youth, from a conflict region? Organising a conference or sending a bunch of school children on an educational tour or coordinating a cultural festival will never be sufficient enough. These are, undoubtedly, important, but will remain insignificant, if the numbers who participate remain in two or three digits.

Worse, in most cases, such an approach by the State to engage these segments are not a part of a larger approach to dialogue with them, rather a fire-fight to get over an immediate crisis. What is needed is a change in the approach – from the Collector in every district to the beat constable, the State has to be seen as friendly and approachable. Any case study of those countries, where there is a better coordination between the ruler and the ruled will easily high light this aspect.

Now, should only the State take responsibility for the anger amongst the youth and the educated? What about the society?

The unpalatable truth today also is, in most of the conflict affected societies, there is a serious parental crisis. The parents are too busy or too tired after their children move into their teenage. There is a huge void between the parents and the teenage children in most of South Asia today, especially in conflict regions. This void is being filled, or being increased by the TV, mobile phones and the internet. In fact, the social media seem to have taken over the role of the society. If parents have to take a major responsibility in not knowing what their teenage children are up to, the teachers – especially starting from high schools also have to share the responsibility of failing to provide the right environment.

Thanks to the level of corruption and the failure of governance, a substantial section of our teachers are either inefficient or lack the tools of engagement. Besides, thanks to the better exposure, the students today deserve greater attention and guidance; many issues that are taboo for the previous generation is no more for the new ones, and many issues that were never raised by the previous generation is seriously being questioned today. From the political question over Palestine, to the religious persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar, from environmental degradation in China to melting of the Polars, the youth know more, that the previous generation. Teaching is not about reading the school text, and forcing the students to study for the exams. How many of us can take pride and state with conviction that our school system and its teachers actually shape the future of the students?

Unless the parents and the teachers also understand the nature of demands by the present generation and provide right attention and better environment, irrespective of the education, the youth is going to get swayed by numerous options – violence and guns, being the most romantic one.

The youth is supposed to be angry. Guns will always be romanticized by the youth. But the two need not necessarily be linked; the second, need not necessarily be a linked and the obvious fallout of the first. The youth should remain angry over discrimination and injustice, in every form.

Let the State and society channel this anger, and provide the right environment. They are our bright future; let us not become their ugly past, by failing them.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir