I was deeply influenced by my grandfather, who was a social activist. He was always helping people in our district. I was very taken by the impact he had on people, sharing their trials and tribulations. It spurred me to devote my life to help people.
Growing up, I realised that a nuanced political sense is ingrained in every Kashmiri very early on because of what we’re exposed to. People don’t want to be frisked at every check-post, be treated like criminals or insulted in their own homes. The youth feel choked by the restrictions & the indignities. People don’t feel protected by the State. The personal becomes political in Kashmir.
I saw this from a very young age. My district was (& remains) so fragile. I remember how pervasive militancy was. Violence & unrest were common, shared memories of every Kashmiri. As there was an absence of mainstream politics, the youth were disillusioned. They felt excluded from democracy & many (inc. some friends) took up arms. Even though I was also angry, my grandfather guided me. Influenced by the Congress party’s ideology (even though he supported the PDP from its inception), he convinced me that the only way to resolve Kashmir’s problems & progress was through politics.
In 2013, I joined the PDP, which has a vibrant youth programme. Drawing from my own experiences, I feel it’s crucial to channelise the youth early on. That’s what I do in the PDP & in an education foundation I work in, where we foster a culture of debate, support students to be involved in student bodies & do social work. Also, our party President Mehbooba ji has been very supportive which gives us motivation to continue amid uncertainties.
Things changed drastically after 5th August 2019. It was a dark period. I was detained for 6 months. There was absolute silence. We couldn’t meet anyone, least of all those who desperately needed us. For the first time, I felt that democracy failed us.
Yes, Kashmir’s challenges have become worse these past few years. But we all need hope right now. We have to stay the course & outlive this. More than ever, I know that Kashmir needs a democratic (not authoritarian) solution. That is what I will work for.