The united paths to progress

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DR. SYED MUTAHAR AAQIB

THE Kashmir Valley has long been known for its dual identity – one of serene beauty and another of intricate narratives. While its complexities often dominate headlines, a lesser-known tale of hope and transformation has been silently emerging within the hearts of its youth.

The recent Kashmir Central – One-Day Youth Seminar 2023, held at the North Campus of the University of Kashmir, a collaborative effort of the Indian Army and Kashmir Central magazine, stood as a beacon of dialogue, education and cultural preservation. It weaved together the threads of unity and progress in the Valley. The event – attended by approximately 1000 participants, including principals, faculty members, researchers and students from various educational institutions – dived deep into discussion and surfaced with valuable insights on the future of Kashmir.

The conclave was inaugurated by Nodal Principal, Kashmir Division Colleges, Prof Shiekh Ajaz Bashir in the presence of dignitaries from various universities and distinguished personalities which included Prof. Gul Mohammad Wani from the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir; Prof. Mohammad Farooq Rather, Principal, GDC(Autonomous) Baramulla; Brigadier Sanjay Kannoth, VSM; Brigadier Anupam Jhanji; Colonel Deepak Kumar Tiwari (CO 52 RR); Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan, an actor, filmmaker, and art promoter; principals of various Government degree colleges and higher secondary schools; Waheed Jeelani, a renowned artist and singer; and Bashir Assad, editor-in-chief, Kashmir Central weekly.

In his welcome address, Bashir Assad extended a warm greeting to the guests and dignitaries, reflecting on the magazine’s journey and expressing its steadfast dedication towards offering a prestigious platform for in-depth discussions and intellectual exchanges.

Here’s a glimpse into the event:

  • Panel Discussion I: Innovative pedagogies and the new education policy

The conclave’s inaugural panel discussion, moderated by Prof. Gul Mohammad Wani, zeroed in on a pressing issue – ‘Innovative pedagogies and the repercussions of the new education policy (NEP) of 2020’.

Bashir Assad, editor-in-chief, Kashmir Central, opened the discussion by advocating a comprehensive overhaul of the educational paradigm. He emphasised the urgency of moving away from the traditional rote learning system and embracing innovative teaching methods. For Assad, this transition goes beyond merely adopting new approaches to education; it calls for a fundamental redefinition of the very purpose of education. His impassioned speech stressed the importance of nurturing curious and creative minds and pushing the boundaries of conventional teaching. Additionally, he underscored the significance of promoting and preserving the Kashmiri language, noting that a nation could not thrive without safeguarding its cultural heritage and linguistic identity.

Prof. Sheikh Ajaz Bashir, nodal principal, Kashmir Division Colleges, brought a practical perspective to the fore. He highlighted the challenges and opportunities posed by the NEP 2020. Prof. Ajaz emphasised that the one-size-fits-all approach to education was ill-suited for a region as distinct as Kashmir. The key, he asserted, lay in the ability to adapt national policies to cater to the unique educational needs of the Valley.

Mehjabeen Nabi, a social activist and advocate for youth empowerment, underscored the pivotal roles that both students and teachers play in shaping the educational landscape. She emphasised the importance of inclusivity within the educational process, ensuring that all stakeholders participate actively. Nabi firmly placed youth empowerment at the core of the education system, not just as a concept but as a tangible reality capable of shaping the future of Kashmir through informed and empowered students.

An engaging aspect of this panel was the active involvement of the audience, composed of passionate individuals from diverse backgrounds. Their enthusiastic participation conveyed a clear consensus: the aspiration is to nurture a generation of learners who are not merely well-informed but also adept & creative problem-solvers. The sentiment echoed was unmistakable – education must transcend the mere acquisition of knowledge; it should equip learners to effectively apply that knowledge in solving real-world issues.

  • Panel Discussion II: Preserving our cultural heritage and identity

The second panel discussion, once again moderated by Prof. Gul Mohammad Wani, spotlighted the preservation of Kashmir’s rich cultural heritage and the nurturing of its cultural identity through the prism of Sufi traditions and interfaith connections.

Prof. Wani’s introductory words celebrated the resplendent layers of Kashmir’s cultural heritage – something that has evolved over centuries through the interplay of diverse influences and syncretic practices. He highlighted culture as a bridge that unites people, transcending the boundaries of their diverse backgrounds and beliefs. This served as a powerful reminder that cultural preservation becomes an active medium for bridging divides.

Mehjabeen Nabi emphasised the significance of conserving cultural traditions as a conduit to connect with the roots of the region. She highlighted the rich Sufi traditions and underscored their role in fostering peace and harmony in the Kashmiri society. Nabi conveyed that culture was not just a matter of aesthetics; it served as a wellspring of strength and tranquility.

Mushtaaque Ali Ahmad Khan, an actor, filmmaker, and art promoter, brought an artistic perspective to the panel. He shed light on the potent influence of art, cinema, and cultural events in the preservation and promotion of Kashmir’s cultural heritage. This revealed a fresh facet to cultural preservation – not merely a passive act but an actively dynamic process driven by artists and creative minds.

The audience, comprising of engaged and passionate participants, shared personal stories, queries, and ideas. This active involvement highlighted an increasing awareness that cultural preservation is not about isolating one’s identity; it extends to embracing and understanding the identity of others. It becomes a path towards unity and harmony in a region marked by intricate socio-political dynamics.

  • Addressing youth issues of drug and substance abuse

Beyond education and cultural preservation, the conclave also delved into a grave issue that has been a cause for concern among Kashmir’s youth – drug and substance abuse. The audience, comprising students and faculty from diverse backgrounds, shared stories and ideas on how to tackle this problem.

The consensus was evident – a multi-pronged approach is essential. It involves strengthening awareness campaigns about the dangers of substance abuse, improving access to rehabilitation and support services, and fostering a sense of community and belonging among the youth.

Addressing this issue is not just about eliminating a problem but also about providing a supportive environment where young people can realise their full potential. This focus on nurturing the well-being of the youth highlights the comprehensive approach that the Kashmir CentralOne Day Youth Seminar 2023 brought to the forefront.

The proceedings of the programme were conducted by Dr. Shafia Khan, assistant professor, J&K Higher Education Department whereas the vote of thanks was proposed by Waheed Jeelani.

  • The road ahead for Kashmir

In a region often characterised by disturbance and subsequent resolution, this conclave provided a fresh narrative. It was emblematic of a dynamic and optimistic generation in Kashmir that aspires to chart its destiny. The discussions on education and cultural preservation hold the promise of enriching the lives of the youth by equipping them with the skills and knowledge to face the challenges of the modern world while remaining grounded in their cultural roots. This confluence of tradition and modernity offers a unique advantage for the youth of Kashmir.

The holistic approach of the seminar served as a testament to the fact that addressing one aspect of the challenges faced by Kashmir’s youth is insufficient. It is a blend of quality education, cultural preservation, and holistic well-being that can truly propel the region towards a brighter future. In a world where young people often feel overlooked or unheard, this event underscored the importance of giving them a voice and providing a platform to express their concerns and ideas. It reaffirms that the youth are not merely the beneficiaries of policies and decisions but active participants in shaping the destiny of the region. It stands as a reminder that the path to progress is not one taken alone but with the collective effort of the entire community, especially its youth.

The Kashmir Central – One Day Youth Seminar 2023 is not just a memory but a living legacy. It is a reminder to the world that even in the most complex and challenging circumstances, hope and transformation are possible. It is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the youth of Kashmir, who are determined to script their own future. They have become the authors of their destiny, where culture and education intertwine to create a brighter tomorrow. It is a story that deserves to be celebrated, not just as an event but as a movement that has the potential to redefine the Kashmir narrative. It is a message of unity, hope, and the enduring spirit of Kashmiriyat. It is a message that transcends boundaries, reminding us all that dialogue, education, and cultural preservation are potent forces that can shape a better future.

 

(The writer is a former scientist/engineer at NIC, MeitY, Government of India, and presently an assistant professor in the Department of Higher Education, UT of J&K. The views and ideas expressed are entirely his own & do not represent his organisation.)

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