“You give me peace and I give you jobs”. This is what Chef Minister Mehbooba Mufti told the youth here other day, though not exactly in these words. "I request you to the help me in bringing back peace here. I will bring the Prime Minister here and ask him to find ways to address the unemployment issue faced by the youth here," Mehbooba told a youth convention organised by the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) here. She also said it was painful to see the youths, who formed the “protective layer around her” before she had security guards, have stones in their hands today. "My acquaintance with you is not new. Today I have so many bodyguards but it was the youths who would form a protective layer around me when I would visit remote areas earlier. You were my bodyguards. Today I am pained to see the youths having stones in their hands," she said.
What has gone wrong – why is it that the youth who formed the “protective layer” around her a few years back have turned against her government today, is something that the government will also have to think and ponder about. And once the government engages with this and related questions, it will surely come up with a definite roadmap for itself, which will guide it about its future course of action on how to woo the young people back to the political mainstream.
As far as the promise of jobs goes, one is reminded that immediately after the highly tumultuous summer of 2010, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, informed the Parliament in February 2011 that his government was working to provide 50,000-100,000 jobs to the youths of troubled Kashmir, which “would change their mental makeup and mindset". Though he did not say so, but he was clearly referring to the preceding summer (2010) of unrest in Kashmir Valley, involving stone-pelting, which had led to a cycle of violence, resulting in death of over 120 people. Replying to the debate on the motion of thanks on the President's address, Singh had also confessed that Kashmir had gone through a "difficult time" last year (2010) , and now the government was keeping its "fingers crossed" this summer (2011).
True, at that time the governments in the State and at the Centre were not sure as to what will be the situation like in coming summer. The history of three successive summers (2008, 2009 and 2010) of absolute chaos and unrest were already a major cause and source of worry, as were the happenings in the West Asia and Africa at the time.
Singh also told the Lok Sabha that the report of the Rangarajan Committee appointed by him to work out a plan for providing up to one lakh jobs to Kashmiri youth was "nearly ready" and once its implementation starts the "mindset" of Kashmiri people will change. "Our approach to the problems of Jammu and Kashmir is that we will give no quarter to secessionist elements. We will do everything in our power to strengthen the hands of the state government to provide a fairer deal to the youth, to provide avenues for their gainful employment," he had said.
But then what happened afterwards is history – which of course was no different than the history of Delhi’s other promises with the Kashmiri people. Irrespective of how the Congress party may want to look at its subsequent electoral debacle here, fact of the matter remains that people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Valley in particular, had no reason to support a party which talks more, promises still more and delivers absolutely nothing. Same happened with then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s promise of 100,000 jobs in “next two years”, which never really came about.
One can’t say how many of the Kashmiri youth are amused with the latest promise of jobs. For the fear that it would be indecent to question the government’s integrity by doubting if it really means what it has promised, but then history of political promises in Kashmir is there to say it all for the people’s lack of trust in such promises. Not many things that were promised to the people have been actually realized. Like Delhi, the successive State governments too have not been able to deliver on its promises, and on its responsibilities. So Mehbooba Mufti will really have to create a different template for the young people to take her promises seriously as Kashmir’s history is replete with the examples of pledges and promises that were honoured only in breach.