Malala Yousufzai has not been silenced by the Taliban bullet. Close to seven years after she was shot at by the Taliban, while returning home from school in Pakistan’s Swat valley (9 October 2012), she has raised her voice for the welfare of school children in the Kashmir Valley, where education has been in suspended animation since 5 August. That learning has been hampered is a tragic fallout of the abrogation of Article 370.
As she once said famously ~ ‘Our books and our pens are the most powerful weapons’. Sunday’s appeal to the United Nations General Assembly by the youngestever Nobel Peace prize winner was intended to buttress the search of learning… indeed to benefit girls in the Af-Pak frontier and to students in general in the Kashmir Valley. The Taliban remains furiously opposed to women’s education. While such aversion can be ascribed to bizarre obscurantism, parents in Kashmir are loath to send their children to school in direly disturbed conditions.
The purpose of the school has thus been defeated from one volatile part of the subcontinent to another. Hence Malala’s appeal to the UN, the embodiment of the comity of nations, to work towards peace in Kashmir and help children in the Valley to go back to schools. It is a fundamental right, one that lends no scope for the world body’s prevarication. Her message is addressed to the world on a wider canvas and not confined to the Twitterati. Two aspects of the scenario appear to have disturbed her acutely.
For one, students have not been able to attend school for more than 40 days. For another, girls are afraid to leave their homes. Either way, in a swathe of India as in Pakistan, the clock has been turned back by centuries. Malala has been riveted to issues that are close to the bone, a refreshing contrast to the likes of Imran Khan who has waxed indignant over Kashmir and has now couched his stand with the threat of a nuclear war. In terms of international relations, Pakistan has seldom countenanced so severe a setback.
The country’s establishment is acutely aware of the setback, but not the likes of the cricketerturned Prime Minister. More the pity, therefore, that Malala’s presentation has been criticised by some activists of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Shiv Sena, which would rather that she concentrated on the welfare of minorities in Pakistan. Having suffered a near-fatal injury in course of the search of learning, the subject has been of riveting interest to her.
Ergo, the plight of minorities to the west of the Radcliffe Line was beyond the scope of her presentation. As she had told the UN on her 16th birthday, “One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first”. For close to two months, Kashmir wallows in the mire of disrupted schooling. Malala Yousufzai fights a heroic battle. She deserves all the support that the UN can muster.