Prime Minister Narendra Modi has marked the festival of Diwali with a visit to Kashmir and the Siachen Glacier. In Srinagar, he expressed solidarity with the people who are trying to recover from the ravages of floods. While announcing an additional relief package of Rs 745 crore, he assured all possible assistance from the centre to the people to help them recover from the devastation.
There are many power centres working overtime to drive a wedge between the people of Kashmir and the Indian nation. Times of calamity, like the recent situation of floods, provide to them an opportunity to play out their nefarious games. It is close interaction with the people, of the type being attempted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which can counter such evil designs remove the antipathy that the people of the valley have been programmed to nurture against the Indian state.
Over the last many years the Indian army has been taking a large number of welfare initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir under Operation Sadbhavna. These are directed towards “winning the hearts and minds” (WHAM) of the people. Operation Sadbhavna is not restricted to build up of a civilian-military rapport as is popularly perceived, it extends to integration of the people into the national mainstream by motivating them towards participating in the Indian success story. This constitutes a viable platform for the conversion of a society marred by violence to its original level of emancipation.
There are many methods being applied by fundamentalist forces to increase the level of radicalisation and distrust in the Kashmir valley. A concerted effort is being made to indoctrinate the educated youth onto the path of militancy by playing on their frustration caused due to lack of employment and other such reasons.
The importance being given to the perceived presence of the ISIS in the Kashmir valley is yet another step aligned to the objective of radicalising the Kashmir valley. It would be inappropriate to brush aside this development. It would also be inappropriate to read too much into it. A balanced view will not only put the matter in perspective, it will also lead to a logical assessment of the threat being posed and the most viable counter-measures to be put in place.
The ideology of the ISIS is not different from that espoused by other fundamentalist terrorist organisations like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) that operate against Jammu and Kashmir. The brutality of the terrorist movement in Kashmir was of no less intensity than that being practiced by the ISIS. One cannot easily forget the rape, murder and torture that terrorists inflicted upon the Kashmiri Pundits to engineer their exodus from their homeland. Later, the atrocities unleashed on the Muslim population of Jammu and Kashmir to keep the terrorist writ intact were no less brutal. The manner in which terrorists have beheaded and decapitated Indian soldiers only a year or so back is yet another example of their inhumane viciousness. Their acts are no different from the horrifying images of western civilians being beheaded by the ISIS which have caused worldwide revulsion. The ISIS is not giving any new lessons to the terror mongers in Kashmir; in fact, it is simply following precedents set by the organisations like the LeT, JeM etc.
What is notable is that there are some in Kashmir who actually support such a monstrous activity as is evident by the waving of the flag of ISIS in public places. It is not the physical threat posed by the ISIS that one needs to fear, it is the element of inhumanity creeping into the people of Kashmir that is of concern.
There are some who say that hoisting of flags of this ISIS is a manifestation of the deep anger and alienation the youth of the Valley harbour towards India. Who is being harmed more by this sadistic demonstration – the Indian state or the Kashmiri society? Is this not a classic case of cutting your nose to spite your face?
It is difficult to digest the fact that the Chief Minister of the State, who is also a Kashmiri Muslim, is unperturbed by the development. This thought process would lead one to believe that even the highest level in the valley has become immune to the cult of violence.
The Indian army understands completely the value and significance of a flag; after all its brave soldiers sacrifice their lives for a flag. It is for this reason the highest officers of the Indian army in Kashmir have expressed reservation at the turn of events in Kashmir. They are not perturbed of any increase in the terrorist activity as is being said in certain circles. The army has the capacity to manage the military dimension of the problem. They are concerned about the germination of an evil idea that will give an impetus to fundamentalism.
As the threat of terror is reducing in Kashmir the need to move the younger generations away from the shadow of the gun and onto a path of progress and development is most significant. If people start moving on the path of moderation the death knell for the forces of terror in the valley will automatically be sounded. Obviously, terror masters sitting in Pakistan will do everything in their power to stop any such development from taking place.
A conscious effort has to be made to change the negative perceptions that some parts of the Kashmir society harbour due to relentless propaganda by forces of evil. It is very important to further the initiative being taken by the Prime Minister. Basic methodology in this regard can be akin to that being followed by the army in its WHAM campaign. It is time for the state government , the civil society and above all parents and elders in the Kashmir valley to challenge the ogre of religious fundamentalism.