Each passing day brings in its wake news of an encounter of security forces with militants. Since most of the militants are locals, their death brings immense suffering to the families and the people of the region! 118 young boys are said to have joined militant ranks in Kashmir in 2018. This constitutes the highest figure in the last seven years. Security analysts feel that local recruitment, which had come down to a trickle, picked up suddenly. The numbers began increasing after the violent summer of 2016 and post the killing of Burhan Wani.
The need to quell this self destructive cycle of violence is being felt in all quarters but the means to do so are alluding definition. This is because the root causes that are leading to the youth joining militancy have not been identified let alone addressed.
It is a myth that Madrasas (seminaries) radicalise young minds of Kashmir and lure them towards militancy. Children who study in Madrasas are being prepared for professional activity in a global environment for which modern education is essential. Their curriculum, therefore, is a mix of religious teachings and modern education. It is not here that the seed of militancy is being sown! Neither is lack of jobs, poverty or cross border incitement reasons for the proliferation of militancy, as is commonly perceived. Putting the blame on such factors is leading to an incorrect appreciation of the problem and hence hindering the search for a solution.
One big reason is broken promises, harassment and denied justice. Kashmiri youth resort to extremism mainly because of the oppression they face in Kashmir and outside. They are labelled as militants when they move outside Kashmir which hurts their sentiments. With each youth getting killed the sense of alienation only increases.
The consistent exposure to security checks and the rude behaviour that is being followed in such instances, even with women and children, is a humiliation that gives great distress to the common man. What is even more galling is that the checks are being done predominantly by the Police of the state. This apart, according to a survey conducted by NGO, the Jammu and Kashmir police from 2010 till date has arrested 25000 youth of Kashmir of which only a few were shifted to jails; the rest were detained in police stations where they are said to be dishonoured and in some cases subject to third degree. It is such behaviour by the government establishments that causes disillusionment and a thrust towards militancy.
It would not be too much to expect that police force of the state to be more humane in the discharge of its duties, however challenging they may be. At the very least they would be expected to evolve more equitable and decent methods to do their jobs. Their lack of sensitivity only adds fuel to the fire, a fire that Pakistan and its stooges in Kashmir leave no opportunity to stoke into a flame that, in turn, sucks in the youth. If the police takes’ a lead towards adopting a humane approach, the rest of the security forces will have no option but to follow.
Another reason for the youth gravitating towards the path of militancy is the tacit support that they get from their society. They are received as heroes wherever they go and upon their deaths huge congregations are organised; such acts are being engineered by inimical foreign forces and their stooges in Kashmir. The support gives to the youth the conviction that they are doing their duty to their people and their God by picking up arms and makes the job of the inimical forces easier.
The lack of trust in the local political leaders, separatist or the mainstream, is a major factor that makes the youth feel insecure. They have no confidence in the Indian state and also look at Pakistan with suspicion. The lukewarm response of the world towards the Kashmir dispute discourages them from relying on the world powers for a peaceful settlement. Thus, the feeling of alienation is complete! They feel that they can move ahead only by taking things in their own hands and for this they have opted for an armed “revolution.” The youth in Kashmir have understood that the Indian state feels the heat when there is unrest, otherwise they do not take this problem seriously, so they follow the path of violent agitation. The difference between the present day militancy and that of early 1990’s is that the ideological conviction of the present lot of militants is far more than before.
It is imperative to institute concrete steps to dissuade the youth from following the self-destructive path of militancy. The effort has to permeate from the basic unit of family, relatives, civil society and schools to the stage where the grown up boys are kept under a close watch to ensure that they do not get drawn towards militancy, a path where death is assured. The government will have to play an active role in support of the civil society.
It has to be realised that the existing and escalating threshold of violence in Kashmir that should actually be going down, is a grave cause of worry. Parents and families are in constant dread of the situation where their boys will join the militant ranks and their families will be destroyed forever. The government must correctly understand the reasons behind the growth of militancy and come up with concrete steps to prevent youth from following this terrible path. Development alone will not lead to a solution, avenues for communication need to be opened along with the efforts to integrate the people with the rest of the country. The people also need to reach out to the government and assist it in its efforts to retrieve the situation; remaining in a permanent sulk and consistently building on the trust deficit is not likely to improve things. Lasting peace can prevail in Kashmir only when locals are absolutely and totally weaned away from militancy and it is here that maximum effort needs to be concentrated.
(Farooq Wani is a senior journalist and analyst)