It is the radicalisation of youth and children that draws maximal anguish and anxiety.
There are many, many takes on the current situation in the Kashmir Valley, specially South Kashmir. Most of the threads emanate from the overactive studio discussions, or through social media, spewing out virulent videos and posts. From proxy war, launchpads, waiting militants to cross the Line of Control (LoC), border action teams and infiltration attempts, street protests, stone-pelting, wanton lynching or killing of security personnel, terrorist attacks on security camps or convoys and, of course, combating terrorists, there is but no dearth of high-decibel debate being generated. Cumulated with these are near constant stream of ceremonies honouring the brave martyrs in olive greens and khakis, or the visuals of the mass that congregates at the funerals of terrorists. These images and trends concern the nation gravely.
Apparently, the numbers of the young from the Valley that are propelled to go across the LoC for conversion to trained terrorists has steadily declined, in many ways denied due to a vigilant multi-tier security structure at the LoC. That answers the limited number of terrorists reported in the Valley.
It is the radicalisation of youth and children that draws maximal anguish and anxiety. Understandably, there is dirty money and inciting of passions at play in inciting mob to such irate and incensed actions as the killing of six policemen on June 16 at Anantnag, Mohammed Ayub Pandith, deputy superintendent of the Jammu and Kashmir police on June 23 or Lt. Ummer Fayaz on May 9. These bravehearts were kith and kin of the local populace, having been brought up in same neighbourhoods, and maybe friends or known to many an assailant personally. That is the severest tragedy; helplessness in fathoming the inherent change that is taking roots, one that does not recognise the man behind the uniform as one of his own whose mother was called mass (maternal aunt) in the community, lifelong.
The radicalised youth hence has been driven furthermost from the “daira of insaniyat” or the ambit of humanity that was so assiduously and fervently sought at the turn of this century.
There has been a change in the typology of radicalisation in the Valley that draws from Salafism, heightens passions and implants venom against the state in the minds of impressionable children, in adolescents and teenagers. Appreciably, this indoctrination has taken place through the muezzin’s call, the sermons in the mosques and through a well-orchestrated social media campaign to malign the state. There abound videos of young children making impassioned hate-speeches, leading nasty sloganeering at various fora, including funerals of slain terrorists or deliberately needling targeting security forces. Obviously this has not come about in a day, in few months or years, and is a result of a well-conceived and executed campaign on indoctrination in households, mohallas (streets) and in villages and of course should be, in schools.
It is however in the realm of appreciation that all those participating in anti-state activities, specially the young, are all not radicalised. An appreciable numbers would simply participate and be just part of the herd, as a sport so as to say, or to make a quick buck! Suffice it, that the primary and secondary education, that ties a child in school bonds of sports and games, extra-curricular activities and studies, has been inept, absent and has allowed diversion of youth to nefarious activities. The events as they are happening, permit inordinate spare time to an impressionable mind, specially as the fervour and passion of the radical appeal is all-enticing.
The call hence is to reinculcate the insaniyat that was inherent in Kashmiri tehzeeb or decorum, by pushing-in an anti-narrative to the radicalisation, by concerted means, from the grassroots of villages, pre-primary schools, madrassas, in mohallas and in towns. Indeed this is easier said than done, as it will entail access into the close-knit society, with inimical elements denying progress. However, to be eminently fair, there is serious evidence to the contrary of the rampant radicalisation, in the form of response to recruitment rallies for joining all of the security forces, attempts to join civil services, or medicine and engineering. It gives out the answer that goodwill to reach normality in life still exists in good measure.
Major lacuna is that it is not being sufficiently tapped and focused towards good ends. Education, focused skilling, respectable and sufficient employment avenues are the answers to deradicalisation and weaning away the children to become part and parcel of society at large.
Meanwhile, the intelligence agencies and security forces, most of all the J&K police, need to tag and database the nefarious ones, including the non-Kashmiri-speaking mullahs from plains who spew venom and are doing grave damage.
There has to be hope inculcated in the narrative of the Valley, hope for the youth, for the elderly, from the grassroots. This has to be undertaken on a mission mode — the state administration down to panchayats, the security agencies down to thanas and small operating bases, the local political worker, the NGOs, have all to pitch in with all their might.
Educational institutions — pre-primary, primary, secondary and even tertiary must become the focus of all attention, to run with the best mode, and with incessant audit of performance. The security forces also need to operate in the proverbial “insaniyat ka daira” towards the community at large, to avail of the goodwill existing in the hinterland. Mission “insaniyat ka daira” in the entire Valley is a must at grassroots in a time-bound manner!
Lt. Gen. Rakesh Sharma recently retired as the adjutant general of the Indian Army. He had previously commanded the Fire and Fury Corps in Ladakh.