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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 49 New Delhi November 24, 2018

Enigma of Alienated Youth in Kashmir

Sunday 25 November 2018

by M.M. Khajooria

Alienation of the youth of Kashmir from India is the hot topic today. Governor Malik has spoken, so have politicians cutting across the political divide. There appears to be a broad consensus on the fact of youth alienation. The perception about its causation is wide-ranging, confused and generally motivated. Pakistan pedalled the perception that the Kashmiri Muslims were being oppressed by Hindu India. The Muslim youth picked up the gauntlet and are fighting the war of independence against Indian occupation and atrocities by its armed forces.

This position is contrary to recorded history and false and frivolous to the core. Still this preposterous Pakistani narrative has a large number of takers in the world community thanks to the inability and unwillingness of our political class and establishment to mount a forceful, consistent, well-documented counter. Ironically, both the political class and establishment have in essence come to treat the alienation of the youth as synonymous with their option for Pakistan even though some half-baked politicians in power in Delhi will have us believe that the youth of Kashmir have overnight turned into Indian patriots. Such simplistic wishful projections from men in power only further confuse and complicate a hugely difficult security and political situation in the sensitive border State.

That the youth of Kashmir is indeed the dominant player in the terrorist onslaught and political calculus cannot be denied. It is therefore of paramount importance to explore the factors that impact the thought processes of the educated, politically conscious and free-thinking Kashmiri youth.

Looking up my pile of relevant material I came across a write-up by Aarif Muzzafar Rather (a student of BA LLB at the Central University of Kashmir at that point of time), titled ”I Refuse to be Complacent”. The piece is undated, most probably published in GreaterKashmir, Srinagar. That it relates to recent times is obvious. Hence its relevance is beyond question.

The write-up appears to have been triggered by comments made by the then Prime Minister of Pakistan, Sahid Khakan Abbasi, that the idea of independent Kashmir “was not based on reality”. He was interacting with students of the London School of Economics This, according to Rather, “became a point of great debate across the subcontinent as one could see on the social media”. He was further scandalised by Ali Shah Geelani’s claim that ”Jammu and Kashmir was a natural part of Pakistan.”. “I read these two statements from these two important people connected with the Kashmir dispute with a sense of great shock,” he said and told Gellani bluntly: “He should not be doing this.” Why? Here are some of reasons advanced by him in justification of the position he has taken.

One. “When you claim Kashmir is a natural part of Pakistan because of its Muslim majority, many Muslim leaders of India contest this point as a reason for Kashmir joining with India.”

Two. “Your statement is exploitative in nature because it further alienates the people of Ladakh and Jammu. It also puts an end to Kashmir’s struggle becoming a people’s movement or a collective struggle of Jammu and Kashmir.” And he asserts: “My freedom of thought cannot hamper someone else’s’ freedom.”

Three. “No part of Kashmir is being ruled by its own choice. The political freedom of Azad Kashmir is yet to be seen. When Pakistan got hold of the territory of occupied Kashmir, the first thing Mushtak Gurmani, the Pakistan envoy, did was to Divide and Rule Azad Kashmir following the autocratic practices. and feudal politics. Chowdery Ghulam Abbas would often make complaint to the Pakistan administration that the decisions taken by the Pakistan envoy were taken without any consultation with the Azad Kashmir Government. Many Azad Kashmir Ministers and officials were treated by Pakistan as second-class citizens.” (Source: The untold story of the people of Azad Kashmir by Christofer Snoddaen) “If occupation on one side is a curse, the other cannot be thrust upon us as a blessing,” he concluded.

Four. “When Pakistan launched its military operation in Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) its Army killed millions of Bengalis and raped scores of women to suppress their call for freedom. This systematic violence, genocide, genocidal rape is blot on the Pakistan Army.” “Imagine Azad Kashmir giving a call for freedom,” he said, and wondered: “How Pakistan deals with them is a matter of great debate, if I am not being judgmental.”

Rather apparently belongs to that segment of youth who are emancipated, idealists, secular and democratic—an offshoot of the freedom struggle led by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, though they may not own it publicly. My impression is based on interaction with small groups of young men at the peak of terrorism. Their broad preference appeared to be for an independent, secular, democratic Jammu and Kashmir as it existed on August 14, 1947.

They were “frustrated” with India both on account of “denial of democratic rights and excesses by its armed forces”. Their rejection of Pakistan as an option for accession is, of course, primarily unequivocal and final. And they hate the Pakistan Army. The idea in somewhat vague form drove a significant percentage of Kashmiri youth of all social persuasions.

A small but noisy segment either belonging to or under the influence of Jamaat-e-Islami and Ahal-E Hadith were pro-Pak, primarily committed to the Whahabi/Salfi brand of militarist Islam. As of today, they are small in numbers but hog the limelight because of their terrorist onslaught and brutal atrocities. They also draw strength from their global connection and regular flow of funds from foreign sources. In the absence of any contest from the Sufi/Rishyat Islam that the vast majority of Kashmiri Muslims have faith in and practise there was a huge potential for mischief in their ascendency. They were reinforced by paid agents of the Pak ISI, the youth fed on drugs by the Pak handlers and odd hangers-on. Their ranks could, however, swell with the spread of the Wahabi, Salfi Ahal-I-Haidth cult which is currently making waves in Kashmir. Its spill-over has begun to be felt in the Doda area.

Herein lies the greatest danger as well as challenge to national security, a challenge, which the political class and establishment have miserably failed to appropriately and accurately perceive. As a consequence they have been criminally negligent in crafting and mounting preventive and punitive measures aimed at destroying the ideological roots, neutralising the motivators and promoters and eliminating their terrorist foot-soldiers on the ground. Mere killing of the terrorists and hitting those gathering on the scenes of conflict to facilitate the terrorist operations amounted to chopping off branches of Salfi/Wahabi tree while its roots get regular irrigation and fertiliser. Obviously, an exercise in futility. It will naturally be wrong to treat them as alienated youth. They are sworn enemies of India and all that it stands for. They are driven by a militarised Islamist, anti-civilisation destructive ideology or are agents of an enemy state ”waging a proxy war aimed at bleeding India by thousand cuts”. They must be relentlessly hounded and neutralised.

On the positive side, we have youth who are committed to moving on in the modern world, determined to brighten their prospects, improve their quality of life and benefit from the enormous and hugely lucrative openings in government as well as corporate sectors. They concentrate on their studies and dedicatedly prepare for competitive examinations or what-ever tests the corporates, in both national and international arenas, prescribe. Their performance has been laudable and should be a source of inspiration to others. Obviously, everything possible should be done to facilitate their endeavours.

Then there is the largest percentage of youth who accept their being Indians by birth or fall in the politically grey area. They mostly seek jobs preferably in the police and other uniformed forces, or Education Departments/universities.

Kashmiri Muslim youth have a somewhat compelling fascination for uniformed services. This yearning was rooted in history and drove the ambition of young men/women, some consciously but most sub-consciously. This explains the pride with which men in uniform carry their weapons or new recruits to terrorism flaunt their uniforms and weapons on the social media.

The tragedy was that most of the Kashmir experts, official as well as non-official, chose to define Kashmiri psyche and character in terms of the period dating from the Mughal occupation when Akbar finally succeeded in over-running Kashmir after a number of failed invasions. He was determined to break their morale for good by de-martially singing the notes of the “nation”. They refused to accept that Kashmiri society, culture and exalted institutions of scholarship and theology were thousands of years old. And there was enough incontrovertible evidence that they were a martial race. They disregarded these pleas and stubbornly fashioned an anti-terrorist policy to deal with “a community of cowards”. This erroneous premise resulted in fashioning policies and strategies which predictably proved mostly inadequate and at times disastrous. And yet despite unprecedented huge loss of life and limbs, the resistance endured. Should this not compel a radical and realistic change in fundamental thinking of the Indian Government?

As for the segment of youth represented by Rather, we need to engage them in serious dialogue. There is so much in common between them and the attributes of the Indian state like faith in democracy, secularism, composite culture and a commitment to preserve the status of J&K State as it existed on August 14, 1947. As it is, the dream of an independent Kashmir stands shattered by Pakistan itself. The emergence of Wahabis wedded to jihad for Allah, Islam and a Global Caliphate and the inroads they are making further enhance their difficulties in pursuing their objective.

The patriots and those in the politically grey area need to be protected, promoted and preserved through a holistically crafted strategy that addresses both the educational, societal and ideological fronts. The situation demands that the strategists, commanders of security forces as well as ideological pundits rush to the drawing board, put their heads together and come up with well-conceived, pro-active, thoroughly professional preventive and operational responses both at the operational and ideological fronts before a lot more damage was done to us as well as the Kashmiri Muslim society. The Wahabi/Salfi Ahil-i-Hadth storm is gathering momentum by the day.

The author is a retired DGP and the Chairman, J&K Ex-Policemen’s League, Jammu.

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