By Farooq Wani
Cradled in the lap of the majestic Himalayas, Kashmir has always been known for its picturesque beauty, due to which it is referred to as ‘paradise on earth’. Unfortunately, in the last decade of the twentieth century, the peace and tranquillity of this area was shattered by Pakistan-supported terrorism.
The militancy in Kashmir, which is going on for more than three decades, hasn’t achieved anything for anyone. Yet, some brainwashed local Kashmiri youth continue to join militant groups and according to official estimates, nearly 250 young boys have done so in the first three months of the current year itself. Many are puzzled as to why young boys continue to pick up the gun, even when they know they can’t defeat government forces?
According to analysts, the difference between the present-day militancy and that during the early 1990s is that the ideological conviction of the present lot of militants is far more superior to what militants had during those days. This is mainly the result of increasing ‘Pan-Islamisation’, which has changed the traditional public perception as regards the Kashmir dispute- unlike in the past, where Kashmir was considered an unresolved political problem, it’s today regarded as a religious issue – ‘Jihad’!
Accordingly, young boys are being made to believe that if they participate in this ‘Holy War’ and are killed in gunfights, their ‘martyrdom’ would earn them an exalted place in paradise. It’s not very difficult to indoctrinate young and impressionable minds through misinterpretation of religious texts and edicts by promising them a content ‘after-life’. Thus, despite being aware of the risk of being killed, the gullible youth end up picking up the gun, in the false belief that there acts of violence has religious sanction and this trend is more pronounced in certain areas of South Kashmir like Shopian, Kulgam, Pulwama and parts of Awantipora as also in certain areas of downtown Srinagar and Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashker-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are the main recruiters.
Indian security officials accuse Pakistani authorities of sheltering the leadership of militant groups fighting in Kashmir as well as providing them with guidance, training, and material support. Pakistan denies these accusations, but it has, under international pressure, cracked down on militant groups inside its borders in the past, which vindicates New Delhi’s claims.
According to a recent assessment by South Asia Terrorism Portal, a New Delhi-based website that tracks militant groups in the region, Kashmir could be “hurtling towards a heightened phase of militancy.” However, even though the Indian government keeps clamouring for action against Pakistan, experts feel that “what is being completely overlooked are strategies to restore internal stability and sober governance” in Jammu and Kashmir.
There are a lot of examples where local militants have shot dead their brethren and I am quoting just a few incidents to highlight this gruesome trend.
· Militants on 10 April, shot dead Mohammed Saleem Akhoon, Territorial Army soldier who had come home on leave at his home in Goriwan, Bijbehara.
· In June 2019, a local army soldier, Manzoor Ahmad Beigh who had come home on leave was shot dead by local militants at his residence in Sadoora, Anantnag.
· In May 2017, Lieutenant Umar Fayaz, a 22-year-old army officer from the Shopian district, who had come home on leave to attend a relative’s marriage, was abducted by militants from the wedding venue and his bullet-ridden body was found in Herman’s area of Shopian the next morning.
It seems that this despicable trend of militants targeting Kashmiris without any reason is an attempt to refrain locals from contributing towards the return of normalcy in the state. Finally, it is unnecessary to link developmental programmes with Pakistan reducing infiltration of militants from across the LoC. In the past, such programmes were undertaken even when the total number of militants on the ground was over 3,500. As of now, there are less than 200 and so New Delhi shouldn’t make Islamabad an excuse to delay public welfare programmes.
The key to Kashmir, and indeed for any insurgency, has always been the support of the local population. This time, the target group that must be wooed and the realities of mass media means that the government needs to ‘market’ its product efficiently. The state has really nothing to lose. What it can gain, if handled right, is immense goodwill from parents of these vulnerable youth drawn into destruction.
This is the time for all genuine stakeholders who have the good of Kashmir in mind to join hands in isolating those who have inimical designs. This is the time to be mature and statesmanlike and work towards consolidating the gains accrued because of diligent hard work and great sacrifice. J&K demands constructive contribution and not opportunism. Nothing can be gained by reliving of a traumatised past in a manner that overshadows a bright future. It is time to look ahead and to work for a bright future.
(The author is Editor Brighter Kashmir, Columnist, Political Analyst and TV commentator Email: [email protected] Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)