Kashmir Doesn’t Need Jihad 2.0

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By: Arshia Malik
Updated: 07 June, 2022 2:54 pm IST

The gains made by the administration, the forces, and the current government post nullification of Article 370 in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are being constantly undermined by Jihadi groups. These are desperate attempts of a radicalized few, fomented by the ISI/Pakistan and given overground help by elite political, and business families of Kashmir in collaboration with ABCEs (abroad-based conflict entrepreneurs).

By killing a Muslim TV artist, a Bihari labourer, a Kashmiri Pandit, and a Hindu teacher, the Jihadi groups have made it clear who is allowed in the Kashmir valley and what kind of life they can live – tourists are welcome but any non-Muslim who dares to settle here will be killed, same goes for any liberal Muslim who dares to indulge in “haraam” activities like singing, dancing, and videos.

Not to venture into the feeble efforts to dismantle the Intifada factory from within or that the notorious Dulat doctrine is being refined, revamped to rein in half separatists politicians – a doctrine which failed; Kashmir’s Jihad or Islamism problem has to be tackled politically, academically, theologically, legally along with counter-terrorism measures. It’s a war of ideas with a battle of narratives at every stage being fought geopolitically on the global stage. The war is between resurgent Bharat proud of its Indic civilisation and Indic values vs the world’s perception of an India garnered from its Hinduphobic, anti-India portals, individuals, groups and media.

This clash of civilisations – Indic against centuries of Arab/Turkic/Mongol conquests/invasions has already proven destructive for the Indian subcontinent – getting cut up into East and West Pakistan by the Brits collaborating with the Muslim League which propounded the Two-Nation Theory.

Politically, Jihadi Azadistas were de-fanged on 5 August 2019 when Article 370 was nullified. Many saw the final decisive push coming in the aftermath of the Pulwama suicide bombing. In the years after that, intensive debates for delimitation, the unfairness towards the Jammu region, statehood restoration and other facets have been in the public domain for the average Indian to understand what was wrong in all these decades in Kashmir.

But there is still no face of the government talking to the people about the pros of the nullification, its benefits and how this step is not a threat to the Kashmiri ethnic identity; how it was holding back JKians from integration, assimilation, progress, development.

It is all very well to bring in non-local cadres of the IAS/IPS and transfer the native ones to other States. But Kashmir’s foremost terrorism and Wahhabi/Salafi problem can only be fought by Kashmiris themselves. The trust factor is very low and very few nationalist voices have credibility among the masses.

To rectify this, credible, upright officers, DCs, SHOs, Tehsildars and Block Development Officers, have to be hand-picked, vetoed, and secured, leaving them safe to just listen to the masses in every block, tehsil and district.

The common Kashmiri needs those roads, those bore wells and taps to work, that electric pole to be restored, and that transformer to be repaired. Despite the ongoing terrorism, the average Kashmiri wants a semblance of normalcy in their daily lives, recourse to the IPC laws, redressal for his/her woes which a Station House Officer, a DSP, an SSP, and an IG at all their respective positions can solve. Accountability has to be strict with a “perform or perish” policy in place. That is how Indian institutions in Kashmir will be strengthened, the Intifada Factory embedded in these institutions weeded out and nationalism’s foundations and attitudes laid.

Bureaucrats are supposed to be faceless, their job is to serve the people not rule them. The current lieutenant governor (LG) seems to have surrounded himself with sycophants and those who do not have any “skin in the game” in Kashmir. LG needs to identify credible, nationalist Kashmiri voices/faces from civil society – doctors, engineers, traders, academia, media, community elders, imams and sarpanches and listen to them.

Secondly, transfer of DCs/IAS/IPS cadres to be kept limited to North and South Kashmir with shuffling of the native ones to other districts within North or South not across, every few months. This gives enough time for a posted govt representative to get acquainted with the people and general law and order situation of the place while posting is not prolonged enough for the Intifada Factory to corrupt them.

The credible nationalist faces/voices will be the ones explaining the benefits of the nullification of Article 370 as well as acting as a bridge between the government and the people without the political hassles. Lumpen elements, sycophants and shrill nationalistic voices cannot impart the most important fact about the nullification to the people – that it is not a threat to their ethnic identity.

Also, there is no excuse for misgovernance, Kashmir’s woe since the 1800s when Robert Thorpe wrote ‘Kashmir Misgoverned’. Misgovernance also is the basis for disillusionment and dissatisfaction of the people – and the only other camp they ‘feel’, ‘believe’, ‘think’ will address their distress is the Intifada factory which is ever ready to exploit the disillusioned.

Repeating what Kashmir needs right now – an advisory council to the LG, just a handful of credible people from a cross-section of Kashmiri society and faceless bureaucrats. To represent the whole of the Union Territory, an equal number of them can be taken from the Jammu region as well as Kashmir’s districts.

Thirdly, this policy of designating safe and unsafe zones needs to desist unless we have conceded areas to Pakistan. Planting the Indian flag on a government building is not going to work if its head, his/her staff and others are not working for the people and listening to them. That kind of hypocrisy is laughed at in the living rooms of the Valley over noon-chai (salt tea) in all seasons.

Counter-terrorism measures include surveillance, intelligence gathering and actual operations to contain the Jihad. Added to this subtle surveillance with the help of CCTVs, mosques and streets can enhance the countermeasures with pre-emptive actions. We have an excellent intelligence network but it would get additional help if a database of preachers is made with background checks. They should also be registered, admitting their affiliation to whatever sect of Islam they are representing then counter checked by monitoring Friday sermons for any Wahhabi or Salafi preaching.

There is an undercurrent of simmering anger among the people over the senseless killings of a young Muslim talented woman, a 17-year-old labourer, a just-married bank employee, a Kashmiri Pandit and a teacher. This anger needs to be channelized by strengthening Indian institutions, looking into the position of the SHOs of the thanas (police stations) where this violence occurred and whether they have been compromised with Intifada Factory elements.

But most importantly, Kashmir’s imported Jihad can only be fought by Kashmiris. Counter-terrorism experts of Muslim heritage whether domestic or international should be brought in, who can tie up with our finest anti-terror squads with years of experience in the terrain of the Valley.

Lastly, unless Wahhabi/Salafi Islam is countered theologically, the war of ideas can’t be won. For this space for theological debates with Islam’s dissenters, heretics and free thinkers have to be created in academia; their lives and platforms secured to counter radicalism/extremism. This is a global battle and liberal democracies are struggling with it. Reform, pushback and counter have to come from Muslims themselves and can come from Muslims only.

(Arshia Malik is a Delhi-based writer, blogger and social commentator.)

(Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author’s own.)

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