Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan has opened the Pandora’s box of radicalisation and deradicalisation debates in India with Jammu and Kashmir being the primary focus. Since the emergence of ‘New Age Militancy’ in Jammu and Kashmir, radicalisation has been one of the most debated topics in not just the security spheres, but among the people of the country as well. With the country’s home minister recently taking a review meeting on Jammu and Kashmir, possibilities of increased radicalisation in J&K post Taliban’s takeover was speculated to be among the top agendas of the meeting. It has to be. With the topmost element of interest and concern in hybrid warfare, radicalisation is going to be a force to reckon with in times to come, as far as South Asia is concerned.
When people talk about radicalisation in Jammu and Kashmir, the one thing that comes to mind is another frequently misused word, “Jihad”. Radicalisation in Kashmir isn’t just limited to ‘a call for jihad against India’. It is much more complicated than that. It involves political radicalisation and social radicalisation as much as the religious one. The roots of this conflict date back to the time when the Indian subcontinent was still a British colony. It started with the idea of partition of India. Poonch insurgency and an all-out war followed thereafter — this, at a time when the dominions of India and Pakistan were newly formed.
While the war was still going on, Muslim League sympathisers in Srinagar formulated a plan in May 1948 to arm themselves for a domestic uprising by bringing in arms through Tut Mar Gali sector in Baramulla and Narpur Gali in Budgam, a plan which partially succeeded. Those who say that insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir is a post 1987 phenomenon are either ill informed or biased. With the dust of the war still settling, an operation codenamed operation Nusrat aimed to collect intelligence of a potential insurgency took shape.
With limited support from people, a follow-up operation — code named Gibraltar — took shape, leading to another all-out war between India and Pakistan in 1965. The operation failed to mobilise the people of Jammu and Kashmir for an insurgency. The main reason for this was botched up intelligence, collected under Operation Nusrat. Another reason for the failure of the operation was that Kashmiris at that point were disillusioned by the sine wave politics of local leaders, who switched sides between India and Pakistan based on their convenience. Also Read: The New Indian Muslim
The post 1947 war developments, including the promises of a plebiscite, had inculcated in people a false sense of importance and a feeling that they are being heard — an illusion which shattered with time, making them question their human dignity. Since mainstream politics dominated the scene, by 1987, the resentment against the local leadership (and therefore India) had peaked.
The instances of rigging that followed thereafter revoked the dilemma of dignity in Kashmiri minds. In the 20th century, infringement of the right to choose, that too at a time when universal adult franchise was a trend, meant robbing Kashmiris of their dignity. Another event that collided with the events in Kashmir was the advances made by Mujahideen against the super power in Afghanistan. The narrative of puny David defeating the mighty Goliath dominated the scenes and so did the AK47s in Kashmir. The narrative of the Goliath and David is once again dominating the scenes post Taliban’s takeover of the Afghanistan from the mighty USA, the superpower, somehow raising our concerns.
With an unprecedented insurgency erupting in Jammu and Kashmir, the cluelessness on how to contain it and therefore reacting with unprecedented deterrence, the further deterioration of the already deteriorated dignity of Kashmiris has added fuel to the raging fire. The unchecked use of force, strip searches and personal vendettas at times gave rise to more resentment and, therefore, led to more locals picking up arms. The operations that followed, like Chanakya which created Ikhwan, the rise of Special Operations Group (SOG) and the induction of Rashtriya Rifles in the state reduced the number of active terrorists to a comparatively negligible number by 2003.
These operations, although successful in dropping the numbers, reduced the human dignity of Kashmiris to shreds. Mufti Mohammad Syed’s announcement to disband the Special Operations Group (SOG) momentarily bought a sense of relief to the people but soon turned out to be another illusion. Instead of bringing about a change, the assimilation of SOG into regular Jammu and Kashmir Police gave rise to a complex problem, the proliferation of SOG mentality in whole JKP. 2008, 2009 and 2010 agitations in Jammu and Kashmir were a product of the same resentment, a product of the same unaddressed problem of denial of dignity to Kashmiris. There’s a famous dictum in Law, “Justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done”.
The 2009 Shopian case was such a case in a string of numerous legal cases filed against security forces where justice was not at all seen to be done. New Age Militancy that emerged post 2013, the shifting of epicenter of militancy from Northern Kashmir to Southern Kashmir was a product of the same with multiple recruits terming the highhandedness of security forces personnel towards them as a main reason to take up arms.
Now with the Chief of Defence Staff acknowledging the fact that even 13 year olds who have a full life ahead of them are radicalised and have shown interest in picking up arms called for setting up of de-radicalisation centers and the Director General of Jammu & Kashmir Police echoing the same, what needs to be introspected is the basis of whole concept of radicalisation and de-radicalisation; “Why does one prefer dignity in death rather than dignity in living?”. Any de-radicalisation program is a failure unless those enrolled in the program are provided a reason to live a dignified life.
The whole success and failure of the de-radicalisation program depends on awakening that sense. The Constitution of India in its Article 21 states the right to life, which the court interpreted in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India as not merely a physical right but includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity. The first step to run a successful de-radicalisation program is the implementation of Article 21 in its letter and spirit in Jammu and Kashmir, providing the people the human dignity that the constitution has promised them, providing the sense of inclusiveness among them and making them believe that they are really an integral part of India and not reducing it to a mere rhetoric. Unless the common people feel they’re treated with dignity, any de-radicalisation process is wastage of public exchequer. Also Read: Govt Must Reach Out Across Kashmir’s Silence
(The writer is a Srinagar based lawyer and writer.)
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