Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh: Building Peace and Countering Radicalization - Release of the IPCS Workshop Report
Report of the discussion held at India International Center on 9 March 2010
AVM Kapil Kak AVSM (Retd.), Additional Director, Center for Air Power Studies, New Delhi
Mr. Gopal Sharma, Former Director General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir Police
Prof. Siddiq Wahid, Vice-Chancellor, Islamic University, Srinagar
The following report is the result of a year long project undertaken by IPCS and headed by Dr. Suba Chandran. The project involved field work in different parts of Jammu including conducting a survey and holding a workshop at the University of Jammu. Based on the findings of the survey and the discussions at the workshop, a Workshop report was prepared. The report reveals a renewed trend towards radicalization in Jammu and Kashmir. The report also finds that different religious communities are getting radicalized not just by local events but by events at the national and the regional level. Finally, the report is unique in that Pakistan is not mentioned even once which could be indicative of Pakistan’s waning influence in the region.
AVM Kapil Kak
It is imperative to recognize that in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), the tradition and culture of Sufi Islamism has stayed strong. Despite the pressure that has been generated in the region, the shrines in J&K are flourishing. For the first two or three years after 1990, there was a fear of the gun, but that vanished after 1996. On the other hand, the community that has become radicalized is the Kashmiri Pundits and it would be interesting to analyze how the highly educated and intellectual Kashmiri Pundits got radicalized.
An issue that needs to be worked upon is connectivity within the region. It needs to be widened for any progress to occur in the state. By connecting people and ideas, hope can be regenerated in the region. Subsequently, decentralization in the region should be strengthened. This approach should be based on the Legislative Assembly at the top and autonomous Councils at the lower level with the Panchayati Raj institutions made more effective. The report could further expand to study the significance of the Right to Information Act (RTI) as a means of empowering people at the grassroots.
Few recommendations that could be considered for implementing the above mentioned steps include: one, setting up a regional group responsible for identifying moderates and urban communities that could recommend individual action on peace-building at the grassroots; second, setting up of nerve centers that could identify new radical political thought; third, further sensitization of the police forces; and, lastly, revival of the old city of Srinagar to prevent it from becoming a centre for radicalization.
Mr. Gopal Sharma
When militancy started in the region, it was only confined to the Kashmir valley where as the major land areas of Ladakh and Jammu were hardly affected. It, however, slowly spread to the entire state. The radicalization of Ladakh can be traced back to the mid-1980s with the agitation by Ladakh Buddhists demanding central rule from 1989. There is a feeling now that more problems might emanate from Ladakh. As far as decentralization in the state is concerned, it does not always work. For instance in the recruitment for police service, reservation for Scheduled Castes (SC) is eight percent in J&K, but there SC population in Kashmir valley is very small. This only compounds problems by creating dissatisfaction among the public. On the other hand, problems might get solved by greater employment opportunities and economic development. There should be a better process for the selection of police and government service personnel because the government is the biggest employer in J&K.
Prof. Siddiq Wahid
The IPCS workshop report needs to be lauded for contributing to developing a nuanced understanding of radicalization in the region. By pointing out that radicalization is not specific to any particular region or religion in J&K, the report greatly enhances the understanding of the region. Radicalization in Ladakh must be avoided and decentralization can assist in reducing the threat of radicalization. The Gorkha Hill Council has not been as successful as the Panchayati Raj and hence the latter should be strengthened. A similar model, however, might be challenging to replicate in other parts of the state, for instance in Jammu, because it can heighten the communal fault lines.
The report has some language that can be misinterpreted, for example, words like ‘Kashmiriyat’. This is a relatively new term considering the 7000-year-old history of Kashmir, which was used 60 years ago and it means acceptance of other cultures and traditions. This creates a bit of dissonance, if it means that Kashmir is the only area that is tolerant. It fails to appreciate the fact that there is also a sense of ‘Ladakhiyat’, and ‘Dogriyat’. Again, Sufism is not the domain of Kashmiris alone; Sufism is present in Ladakh as well.
To flip it, this intolerance has cut across the state. The Buddhists in Ladakh are showing stronger tendency of radicalization. They acidly boycotted the entire Muslim community in Ladakh. Something that might be explored is the real need for truth and reconciliation processes not just for the Kashmiri Pundit community, but for the Muslim community and the Buddhist community. The row over Central University can be turned around by looking at universities as integrators of society. There is also a denial of radicalization in Kashmir and Jammu and this should be addressed.
The Army and the Police
Given the ongoing atmosphere of instability and intermittent violence, talks of demilitarization might be considered immature. The army is working under great pressure. On the one hand, it is reaching out to the people and civil society at large, and on the other hand, there are extremist propagandas working against the army. Human rights violations have undeniably taken place, but the Indian army has managed with the templar model of insurgency. In Kashmir, it has been confined to mortar and small arms. There have been talks about replacing the army with the police but it must be realized that the danger of the police going in there is that they have local agendas. Police reforms are urgently required. Elders have to be consulted in the law enforcement process. The Police has now become a near paramilitary force because it has the communication, equipment, the professionalism, but they are human beings and so could develop local orientation.
On the other hand, it must be appreciated that policing in J&K is not an easy task. Policing in a state is based on a principle that the population is abiding with the state apparatus, but in J&K, the population is against the state apparatus. The Police become an easy victim as was witnessed in the Shopian case. If the police cannot be supported then the armed forces should not be removed because this means that the state apparatus is not being allowed to deal with the situation. There is no one to defend the police, except the media and civil society which goes by rumors; but the army has the government’s backing. There should be caution against saying that police should not be there; their operations now are almost without collateral damage and they are even trying to protect buildings.
The report deals with the issue of ‘radicalization’ in J&K, which can be described as a situation where one is not willing to live with other communities and a situation where violence is used to express dissent. Radicalization also represents extremism; not just harboring an extremist view, but imposing it on others. In J&K, there is religious radicalization but the responses have been secular. Religion has always been used as medium of communication because it is the only education that has been given to the society. Many leaders have done that, Gandhi too did that and it is the only education that is universal. To counter radicalization, there is a need to go back to religion because secular responses will not be adequate. In Jammu, there has been no effort to understand the issue of marginalization and radicalization. Radicalization in Kashmir leads to radicalization in Jammu among the Hindus, giving rise to feeling of marginalization among the Muslims in Jammu. The assumption that Sufism in J&K is not under attack needs to be analyzed. Ahl-e-Hadith University’s philosophy is the philosophical base of Lashkar-e-Toiba’s and they are growing in Kashmir. If the state is sponsoring this University, then it has already agreed to the marginalization of Sufism in Kashmir.
A division along communal lines might not work because that will be artificial. Jammu will have to work on another plan, maybe based on governance at the grassroots level. The problem is bad politics (majoritarianism and minoritarianism), and radicalization go hand in hand. The model in Ladakh is both in Leh and in Kargil but it is not working in Kargil because of corruption and factionalism. Even in Leh, the model is not perfect. Leh is seen as predominantly Buddhist but there is a nested community of Muslims, some Shias and some Sunnis.
Young Political Leaders
J&K’s young political leadership must be consulted because the majority of the leaders in the assembly are not old people and they have been elected by 64 per cent of the voters and they are not hardliners and their viewpoints on the way forward, must be considered.
Democracy and free media
Transparency, objectivity and free media can really transform misperceptions. As soon as Shopian happened the initial report was that no murder took place, but hardliner elements were shaping agenda to turn falsehood into truth. At the end, democracy and civil society can really make a difference in J&K.
Ms. Pia Malhotra
Research Officer, IPCS