J&K: Treading a Dangerous Path

05 Jun, 2013    ·   3974

Shujaat Bukhari on the role of educated youth in the rise of militancy in Kashmir

Shujaat Bukhari
Shujaat Bukhari
Editor in Chief, Rising Kashmir

Past two weeks have seen a few encounters between militants and the forces in different areas of Kashmir. Though the encounters have been a routine affair in Kashmir valley for the last over 21 years now, but the resurgence in militant activities, particularly after the hanging of Muhammad Afzal Guru, is something which cannot be brushed aside casually.

The magnitude of these activities may not be high but those who have been taking part in these encounters are a different class of people. Many of the militants who were killed were highly qualified and their involvement in violent means to achieve a political goal is something which needs to be looked in a perspective.

Consider the profile of those who were killed recently. 1. Saifullah Ahangar- Diploma in Civil Engineering (2) Masiullah Khan-Mechanical Engineer (3) Sajad Yousuf Mir- Left MCA, had earlier done MA Islamic Studies (4) Omar Ahsan, MSc Physics (5) Hilal Ahmad Rather, Mufti (A scholar in Islamic law) from Deoband.
Not that the armed resistance in Kashmir was a cup of tea only for un-educated or less educated as there are many educated people who joined the militant ranks, led from the front and got killed during the last 20 years.

Many played their roles as ideologues of the “movement for right to self-determination”. However, Kashmir has seen a transition from violence to non-violence in the past more than eight years. This transition is not only factored in the fact that the people strongly believed in a non-violent method as the period from 1947-1989 had witnessed strong movement for restoration of political rights and violence was not used except for one “bad experiment” of Al Fatah. But they were either crushed by New Delhi or were sabotaged or sold out by the Kashmiris themselves.

We have a history of defeating ourselves. Not that Kashmiris were so comfortable with the continued cycle of violence, but the way we turned to become Ikhwanis was the last nail in that coffin. Tremendous force used by the government and strong intelligence network and in many cases the surrender by people had seen armed resistance almost completely wiped out from the scene.

Later the political input to the government set up further changed the course after 1996 assembly election after which National Conference assumed the power. Kashmiris have a strong grudge against the way the elections have been held but at the end of the day the fact remains that a sizeable population take part in them. Even today the public meetings of mainstream leaders are swarmed by the people and it is no longer a “worked out” strategy under which we would say that each and every person who attended the meeting was paid for the day, though that was the practice in the past.

We have seen how people took to streets in 2008 Amarnath land row and it seemed that India was on the edge to exit. But a few months later the long queues outside polling booths baffled every one. However, a distinction between the fight for political rights and the issues of governance has always been an inseparable part of the strategy to deal with the conflict. And it is not necessarily devised by the leaders but by the people themselves who need a space to live in the conflict. Having been failed by the leaders is also a factor which leads to such a consequence. As a student of politics and history and an observer of conflict, I have drawn a conclusion vis-a-vis this phenomenon which many believe is a “dichotomy”. To me the way New Delhi has managed Kashmir for 65 years, people by participating in different elections have also learnt to manage New Delhi in order to deal with their day-to-day problems.

Coming back to the trend of educated youth returning to violent means, it is alarming for a society which believes that the political resolution could be achieved by peaceful means. It is also linked to the fact that no political resolution of Kashmir problem is in sight and radicalization is the way which is available to pursue the goal. To join the militant ranks is a personal decision of an individual and it means that who chooses such a path after being educated properly with many opportunities waiting for him to prosper in this world, has a conviction to do so. Such a trend could become a fashion for others who think that Kashmiris have been getting a raw deal. While there are many who chose to surrender or those who are stuck up across the Line of Control (LoC) and want to return and lead a peaceful life, but there is a different lot, may be not big in number, which treads on this more dangerous path where the ultimate result is death.

Highly educated youth getting involved in Jehad is not new to the Islamic world. There is a history and even the deadly Al Qaeda and Taliban had some fine brains to run its operations. Even those educated in United States and other western countries lend an active support to Osama Bin Laden who wanted to conquer the world. The hijackers of September 11 attacks were highly educated trained pilots who took whole world by surprise with their level of conviction.

But at the same time, the violence is not approved as a “means” to achieve the goal with the world turning on one side. Notwithstanding the fact that anti-Islamic forces have been using violence as the only means to retain their hegemony, still the resolution of political conflicts must be sorted out through peaceful means. But the way state uses repression to crush the political sentiments, it obviously would lead to other ways of “finding the solution”.

Take the example of Boston bombing by two Chechan brothers. If the reports are to be believed, they were pushed to radicalization after being denied entry into a boxing championship on the basis of being immigrants. Taking an offense to this, they resorted to violence, as they believed that the denial was on the basis that they were Muslims. So the denial of justice always has a potential to breed contempt towards a particular system. Here too the state machinery’s approach towards the people, particularly the youth, has a lot to do with this new trend among the young educated people.

Otherwise the “death of militancy” in Kashmir was a forgone conclusion for the security agencies. The cases of these youth make it amply clear that they have joined the ranks purely on the basis of their conviction otherwise they had a lot before them to make fortunes in the life. An educated boy getting convinced to take to violence is something which should be seen as an alarm bell. And the way youth have been treated in last four years could be a reason for such situation. Delhi’s punitive rather than reconciliatory approach has pushed the youth to the wall. Moreover, continued deadlock in the so called process of resolving Kashmir issue is working silently to
further alienate the youth and opening up such dangerous space for them.

By arrangement with Rising Kashmir