Kashmiri Muslim youth pelting stones on security forces after the Friday prayers (file photo)
De-radicalisation is not Jammu & Kashmir specific but a national cause. There is a need to have a policy-based, result-oriented plan rather than a patchwork like approach. Can we afford to be ‘liberally‘ blind towards radicalisation?
A recent statement of newly appointed Chief of Defence Statement (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat is being blown out of proportion. Like any concerned Indian Gen Rawat had expressed his concern against growing radicalisation in the country and targeted particularly the youth for obvious reasons. He had suggested that no time should be wasted in instituting measures to de-radicalise them. Radicalisation is an instrument of political warfare or more commonly known proxy warfare unleashed on us by our hostile theocratic neighbouring state. Since it falls in the realm of warfare and the armed forces of the nation are mandated to secure the nation against all types of military and non-military threats, it is well within the domain of the CDS and other heads of the armed forces to express their concern about increasing radicalisation and suggest counter-measures to combat the menace. Hence, those pseudo-liberals who blame the CDS or other senior military officers of dabbling in politics when they express concern about issues that fall in their domain as well only display their ignorance and narrow-mindedness. A loud-mouthed politician even went to the extent of terming it as “undermining the civil supremacy.”
Gen Rawat said girls and boys as young as 10 and 12 years are being radicalised in the Valley, which he described as a matter of concern. “These people can still be isolated from radicalisation in a gradual way. But there are people who have been completely radicalised. These people need to be taken out separately, possibly taken to some de-radicalisation camps,” Gen Rawat had said. To any sensible mind there is nothing wrong in what the General said. In fact, his assessment and suggestion was seconded by none other than the Director General of Police, J&K Dilbag Singh, another professional deeply involved in the problem. He said, “In recent times there have been a lot of efforts from Pakistan and its agencies to spur radicalisation in this area, some of our young minds have been affected by it and have gone astray. If such a facility comes up it should be welcomed.” But manipulative politicians in our country whose sole aim is to stir controversies wasted no time in converting this also into a controversy. Manvendra Singh, a Congress leader said, “The Indian Army makes accommodations for soldiers from all faiths by setting up a ‘Sarva Dharma Sthal’ (a prayer hall). Here, there are holy books from all religions so that soldiers can come together and pray. This is the ethos of the Indian Army and it is a reflection of the country’s diversity. General Bipin Rawat’s comment on radical youths in Kashmir violates this ethos. What he said questions the ethos of the Army and is beyond the brief that he holds. De-radicalisation camps are completely un-Indian and the assumption that they are needed for a certain age group in one area of the country is clearly a fantasy. It’s not the duty of the state to teach citizens the ‘right’ or ‘moderate’ kind of religion.” Expectedly the statement also drew flak from Pakistan, the perpetrator of the entire menace. The opposition tried to create the controversy on three issues, dabbling in politics; secondly giving it a communal angle and thirdly, use of the term ‘de-radicalisation camps.’ To any independent mind all the three issues are trivial and amount to missing woods for the trees.
Gen Satish Dua, an experienced Kashmir hand and ex- Chief of Integrated Staff has this to say, “Weeding out radicals is a concern for most countries across the world. Countries like Indonesia have de-radicalisation centres in Bali and Jakarta. Even Muslim-majority countries that have experienced the wrath of ISIS are suffering due to radicalisation. Therefore, it’s not a community-centric problem, and Gen Bipin Rawat’s statement should not be seen through the lens of minority persecution. In my view, radicalisation refers to violence that is perpetrated in the name of religion. It can be seen among the youngest of civilians in Kashmir. Terrorists vehemently oppose, like Zakir Musa did, the Indian state and desire their own ‘Caliphate’ — a goal similar to ISIS. Having served as a Corps commander in Jammu and Kashmir, I have seen stone-pelting becoming more and more violent in the last decade. Radicalised teenagers would come out on the streets and raise slogans in support of terrorists, start violent protests and would pelt stones at the Indian security forces when they tried to contain the situation. After Burhan Wani’s death in July 2016, younger children became radicalised. This is because young, impressionable minds are most vulnerable. Therefore, there is a great need to teach young children the right path of Islam and effectively de-radicalise their minds. Rawat was right to speak on this issue because it is a matter of national security.”
Notwithstanding what the politicians or pseudo-liberals say there is no denying the fact that de-radicalisation is need of the hour. Gen Rawat may have made the mistake of using the term ‘De-radicalisation Camp’ which ignited the otherwise fertile minds of this class who started comparing it with Nazi Camps or the camps being used by China to bring the Uygur Muslims in Xinjiang province into the mainstream. Inadvertent use of wrong terminology cannot diminish the import of the issue. What the General meant was De-Radicalisation Centres. The situation is fast becoming scary and gloomy. If the nation does not act fast and swift to address the root cause which is spreading like cancer, a very major surgery will be needed to avoid amputation of the affected part. Rather than taking the statement of Gen Rawat seriously, the politicians as usual are trivialising the problem which has an international dimension. Call it by any name Camp/ Centre/ Clinic/ Reformatory, but move ahead to catch the bull by the horn in order to save our precious wealth-the youth from flight to “gun from pen.”
De-radicalisation is like detoxification and is not a simple process. There is no single solution to detox a radicalised mind. It would need a Herculean and sustained effort by all to include, the administration, politicians, clergy and the civil society. Since, the actions of military and central police forces are perceived to be the contributory cause of the radicalisation, it would be advisable to not use their services to de-radicalise because it may turn out to be counter-productive. Rehabilitation is as important as de-radicalisation to ensure that de-radicalised youth is not recycled into militancy due to lack of job opportunities or means of livelihood.
The administration has to take the lead by establishing de-radicalisation clinics and modernising the education system in Madrassas. The Madrassas have to be converted as centres of excellence producing future religious scholars rather than to be perceived as a nursery of extremists. All Madrassas should be brought under the control of the state and closely monitored and controlled by a Madrassa Education Board comprising eminent administrators and scholars as well as eminent members of the society. Fiscal reforms also need to form part of the modernisation of Madrassas. Another, problem facing Kashmir is lack of a visible youth icon and due to absence of terrorist like Burhan Wani has emerged as a role model for many disenchanted youth. There is no dearth of achievers in Kashmir but the government/ administration has failed to project them to the extent that the other youth gets attracted to them. Kashmir badly needs youth icons to motivate them. Apart from achievers one can straight way think of Maqbool Sherwani of yester years and Lt Ummer Fayaz, Dy SP Pandit, Inspector Feroz Dar and Sepoy Aurangzeb among the present generation.
Citizen warriors have to take the lead in carrying forward the mission of de-radicalisation. There are many learned clerics and Maulvis who are willing to help in this noble cause of getting the misguided youth back to the mainstream. The clerics-politicians combine has a major role to play in de-radicalisation campaign. They also have to become resource persons in de-radicalisation clinics. In the meanwhile, using the powerful tool of social media they need to appeal to the youth to not be misled and present the correct interpretation of Holy Scriptures as well as address their political grievances.
Without the active participation of civil-society, the process of de-radicalisation will not get the necessary boost it needs. Youth in any society is a very precious commodity. The society has to decide the path youth must follow. Society needs to give direction and create an environment for holistic growth of its youth because today’s youth is the leadership of tomorrow. There is need to promote indigenous identity & culture which is much older than the Arabic Muslim identity &culture. De-radicalisation is not J&K specific but a national cause. There is a need to have a policy-based, result oriented plan rather than a patchwork like approach.
(The writer is a Jammu-based political commentator, columnist, security and strategic analyst)