24 September 2018 03:49 PM

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WAJAHAT HABIBULLAH | 22 JANUARY, 2018

3 Army Divisions For 300 Terrorists In JK But No End to Violence: Certainly the Answer Does Not Lie in Force

Leadership of Kashmiri youth springs from the cream


Addressing the issue of Jammu and Kashmir on the eve of Army Day the Army Chief General Bipin Rawat asserted: “In the schools in Jammu and Kashmir, what teachers are teaching should not be taught. In schools in J&K, there can be seen two maps, one of India, another of J&K. Why do we need a separate map for J&K? What does it teach the children? Most misguided youth come from schools where they are being radicalised.”

The implications of this statement are several, but reading from other statements by the good general and the touted discovery by the NIA (National Investigation Agency) that the agitating Kashmiri youth have been bought by Pakistan, is the good general implying that the Indian writ in Kashmir is so slim that it doesn’t run even in the state’s educational system? Expectedly eminent members of the present ruling coalition in the state have reacted with indignation.

Yet although it might be argued that such a statement was beyond the Army Chief’s brief and the discretion of making such a claim by one in high authority justifiably questioned, it must sadly be conceded that what Rawat implied regarding Kashmir’s education system has some truth. Although hardly for the reasons that he has cited.

The fact is that the leadership of the discontented, even radicalised youth including the young Burhan Wani, whose death triggered the wildest agitation of all, springs from among the educated cream of Kashmir’s youth. Wani’s own father, as is well known is a highly respected former headmaster of a government school in Tral.

Set this against the fact that Sameer Rashid Bhat, one of only two Rhodes Scholars from India for 2018 is from Kashmir and so are a host of successful young aspirants, men and women, for the All India Civil Services. Shah Faesal stood first in the UPSC examinations in 2009. Thereafter a number of Kashmiri girls and boys continue to qualify handsomely in the IAS and other services.

It is not surprising that the objective of all these youth, including those who have turned militant, is to serve their people who they have seen passing through decades of suffering since the aborted insurgency of 1989-90.

But while those choosing the route of service have sought to achieve this by themselves becoming instruments of governance there are those like Burhan Wani who feel that they can do so only by suborning what they see as oppression.

In March 2016 I had toured town and village in South Kashmir widely and taken a ride in the shabby train from Srinagar to Baramulla in advocating the use of the RTI, which had been extended to J&K in 2009. This was for the promotion of transparency and accountability, the two lynchpins of openness in governance.

I was struck by the pervasive calm.

Burhan Wani was talked of at the time as being admired by many of the youth, but hardly as a threat. There were indeed confrontations between the security forces and militants and the latter were obviously better trained, but hardly a match for our soldiers or policemen.

The killing of Burhan Wani in July 2016 however brought cascading violence that engulfed the valley, upsetting altogether the trend towards peace.

Today, while there is a veneer of calm, violent encounters are frequent, with public involvement not seen before. Youth are once again increasingly taking to arms. And while we have three Divisions of the Indian army, one of the finest armies in the world, deployed in the troubled state and the best estimates number the terrorists as less that 300, we seem unable to bring an end to the encounters.

Had order been restored as official spokesmen claim, the question arises as to why the Election Commission of India, after a bloodied nose in the April 2017 by-election to Parliament, has been unable to comply with its constitutional obligation to hold elections for the Anantnag Lok Sabha vacancy, denying to the Chief Minister’s home constituency its basic democratic right.

Surely then the answer does not lie in the use of greater force but elsewhere. And government’s appointment of an interlocutor amounts to a recognition of this truth. Critics will deprecate the achievements of the present interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma thus far. There are those, including sections of the Hurriyat leadership, who referring to previous failed efforts will be and are dismissive of the endeavours of an interlocutor. But that appointment is an acknowledgement even with advocates of the strong arm, that the way forward must be accompanied by dialogue.

The Kashmiri leadership would therefore do well to give peace a chance by entering into dialogue. That would be my own appeal to the Hurriyat leadership. But while this process might conceivably bring relief from violence, the way forward must lie in involving the youth in building Kashmir’s future, not by recruitment to a bloated government, but by encouragement to participate in the development of their State.

The state has vast natural resources waiting to be utilised and huge talent among an increasingly educated youth. This resource has also ensured that during the travails of the past two years, although tourism has withered, prosperity has grown. Their involvement in the economic growth of Kashmir will enrich the country and give them purpose, carrying the state forward to showcase India to the world.

(Cover photo by basit zargar)

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