Counter Radicalisation Need for A Structured Beginning in Kashmir
The counter-terrorist campaign by security forces in Kashmir has achieved success with the elimination of over 200 militants in 2018 till the first week of November almost the same in 2017.
Security forces led by the Army will be able to contain the violence which is present mainly in the Southern districts of the Valley, Sopore and Bandipore areas in the North with sporadic incidents in Srinagar and other cities.
Cordon and Search Operations (CASO) has been the main tactic which has led to the elimination of the terrorists based on intelligence, the flow of which is continuing.
However, these have proved counterproductive due to the raising of temper in local areas with a large number of protests that accompany each CASO followed by assembly of mourners for the funeral of killed terrorists that follows.
The whole cycle has given a halo of martyrdom and freedom fighting to the miscreants which act as a motivation to other youth in the Valley.
What is also alarming is a more substantial number of highly educated youth and thus possibly from more affluent families who are taking to terror.
Some of the youth who are studying in other parts of the country have also been attracted to terror.
For instance Ahtesham Bilal Sofi, the 17-year-old Sharda University student allegedly has joined the Islamic State Jammu Kashmir (ISJK) underlying the depth to which terrorist’s propaganda can penetrate.
The challenge of deradicalisation is thus not only in Kashmir but also across the country
State response to counter radicalisation has been mainly focused on the appeals to youth through their parents, tours of other parts of the country to denote the progress achieved due to peace and stability, interaction with top leaders – army and civil, focus on the development, opportunities for education and employment and so on.
The issue of deradicalisation was reportedly discussed in the biannual army commanders conference held in April this year, though what action has been taken so far is not clear.
The disaffection in the Valley arises from a feeling of being viewed as – the “other,” or a community that is reviled by mainstream Indians including the people of Jammu region. The widening regional schism has led to a sense of alienation within the State in Kashmir that is causing the youth to turn to the ideology of separatism or radical Islam as alternative frameworks of identity.
Pakistan though not an attractive proposition but support to separatism – political and military has led to a sympathetic perception of that state lying across the Western border.
The securitisation of governance space with an excessive presence of security forces in the Valley has added to the sense the, “other,” due to restrictions imposed in daily life.
Hyper-nationalism has led to Kashmiri students being viewed with suspicion and in some case open hostility resulting in fracas from time to time, of which Mr Sofi was a victim,
A structured programme to address the underlying psychosocial roots of radicalisation will have to be devised for implementation in multiple domains – the political, security, social and development.
Separate programmes need to be developed for the Valley, Jammu and rest of India especially where there is a large concentration of Kashmiri youth to create an in them a sense of belonging to the national mainstream.
Use of social media needs far greater focus as this is a medium that is being actively used. For instance, the first indication that Mr Sofi has joined militancy came from a six-minute video clip that was circulated on social media where he stated as per Greater Kashmir, “I (Ehtisham Bilal) feel blessed after joining Jundul Khilafah led by Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. I have taken a pledge that I will not rest till Islamic rule in Kashmir.”
Last but not least it needs to be understood that nationalism cannot be forced but needs to be accepted for which a soft approach will have better outcomes.