Written By Kamal Hak ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) -
India like many other countries in the world has been struggling against a problem, which defies normal conventional solution. The problem of religious fundamentalism and its capability of attracting the youth for treading a separatist path is an issue confronting many progressive societies around the world these days. In India the emergence of religious fundamentalism as tool for achieving political goals has seen the country being ripped apart in Kashmir by the perpetrators of sectarian terrorism. That these long and persistent violent campaigns are being nurtured, accomplished and sustained essentially by that segment of populace, which normally should have been more concerned about their social, materialistic and economic sustenance should be a matter of grave concern and debate not only among the political establishments of the country but in the civil society as well. The fatal attraction that the youth of Kashmir continue to demonstrate for extremist actions clearly reflects their romanticism for a rebellious mindset. It also reflects the failure of social and political institutions in preventing the budding youth from alienation. They drifting away of the youth from the respectable mainstream also represent the decay in the robustness of the different organs of the state and society.
The resentment against the national mainstream prominently visible amongst the alarmingly large number of Kashmiri youth can’t be viewed in isolation. The alienation of such a mass of people can never be a manifestation of frustrations borne out of lack of gainful or vocational opportunities. It can also never be an instant reaction to so-called Indian imperialistic designs on a territory, which historically has had social, cultural, physical, economical and political relationship with rest of the country. One also needs to understand and analyze the administrative atmosphere Jammu and Kashmir State before the onset of militancy there and compare the same with that as prevalent in some other states of the country at that time. The economical conditions, availability of avenues for gainful employment, the educational and other opportunities coupled with unhindered freedom of religious and political expression available to the Kashmiri youth do not suggest any discrimination or persecution forcing them into rebellion. A cursory glance at the existing socio-economic and political dispensation in many parts of India, even now, would reveal a situation immensely pathetic in comparison with that of Kashmir and should, therefore, be enough reason for the youth to revolt. It is perhaps the resilience of the civil society and its proud nationalism, which is acting as a strong deterrent against any youthful aberration. That a significant percentage of Kashmiri youth have convinced themselves of the injustice done towards them and chosen the path tangentially opposite the mainstream warrants a more serious analysis of the problem.
The question of Kashmiri youth derailing from the mainstream has been defying answer for a long time. The political commentators and social scientists have been unsuccessfully struggling with the plausible explanation for this phenomenon that has assumed dangerous sectarian characteristics endangering not only the secular fabric of the country but also the security apparatus of the nation. Unfortunately, the political compulsions of pan Indian realities have ensured the malady is not seen in a proper perspective. Any attempt to honestly dissect the factors responsible for the rebellious attitude of Kashmiri youth is always forced under the carpet for the consideration of a larger national interest. The reluctance of the Indian state to directly confront the Kashmiris with a candid indictment is often seen by them as a national weakness and helps them to draw sustenance for their movement. The Indian state’s complacency in calling spade a spade also helps the Kashmiri youth to build a conviction about the righteousness of their stand.
Many commentators trace the alienation of Kashmiri youth to the supposedly rigged election of 1989 in Kashmir. The contention being the activists of Muslim United Front, having failed to realize their political aspirations through legal means crossed over to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir in an act of disillusionment. It is true 1989 elections in Jammu and Kashmir proved to be a turning point in the separatist politics of the valley as a hitherto silent undercurrent of dissent against India suddenly manifested itself in a violent orgy of selective killings, intimidation and revolt. However, the commentators have failed to appreciate that a sudden, spontaneous and unprecedented widespread public expression of a revolt and mass uprising can’t be an instant reaction to a particular incident. In this case the rigged elections. It has to be a culmination of long years of creating adequate support structures, foolproof logistics and systematic planning. It has also to be a reflection of mindset hardened over a large number of years.
The Kashmir problem needs to be viewed dispassionately for understanding its complexities. The alienation of Kashmiris is essentially the result of India’s failure on three fronts with respect to Kashmir. The accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India has been proven to be a legally tenable act but Indian nation has never been able to convince the Kashmiris about this fact. Instead of firmly articulating the legalities and irreversibility of Kashmir’s accession to India, the Indian state has been, most of the times, apologetic about this historical fact. It has not only played into the pan-Islamic sentiments of the Muslim majority people but has many times unwittingly contributed to the separatist ideology. A vast majority of Kashmiri people has been brought up on the theory of 1947 partition and state’s accession to India, thereafter, being a part of the great Indian imperialistic designs on the sub-continent. No wonder, the people tend to believe continuation of the state as a part of India as great injustice perpetrated on the people by a Hindu majority country. The youth see it as an infringement of their political and religious rights. The absence of any honest and dedicated Indian effort to correct this perspective has seen a large number of Kashmiri people distancing themselves from the national mainstream.
One also needs to sympathize with the Indian nation as it is fighting a menace of Islamic religious fundamentalism, which is confronting many countries in the world now. This brings us to the second important reason behind the uprising of Kashmiri youth. The Muslims all across the world, by and large, have always sought to entertain a pan- Islamic identity. They have also been taught the Islam is the superior religion. This has often put the Muslim youth across the world on a confrontationist course and Kashmiri youth have also allowed themselves to be drawn into this extremist ideology. They have also traditionally been tutored to see any Indian initiative in Kashmir as apart of attempted Hindu dominance. The local psyche has been so thoroughly conditioned towards this thought process that all nationalist non- Muslims of the valley are still referred to as Jan Sanghi , a local acronym for a fundamentalist. Kashmir has thrown a greatest challenge on the country’s secular credentials, one of the basic pillars of Indian nation hood; yet, the state has failed to adequately respond to the growing sectarian thought process in the valley and has allowed it to assume menacing proportions. The state has been a mute witness to the process of fundamentalist indoctrination of the youth who refuse to appreciate the difference between India as a country and Hinduism as a philosophy. For them going away from the national mainstream is to walk away from, what they believe, the Hindu dominance.
Finally, India’s inability to effectively combat the Pakistan’s influence on the Kashmir politics has encouraged the youth to look towards it for moral, ideological and monetary support. Also, in the eyes of ordinary Kashmiri, India’s failure to adequately respond to Pakistan’s machinations in Kashmir has made it to look a weaker state in comparison with Pakistan. Despite the history and the evidence to the contrary, Kashmiri’s have always thought of Pakistan as a stronger nation than India. Their belief in greater Islamic nation hood might have contributed in building this belief but lack of adequate Indian response has emboldened them to dare one of the largest countries in the world.
Today, India is being trampled by the acts of mindless terrorism that is fast spreading its wings across the country and whose footprints can be easily traced to Kashmir. There will be no easy solutions to the problem and bringing back the alienated youth to the mainstream is going to be arduous task. Nevertheless, a beginning has to be made somewhere. As on today, it is the Kashmiris who are setting the rules of the game. As a first step towards correcting the attitudes, India could begin well by being firm in establishing who calls the shots. The Kashmiri’s romanticism for any thing Pakistani also needs to be firmly shattered by suitable responding to its overtures on the state. Finally, the most difficult task that needs to be accomplished is to make clear to the fanatically driven people that no one is born either circumcised or with a thread around his neck.