On April 9th evening when polling time had ended in the Srinagar Lok Sabha bypoll, a group of crpf jawans started returning to headquarter. They were carrying election material in one hand and in the other hand they had assault rifles. They were slowly and silently moving through the bylanes in the Badgam district of Kashmir when scores of young Kashmiri Muslim men suddenly surrounded them. The crpf jawans were assaulted, slapped, kicked and abused. Anti-India slogans were raised on their faces. But the jawans did not stop. They kept moving on clutching their things strongly, tightly holding on to their assault rifles, probably trying to control their anger. The Kashmiri Muslim men were simultaneously making videos believing that ‘this brave act of theirs’ will fetch them a place in heaven.
In another video, a vehicle carrying security forces is surrounded by over 500 young Kashmiri men in Pulwama distict of Kashmir. The vehicle is pounded heavily with stones from all directions. The jawans sitting inside the vehicle have weapons with them. As the attackers lunged on the vehicle with heavy rods and wooden logs besides stones, the vehicle slowly moves back.
These two cases are not stories of imagination but a proof of the reality happening almost every day in the terrorist infested valley of Kashmir. It is over three decades now the valley has seen much bloodshed. Despite so many killings and massacres done by the terrorists, it is the security forces which have been at the receiving end most of the times. Earlier there were no recorded actions but with mobiles in every ones hand, things get recorded and become instant viral. In all the above mentioned incidents, the jawans had weapons, they could have retaliated, and acted in self defence but they chose to be restrained as they had been strictly ordered to.
This does seem bizarre and out of this world like situation because security forces are often painted in bad light. In Kashmir also forces have been accused of excesses. There have been a few cases which have got a fair trial also. But in Kashmir, it is mostly the security forces which are facing the brunt.
It is not that the valley youth is all deviant and indulges in anti-national activities only; however, these acts are a manifestation of deep malaise which is far uglier than can be envisaged. Valley has been under an intense pressure from religious fanaticism and radicalization. Aided and fully supported from Pakistan, Islamic groups have been working insidiously for the past four decades in Kashmir. They have been able to replace the predominant Sufi culture with more radical Islam which is inclined to the militant and totalitarian thought. The very manifestation of this has been the persecution and subjugation of the minority Hindus. They were hounded out of the valley and central government’s every move to rehabilitate them back has been thwarted by the Islamist separatist groups and terrorist outfits. The Islamic zealots have targeted women and the youth in particular, curbing their life-style and thought process thereby leading them into the vortex of radicalization. This compulsive Islamic bombarding has been complimented with the lure of neighbor Pakistan’s faith which is declared Islamic Republic. Today an ordinary Kashmiri Muslim sees himself closer to Pakistan than to an Indian Muslim. Kashmiri Muslims often raise slogans like Pakistan se kya nata, Pakistan se dini nata (what binds us with Pakistan is our religion), yahan kya chalega, yahan nizam -e-mustafa chalega (only Islamic rule will run here).
Countering and containing such subversive activities may not be a difficult task but for this form of strategy a careful planning at the government level and sincerity of the political class is required. In the case of Kashmir this has repeatedly failed. Kashmiri politics has always been dominated by a handful of families which include the Abdullahs, the Muftis, the Shah’s, the Karras, the Bukharis, the Ansaris and a few more. Their sole purpose has been to be at the helm no matter what. When Abdullahs are in power, the Mufti’s are accused of hobnobbing with the separatists. Former CM Omar Abdulah often used to attack Mehbooba for giving impetus to stone pelters. And now when Mehbooba is at the helm, she is accusing all others of aiding the pelters. In fact Omar Abdullah has been regularly tweeting in support of stone pelters and separatists ever since he lost power. The political class in the valley has totally failed to create a balming effect.
So is the case with the civil society and activists. Normally, in any disturbed situation, it is the civil society, activists, local media, religious leaders and intellectuals who try to reach out to elements. But in Kashmir, this class has done more harm than any good. It has been seen that they have fanned the separatist emotion further. Whether it has been Arundati Roy, Prashant Bhushan, the leftist brigade of JNU and ultra left intellectuals, etc are openly advocating the separatist agenda. The local media has also been often accused of propagating the separatist views. The separatists have a strong social media presence which is often guided from Pakistani soil. Recently police investigations revealed that several whats app groups running in the valley are administered from Pakistan where in stone pelters are guided to act against security forces. Hence we often see that whenever there is an encounter between security forces and the terrorists, local groups immediately reach the spot and start pelting the forces with stone. And many times the terrorists are thus helped to escape. In case the security forces act tough against the stone pelters, the local media, social media, separatists and even local politicians come heavily against the security forces.
The result is that today nationalistic Kashmiri or even the moderates are finding themselves cornered and isolated. Nobody is reaching out to them. It is a difficult situation in Kashmir as trust quotient is waning. It is here where Pakistan has scored the points. Pakistan has successfully enacted its agenda which is the total Islamisation of Kashmir and on the name of Islam the emotions of the Sunni population in particular are being exploited. Shias are in minority in valley. They are not even allowed to take out their annual Moharram procession. Hindus have been almost annihilated. It is a total religious game being played and this is something which needs to be understood. The sooner the better otherwise our jawans will continue to be tortured and an image of a weak security force or army will only prove to harmful in the game which is being played from Pakistan through its stooges in the valley.