There is a debate about the phenomenon, “why youth are joining terror groups in Jammu & Kashmir in spite of having suffered heavy casualties in the ongoing anti-terrorist operations”. Is it due to lure of money, glamour, or religious indoctrination to participate in Jihad for establishing Islamic State in Kashmir or Azadi? Albert Bandura concluded that, “it requires conducive social conditions rather than monstrous people to produce terrorists. Given appropriate social conditions, decent, ordinary people can be led to do extraordinarily cruel things”. Has Jihadi ideologues and ISI of Pakistan created that social conditions on ground that has made these youths fearless, aggressive, and brutal? Security forces are eliminating terrorists but the idea of terrorism is sacrosanct rather getting strengthened with each passing day. There is miniscule number of terrorists in Kashmir but there are unarmed jihadi or individuals with the militant mindset in almost every village and mohalla in Kashmir, going about their activities without being disrupted. Under the given circumstances, more than gun, it is the ideology that is more dangerous. Security forces and government may be pleased that there is increase in number of kills, however; if the idea of jihad is not killed it has the potential to convert entire valley into jihadists. The teachers, moulvis, and separatists are the lynchpin that keeps the recruitment pipelines active and vivacious. The moulvis and teachers maintain the tempo campaign of terrorism by indoctrinating and shaping the opinion of these youths, whereas, separatists are a bridge between ISI and people of Kashmir and they also ensure steady flow of funds to the rank and file. There is a saying that in Kashmir today there are either informers or terrorists. As long as the terrorists are there, informers will remain in business and so will be the ideologues.
Joining terror group has become fashionable and an instant rise to fame (Robinhood image). There are various reasons for joining terror groups. Most prominent among these reasons is ideology of jihad based on perception of fighting for Islam. The core leadership consists of such cadres in Kashmir. Second category is those youths who see no hope and no future, driven to desperation by social and economic reasons. For them this is an easy escape from the burden of being useful to society and family. Third category is those youths who suffer failure in education, emotional relations, and see no sense in living a life of anonymity. Such individuals find solace and purpose from perceived religious duty to participate in jihad. Fourth category is those youths who become rebel due to pressure from parents, teachers, and atrocities by police or security forces. How to end this cycle is a monumental task given the social environment on the ground. Anyone talking of peace and development is considered a Mukhbir or stooge of Delhi.
Unarmed jihadis are turning to be the catalysts and more dangerous than armed jihadis in Kashmir. They create brutal terrorists from the impressionable docile youths. Though they do it on the name of Islam but they violate every tenets of Islam in pursuance of their perceived jihad/war against India. For them battleground is not Srinagar, Shopian, or Pulwama, it is the cognitive domain where the fire of jihad must continue to burn at the cost of destruction of invaluable lives of innocent youths. Qanta Ahmed, a British Author and Columnist said, “No act is singularly more un-Islamic than the destruction of human life. No assault is more offensive to Islam (which enshrines free will) than compulsory belief. No law of war in Islam is more violated than the targeting of unarmed men, women, and children. Islamists claim to represent us but in reality they are destroying us”. A Kashmiri youth activists told the author that the moulvis and teachers are misrepresenting religion to motivate youths to indulge in activities that are proscribed in Islam such as stone pelting, forcing young children to leave the path of learning, killing innocent civilians, and using social media to spread hate against other beliefs and religion.
There is a perception that is creeping in the Kashmiri psyche that liberals and Hindus are mocking at them and their religious belief in pursuance of goal of establishing Islamic State. The anti-Kashmiri tirade on some of the main-stream channels and provocative utterances by fringe elements also strengthen such unfounded belief of Kashmiri youth. The situation today is that, if secular world points out misrepresentation of religion by jihadists and invite them for a free and frank debate about the anomalies in their perception, it is perceived as anti-Islam and acts as traction for the youth to join jihadi organisations. Any justification or intellectual debate at this moment addressing the flawed perception is twisted by unarmed jihadis/ideologues as anti-Islam or anti-Kashmir. Ideologues have created such a void on the ground that reconciliation at this stage appears impossible. They have created circumstances where their goals are non-negotiable and they want to eliminate all those who oppose them or not stand with them. As a result, even those who do not support their argument are forced to stand with them and for them.
Can the policy of elimination of terrorists erode the ideology of jihad and deter youth from joining terror organisations? The answer to this question is given by Simon Cottee and he says, “Law-enforcement agents can’t disrupt a motive, but with the right intelligence they may be able to disrupt a network of terrorist recruiters”. However, the problem in Kashmir is that hard power is being used to eliminate terrorists but efforts are lacking to eliminate the idea of terror or jihad. In fact, authorities are struggling to counter and disrupt momentum of terror organisations recruiting the youths. While terrorists are developing strategies to target and attract the youth, counter-terrorism efforts continue to focus on hard power as the central approach in dealing with this issue. Unfortunately the battle of ideas remains uncontested. The ideologues, by pretending to be custodians of enshrined values of religion, are in fact adding fuel to fire without being made accountable for their misdeeds. Qanta Ahmed says that, “Our complacency is our failure to recognize that the Islamist threat is real and dangerous, yet our refusal to acknowledge the threat is evident everywhere”. In Kashmir the threat is visible and it has the potential to spill over across Pir Panjal, yet we have collectively failed to disrupt the network of unarmed jihadis who are now encouraged to adopt the same model what they applied in Kashmir valley to take it elsewhere.
There are two options at this stage; one, to shy away and let the Islamists ideological extremists continue to highjack the agenda in Kashmir or; two, delineating the truth by exposing them systematically at every forum within and outside Kashmir. This difficult task has to be spearheaded by pluralistic Muslims from Kashmir and rest of India. This is certainly not a war that can be won by the gun; rather it has to be won through intellectual discourse and equally powerful perception management campaign by exposing custodians of the jihad factory.
This article is Written By Brig Narender Kumar, SM, VSM (Retd). The author is a Distinguished Fellow at the USI, New Delhi. Views expressed are personal.
The article was first published by usiofindia.org
Simon Cottee, What Motivates Terrorists? The Atlantic, JUN 9, 2015.
Qanta Ahmed, The new jihad — a violent, intrusive and dangerous threat to world order, Fox News, October 09, 2013
Thomas Koruth Samuel, The Lure of Youth into Terrorism, South East Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism, accessed on May 30, 2018 from http://www.searcct.gov.my/publications/our-publications?id=55
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