Moderate voices need space

INCREASED MILITANCY IN THE VALLEY : Peace in the Valley would return if the lost culture of Kashmiriyat/Sufism is restored and the gun culture curtail

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s warning to the supporters of terrorists that hereafter they would be treated as anti-nationals has been given thumbs up by the government. At the same time, it has drawn criticism from the opposition and some voices from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).

The ongoing militancy in the vexed state has been long seen as an internal political issue exploited by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in cohorts with the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (AHPC), in an attempt to dismember J&K from India.

The recent intensification of mob violence, stone pelting episodes and even attempts to interfere in the army’s operations have thrown open the question that whether it continues to be a pure political problem. There are evidences of ideological changes. What are these changes, their impact and the way ahead?

Jammu and Kashmir has been the cradle of Sufi saints, often referred to as the “Muslim Rishis”. It is through the preaching of these Sufi saints that Islam gained grounds in the Valley. Sufi saints like Syed Sharaf Uddin Rahman (Bulbul Shah), Mir Muhammad Hamdan, Noor ud-din Noorani (Nand Rishi), and Hazrat Baba Payamudin (Baba Rishi) left an indelible imprint on the lives of the people of J&K. It emerged as a mature society inclusive of all religions. Where does it stand today?

The arrival of militancy and the consequential terrorism in the Valley led to wanton destruction of schools, factories and infrastructure. The law and order machinery in the state was paralysed, youth subverted and encouraged to pick up arms, and Kashmiri pundits forced to flee. It was a breakdown of the age-old culture and tradition of peaceful co-existence.

The worst was the burning of Charar-e-Sharief, a bastion of Kashmiriyat, by militants from Pakistan. The people of the Valley remained mute spectators to this unsavoury assault.

Amidst intense anti-terrorist operations of the 1990s, the army launched operations to ‘Win Hearts and Minds of People’ that had gone astray. It was formalised as Op Sadbhavana in late 1997. Its five-pronged approach was to revitalise education, healthcare, community development, improvement of infrastructure and youth development. By 2010, over Rs 400 crore allotted by the Centre was spent on various schemes under this programme.

The government schools were restored and Army Goodwill Schools (AGSs) established. Intense counter terrorist operations coupled with Op Sadbhavana yielded positive results. The casualty rate in 2006 came down to 1,116 as against 5,204 in 2000. The number of tourists in the Valley jumped to seven lakh from less than one lakh. The economy of the state started growing by 5 to 7% from 2006 to 2010.

The state has a large number of Waqf Board schools and Madrassas run by Deobandi organisations. Against 30 AGSs, the madrassas are more than double. Some of these madrassas are accused of having links with terrorist organisations in Pakistan.

It is these madrassas coupled with mosques supported by the APHC that are responsible for subverting the minds of youth to make them pro-Pakistan and anti-Indian establishment. This continuous assault on Kashmiri­yat is instrumental in the change of ideology.

From 2010 onwards, the separatist leaders managed to regroup. The display of Pakistani/Islamic State flags, stone pelting mobs, attacks on police station, looting of banks, burning of schools and youth development centres witnessed an abrupt rise.

The few, who initiated violence, escaped without retribution, got elevated to exalted position and became influential. It encouraged bystanders to join as active participants. Violence reached its crescendo in 2016, in the aftermath of Hizbul Mujahideen group leader Burhan Wani’s killing.

Acts of violence

Troops operating in the Valley in the early 1990s also faced mob violence. Though the army operated with restraint, those responsible for acts of violence were given a clear message to stop or face the music. By 1996, when the first elections were held, mob violence had stemmed and the situation continued to improve till its resurgence in 2010.

The occurrence of a recent mob assault on the troops deployed in Handwara is a repetition of the past which can’t be permitted to happen again. If the need of the hour is to be tough, so be it. Hence the army chief’s warning is well in place. There is an ideological change taking place in the Valley — a clear departure from Sufism to violent Islam. It needs to be countered — their funding needs to be choked.

The presence of ISI moles in various parts of the country is a well known fact. There is a need to keep a tab on the hardliners’ funding. It is estimated that terror funds to the tune of thousand crores of rupees annually flow into the Valley. Demonetisation was one such attempt to block this funding but the recent discovery of fake currency has put a question on its efficacy. There has to be multiplicity of effort on this front.

Peace in the Valley would return if the lost culture of Kashmiriyat/Sufism is restored and gun culture curtailed. It is the people of the state who have to realise this and do it themselves. Moderate followers of Islam have to find their voice for the sake of their future generation.

The country has been talking to all the stake holders including the separatists/AHPC for long. It is time to generate space for the moderate voices if the nation has to find a solution to the Kashmir imbroglio.

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