We are living in the age of youth. There are more youth today, in terms of number and proportion in the overall population than ever before in the human history. Approx 1.5 billion people fall in age group of 14 to 24 years out of which 1.3 billion are in the developing nations. According to 2011 Census, the population of Jammu and Kashmir is 1.25 Cr and more than 70 percent of population is below 35 years. With this as a backdrop, youth related matters have assumed a central importance in J & K.  The youth holds an essential key to understanding Kashmir’s overall dynamics. Currently 48% of Kashmir Valley’s population falls within the age group of 15 to 30 years.

            A pertinent issue being tackled by SFs is the radicalisation, which has seen an exponential increase. This idea has received backing by J & K’s Police Chief Dilbagh Singh. He said it would be a “good sign” if de-radicalisation camps come up in J & K and claimed Pakistan had been spreading radicalisation by all ways and means in Kashmir. He added the Kashmiri youth did not seem to be talking much sense during conversation with officials and often used radical language. To justify this, once during an Area Domination Patrol when a father-son duo was stopped and was asked normally about the happenings in the village, the six year old replied “ Wo hamari azadi ke liye ladta hai”. This is the brunt which valley has been bearing due to radicalisation. Radicalisation in J & K has increased in the past decade. Radical Islamist outfits are spreading their ideology through vitriolic speeches, network of mosques, taking control of Madrassas and expanding their roots to already uprooted educational system in the valley. Extent of radicalisation can’t be quantified and not everyone is radicalised. People like L/Nk Nazir Ahmed Wani, AC, SM**, Lt Ummer Fayaz, Rfn Aurangzeb, SC, Mr Shah Faesal (First in Civil Services Exam), Pervez Raool and recently added to the never ending list is Air Commodore Bilal Ahmed Rather who have shown the dignity and courage of the people of Kashmir.

            Even mosques have become congregation points for discussion on the threat to Islam and Kashmiriyat. In many cases, it is these mosques which during gunfights appeal to locals to indulge in stone pelting on SFs so that militants get a safe cover and are able to escape. Madrassas have also emerged as the centers from where students are being radicalized and influenced. It is from here that children learn the concept of believer and non-believer (kaafirs) of Islam.

            Even as all out ‘Safai Abhiyaan’ by the SFs have targeted militants and forced them to sit and operate inside their hides, no comprehensive programme for addressing radicalization has been formulated. Kashmir may be territorially secure now, but we cannot loose our grip on the valley on the emotional and psychological aspect. We need to foster strong bonds with Kashmiri people and propagate the spirit of Kashmiriyat again. At the same time, education institutions like school, colleges and universities are a vital arena where space can be made available for youth to discuss and explore their concerns, questions and interests, without any interference from the state, political, religious or security agencies, or threats of surveillance. More space is also needed for women only and gender biased dialogue with Madrassas also playing an important role in guiding the youth and the piddles. The teachings of the Quran have been often misinterpreted and misguided. The Clerics must be reached out to clear the misconception of youth regarding ‘Jihad’.

The same has been done previously with respect to clearing the misconceptions among the Muslim community regarding Polio drops and the effort was successful. Also upgrading the school curriculum assumes significance too. De-radicalistaion can be best achieved through effective teaching and incorporation of civic studies in the syllabus for children. Creation of jobs and stepping up recruitment drives for place in SFs can provide a productive avenue to the youth in channelizing their efforts.

The abrogation of Article 370 is expected to generate more jobs for the local youth. An administrative outreach to the citizens and masses to not to give in to the radical demands and rhetoric of the extremists can go a long way in fostering peace in the region. If a region continues to be under the grip of structural violence for long, a certain proportion of people tends to become dependent, either directly or indirectly, on this ecosystem of violence. Thus, we would need to fight against the jihadi ecosystem in J&K, check for better education capital and provide healing touch to the people of Kashmir.

Capt Rishabh Bali

Leave a Reply