Illustration by Siddhant Gupta
Illustration by Siddhant Gupta
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The five suspected militants killed in Kashmir Sunday included Dr Mohammad Rafi Bhat, an assistant professor at the University of Kashmir, who taught sociology and was a junior research fellow.

ThePrint asks: With the killing of the Kashmiri professor—has govt outreach failed with more educated youth turning to militancy?

Death of militants bolsters BJP’s politics, but in Kashmir separatists

Sheikh MushtaqSheikh Mushtaq

Former Reuters journalist and commentator

The central government has failed bitterly. For more than five years, New Delhi has hardly shown or expressed the will to address the problem in Kashmir. A report by the three-member committee of interlocutors, appointed by the UPA government, has been gathering dust.Instead of trying to heal the Valley’s wounds, the BJP-led government talked about scrapping Article 370, and setting up well-guarded residential colonies for retired soldiers and migrant pandits, triggering insecurities.

The daily killing of militants and their leaders in Kashmir may appear to be a boost for the BJP across the country ahead of 2019, but in Kashmir, these killings are a big boost to the separatist movement.

Today, Indian forces are not just fighting armed militants but nearly the whole Kashmiri population. The number of people attending militant funerals is increasing day by day and ordinary people gather near the site of gun battles to express support, solidarity and often help militants escape.

Five militants were killed Sunday by security forces, who also killed five civilians protesting near the site of the encounter. New Delhi is facing a huge challenge in Kashmir not because of the militancy, but due to the total alienation of the Kashmiri people. Today, anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir.

Kashmir’s militant professor adopted violence much before his PhD

Sunil Sethi
BJP J&K spokesperson

The professor killed in the encounter Sunday was a militant. He might have had a PhD but reports indicate that he had radical tendencies much before he got the doctorate. This element will always be in society because the parents have no control over their children. Whether someone has a PhD or is an uneducated person, if he takes up a gun, he will be killed.

There are two fractions responsible for this bloodshed in the valley— Pakistan and the Hurriyat. On one hand, Pakistan wants to recruit the youth of Kashmir in terror outfits and on the other, the Hurriyat plays a part in inciting the youth of the Valley. An example of that is the recent development of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chairperson Ashraf Sehrai’s son joining the militants.

Most of the listed militants have been neutralised by the army. Not many are left now. In a few months from now, we will be in a position to completely wipe out the militants. Anybody who takes up guns should be prepared to meet their end. We are giving a clear and strong message. It does not matter whether the militant had joined the organisation one day back, the fact is that the person has been radicalised and leaves the mainstream to join the terror organisations.

The government has placed many mechanisms for the youth in Kashmir to join the mainstream. These initiatives including the assigning of an interlocutor stand in place only for those who want to live in peace. If someone wants to take the path of violence by picking up arms, there is no surety about his survival.

New Delhi’s idea of alienation in Kashmir lacks political depth

Junaid Mattu
Spokesperson, National Conference 

The biggest problem with New Delhi’s perception of alienation in Kashmir is that it has a shocking lack of political depth. The government has tried to ‘curb’ or ‘eradicate’ militancy in Kashmir through an approach that ended up multiplying the number of local militants.

To presume that militancy in Kashmir is a problem of deprivation, unemployment or lack of education or opportunity is dangerous. Sadly, the government hasn’t learnt lessons from 1989 and the decade of turmoil that followed — almost consuming the state’s mainstream and its institutions.

Local boys — educated or not, doctoral scholars or not — are becoming militants not solely because of a failure of outreach by the government but primarily because of our misplaced, deluded definition of what counts as ‘outreach’.

New Delhi’s concept of outreach is contemptuous and has no takers. That’s the blunt, sad reality. In the absence of a political process that engages with the symbolism and substance of the political sentiment, no amount of ‘sadhbhavna’ campaigns or farcical interlocutor initiatives will work.

The state needs to offer better alternatives. A good start would be to stop empowering the beneficiaries of conflict and engage with those who want to help in resolving the issue. The current course is headed towards a wall.

A militant professor belies the narrative that Kashmir problem is about unemployment

Shujaat Bukhari 
Editor-in-chief, Rising Kashmir 

The killing of Kashmir University assistant professor Dr Mohammad Rafi is yet another grim reminder of the volatile situation Kashmir has been going through.

In the past few years, educated Kashmir youths have been picking up the gun to challenge Indian rule. Of late, the number of local militants has gone up and the support they receive from the civilian population stands testimony to the changing dynamic of the political conflict.

Rafi joining the  militancy has belied the often-parroted narrative that the problem in Kashmir is unemployment. Though long queues can be seen outside recruitment centres, the larger reality behind this new phenomenon is the denial of political space for dissent. This has pushed these young boys to violence. The recurring examples of the Indian government’s outreach through jobs, sports activities and other measures have failed to stop them.

In the past, too, lakhs of jobs have been created, infrastructure and roads built, but that had little effect on the political reality. In fact, in the last four years, Kashmir has gone through a complete change in which the anti-India sentiment has changed to a ‘hate India’ sentiment that is drawing the educated young closer to militancy.

The civilian population resisting the government forces to make way for militants to escape is nothing but societal sanction of violence. It has become difficult for the authorities to break this bonhomie. The political nature of the dispute has surely overshadowed the sops of employment and development.

Find ways to strengthen govt’s outreach to Kashmiri youth, not question its validity

D.S. Hooda
Retired General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Indian Army’s Northern Command

Thirty-six hours after Mohammad Rafi Bhat, an assistant professor from Kashmir University, joined the ranks of the Hizbul Mujahideen, he was killed in an encounter with the security forces. Do we see this as a failure of the government’s outreach with more educated youth picking up the gun? It is obvious that the youth outreach has not yielded the desired results, but the manifestation of this lack of success lies not so much in Rafi Bhat taking to arms but in the event that unfolded after the encounter.

In my view, while individuals joining terrorist ranks is certainly a matter of concern, the real worry is the sense of alienation and defiance by a large section of the Kashmiri youth who turn up in hundreds during each encounter, with scant regard to the fact that they could be killed or injured.

The overall success of any internal conflict lies in gaining the support of the population. David Galula, in his classic work, Counterinsurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice, wrote, “The counterinsurgent reaches a position of strength when his power is embedded in a political organisation issuing from, and firmly supported by, the population.”

This is where we must focus and therefore continue with our efforts at reaching out to the people, particularly the youth. If the current attempts are insufficient, we must find ways to strengthen them and not question their validity. It is not an easy task in the face of increasing militancy.


In absence of dialogue, guns will talk and deaths continue to defeat democracy in Kashmir

Waheed Ur Rehman
President, Youth wing, PDP

There is a sense of defeat among the Kashmiri youth and a feeling of stagnation from the larger discourse about them in the national media. Our initiatives are based on engagements, but those dying aren’t asking for engagement opportunities, but an end to long-standing uncertainty and a revival of the political processes.

Deaths need to be acknowledged and the message must come from the top level of the country that we want to win the youth not defeat them. This anger is very political and I am not sure how much these distractions will work. We need to revive hope which is a very emotional cause and for that many in the country must work together.

Security responses are a temporary reaction. Nothing sustainable will come out of it. Deaths will continue to defeat and challenge the democracy unless we acknowledge and start a larger lasting dialogue to end violence. The absence of inter and intra state dialogue means more guns will be talking.

Doing sports amid violence is bravery, but that won’t stop Pakistan from infiltrating or ceasefire violations along the LOC, nor will it prevent militant outfits or the Hurriyat. Sports can engage youth, not Hurriyat or militants already in action. We need an engagement for this too– Burhan isn’t a reason for concern, but what led to Burhan must be debated and discussed– why and when was he recruited.

We cannot win our own people by a hard approach. The challenge in Kashmir is unique. It is not about conquering a land but winning a population living on this land. So, it is not a real estate problem, but a human issue and all efforts have to be human. We aren’t dealing with a foreign enemy.

The interlocutor outreach is a process not an event and calling it successful or unsuccessful will be too early. As of now, he is busy working on engagements and creating an atmosphere but there is a lot more work required at the center than in the state, as the resistance to talks is also coming from the country.

There are no protests for roads, water or governance today in Kashmir. We are spending the PM’s package on development, but what is expected is a political package. We are at least talking about it and finding a solution isn’t a failure but a challenge for us.

Educated Kashmiri youth choosing guns over bright careers a suicidal trend

Rahiba Parveen

Rahiba Parveen
Special Correspondent, ThePrint

An increasing number of Kashmir’s educated youth are joining the militants. These are bright young people, some of whom have cleared competitive examinations, and come from good economic backgrounds. This trend has broken the myth that the youth of Kashmir are against the state due to unemployment and underdevelopment.

This new trend clearly shows that the youth of Kashmir are choosing death over a comfortable life. They aren’t going to Pakistan for training. One day they decide to join militants, the next day they do so, and just days later they are killed. If this isn’t suicide, what is?

Guns have never brought solutions, but for the local youth this is perhaps the path to closure from the unending misery that is the Kashmir problem. While one boy joins the militants every day, large numbers of young people confront the security forces during every encounter. Perhaps they abandon comfortable lives and careers to make a statement, but no one seems to be ready to understand it.

There is not a single household in Kashmir that is not feeling the pain caused by the violence in the streets. A section of electronic media is flooding Indians outside the state with noise on Kashmir. There is no clarity. But a rational mind should ponder about the children, the next generation of Kashmiris who are suffering alone in their homes.

The government must understand that diktats are not being issued by Pakistan or the Hurriyat. The youth are at the forefront of this crisis. From south and north Kashmir, militancy is spilling over into the central part of the Valley. Killing militants is only a short-term remedy that will not solve the problem, and will only aggravate it.

Compiled by Deeksha Bhardwaj and Rahiba Parveen.
Illustration by Siddhant Gupta.

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