One reason the Kashmiri youth are joining militant organisations is decades of the unstable environment surrounding them coupled with a narrative that glorifies violence. According to Hegel’s central theme of the ‘Philosophy of Right’, a person starts to understand the world around them through the individual, civil society and state. Looking at these three categories, we see how there is a recurring ideology that does not enable individuals, therefore society as a whole, to comprehend the situation in Kashmir beyond the violence. It is this lack of awareness to the perils of violence, coupled with a sense of victimhood, makes for individuals getting swayed to support and even join the militancy. This shift in ideology can be formed by improving the foundation of the society whilst simultaneously having the State gain the trust of the Kashmiri people.
To look at the situation of Kashmir, all three categories of Hegel’s theory must work together to enlighten the minds of Kashmiri society. No one specific approach can act as a solution to Kashmir. Rather an approach targeting each aspect of the problem can become a means to defeating the ideology supporting militancy.
Every militant death is now leading to more individuals joining militancy in the State. To understand the problem in Kashmir, it must be looked at from the perspective of the Kashmiri youth. It is the younger generations that determine and influence the future of a society and same holds true for Kashmir. Although the world today sees the Kashmiri militants as terrorists and radical extremists, what matters more is the narrative influencing the youth of Kashmir which then drives them to take the violent path. This has caused the situation in Kashmir to transform into a vicious cycle.
To stop militancy from growing, the young population of Kashmir needs to be actively engaged and given a sense of purpose, that weans them away from violence. This means diverting youth from striving for an independent Kashmir to having a more stable and safe future within India where their dreams of empowerment and having a life with dignity can be fulfilled.
Encountering militants is an everyday experience in Kashmir. The trouble is that people do not see militants as an anomaly in Kashmiri society. The shared experiences and social acceptability accorded to the militants, be it through religion or even through a common political grievance, allows these individuals to develop trust in each and other and stand unified to fight for a cause: attaining separation from India.
In the past few months, security forces have launched a clampdown against home-grown militants, killing more than 200 militants in the year 2017. Since 2010, 467 local youth from 354 villages across J&K have become militants. According to a report by The Indian Express, 43 encounters that occurred between 5 November 2016 and April this year were analysed by the J&K police. This study not only revealed that 77 militants were killed but also that during this period, 104 youths were recruited in the militant ranks. This recruitment has been directly linked to the killings of militants active in the locality of new recruits.
Clearly, there is a drastic shift in changing attitudes towards violence in Kashmir. As per the survey conducted by the Chatham House, UK, in the year 2010, only 20% of the people in J&K believed militant violence would help solve the dispute, while in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), 37% thought that militant violence would be more likely to solve the dispute. Respectively, 39% and 31% believed that militant action would worsen the situation while the remaining percentages believed that militant violence would not make a difference in finding a solution. Despite such varied opinions, it is the belief now that militants are the solution that they are being perceived as martyrs. This instils the desire within more and more young people to join the militancy.
Children are young. Their opinions can be changed and their thoughts can be formed. They, however, need a new means of countering propaganda so that they can develop their own social awareness and their own opinions. According to a news report published in The Indian Express, only 25% of youths had access to social media in 2010 and 2011, while this rose to 30% in 2014 and 70% in 2015. In this new era, militants are using propaganda through social media accounts like ‘Hamzah Hizbi’, making the youth susceptible to believing in a violent narrative.
Take for instance the case of Sameer Tiger. He was infamous for preying on the minds of the population, implanting ideas in them to join militancy. Many of the gullible new recruits who fell for his persuasion were not adults, but minors. The ideal desire of a normal 13-year-old child is to watch cartoons, compete in sport and be unconcerned in existential matters of life. In Kashmir, however, 8th grade students are taking up arms. Sameer Tiger’s transition from being a youth to a militant is an emblematic phenomenon. He dropped out of school, became an active stone pelter and later the poster boy and a commander of the HM.
In order to counter radicalism, the ideological war will have to be joined. Social awareness for non-violence must be provided to give an agency of choice. Education must be accepted by the civil society and social sensitivity must be applied within the State to deal with the problems in Kashmir.
Children can be shaped in the way their family and society wants. When the surrounding environment fails the child, it exposes the failure of society. Although 67.16% of the population in Kashmir is literate, the education system needs to be reformed to deal with the environment these children are living in. A key component of this education is to make children aware of the downsides of militancy and violence.
This basic education, merged with programmes such as the UDAN scheme, can provide regional connectivity leading to new opportunities and brighter futures for the people of Kashmir. The UDAN Scheme has already trained and enhanced the skills of 10,555 as on 10 July, 2015. Seventy-four corporates have successfully partnered with UDAN and this reveals that it has been successful on providing jobs and new opportunities for the youth of Kashmir.
In the end, the individual and the society can change perspectives and can shift ideologies, but it is the State itself that must develop sensitivity and understand the perspective of the Kashmiri people. The State must build trust and reduce chaos in order for the citizens to have faith in it. Kashmir is a State of heightened tension and only until the three parts of Hegel’s theory are focused, it is unlikely to progress in the long-run.
The writer was a Research Intern at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi
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