Radicalization in J&K


Union home ministry’s purported move to initiate preparation of a "plan of action" to prevent attraction of youth in Jammu and Kashmir towards ISIS and religious radicalization through both overt and covert measures inspires concern. First of all, there is little evidence to link Kashmir to any ISIS agenda. Second, if the attempt is to target religious radicalization and pre-empting any designs of xenophobic tendencies or preventing violence, it would be a job half done by simply looking at things from an Islamophobic point of view and disregarding all other forms of religious radicalization. Thirdly, if at all there is need for an action plan to check the rise of religious fundamentalism of any kind, this cannot be done through simple laws or military strategies. These can end up being counter productive and perpetuate more trouble than resolve matters. If there is a serious threat of religious radicalization, ISIS, Hindu right wing or any other kind, it requires actions that penetrate social, political and economic landscapes with the involvement of the public and by taking all stakeholders on board.

The move should be preceded by consultations with a cross section of politicians, academics, researchers, journalists, activists and leaders of communities. It is not quite known what the home ministry has in mind or how it is likely to go about the whole issue but knee jerk responses should be avoided at all costs. The roots of radicalization lie not only in pro-active indoctrination campaigns by the religious radicals across the globe but also in the socio-political and economic conditions of a particular area. Recent years of wrong policies and strategies in Kashmir, causing acute alienation and anger, provide a rich and fertile ground for germination of seeds of radicalization. The key, therefore, lies in reversing such unsuitable policies that cause deep rooted alienation and instead address the youth by engaging with the political, economic and social discontent in an amicable and peaceful way. This in no way should mean abandoning intelligence and military strategies altogether but ensuring that these are employed to the minimal possible extent. Flawed intelligence and military strategies with the tacit co-option of a section of youth through coercion and by bait have dehumanized society and pushed youth to greater religious radicalization in the past. Any attempt to accelerate such processes, as earlier suggested by union defence minister, must be shunned lock, stock and barrel. 

The report of Indian government toying with such a plan coincides with moves by countries across the globe engaged in similar efforts and a keen study and analysis of some of the strategies being employed elsewhere may help to add to informed opinion. India should, of course, resist the temptation of going the British way of asking schools and public institutions to monitor the conduct of the children and note behavioural changes, which is vague and subject to wild assumptions. British government’s guidelines, for instance, ridiculously call upon teachers for noticing by listening out for children making homophobic remarks.

The British government officials have wrongly averred that anti-gay comments could be a sign a pupil is being radicalised. Though this particular issue may not be relevant in Jammu and Kashmir, similar such generalizations are dangerous and it is hoped that surveillance by such similar methods is not on the mind of the Indian government. Similarly, the Tunisian methods of brutal action on stone pelting youth, not very different from what has unsuccessfully been tried in Kashmir Valley, are being perceived by critics as catalysts of radicalization. However, inspired by the ISIS threat, Singapore’s remedy of starting helplines for youth seeking help to prevent self-radicalisation can be tried on an experimental basis. The bottom-line is that methodologies of repression will exacerbate any process of radicalization; only attempts of socio-political and economic reconciliation holistically and not in piece-meals can yield better results. It may be a long drawn process but one that will have far reaching and longer lasting consequences for good.