Kashmir unrest: India must end Pakistani agenda of replacing Sufism with Wahabism - Firstpost
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Kashmir unrest: India must end Pakistani agenda of replacing Sufism with Wahabism

George Fernandes as defence minister, once arriving at Srinagar, was informed that a large crowd had gathered at Baramula and was chanting “Azadi, Azadi”. In his characteristic style, he decided to drive down with minimum security to meet the crowd. On sighting him, the crowd got restive and the shouts got louder. He listened to them for sometime before raising his hand to indicate he wanted to speak. He then told them, “Hamen bhi azadi chahiye” (we also want freedom). There was a stunned silence following his statement. Fernandes then amplified “Hamen bhi azadi chahiye corruption aur berozgari se” (we also want freedom from corruption and unemployment).

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

Unrest in Kashmir Valley. Reuters

Now the question is which government in Jammu and Kashmir has: Addressed unemployment; made efforts to industrialise the state; defined a roll-on-plan to create jobs; explained to youths that stable environment is essential for industrialisation in order to create jobs, and articulated conditions and unemployment in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and the rest of India. Sure, youths in the Valley want employment, but then Maoists too pasted posters (20 July, 2016) demanding employment for local masses, simultaneously triggering bombs at an under-construction Constable Training Centre under Jadugora police station in Jharkhand, though no one was injured.

What is the public participation in administration in Jammu and Kashmir? Some three years back, Delhi Policy Group held a two-day workshop for all MPs and MLAs/MLCs of Jammu and Kashmir in Delhi. Their grouse was panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir had no powers and no finances. When asked what were they doing about being politicians in power, their response was that the state government doesn’t permit it. Little wonder sarpanches and panches were being killed periodically, being dispensable commodity. What is the status of panchayats in Jammu and Kashmir today is anybody’s guess but the fact remains that if grass root public participation in administration is denied, it not only breeds more corruption but also increases discontent. Ladakh and Jammu regions are open about the state government’s step motherly treatment, but does the state government have no compunctions about not sharing the winter misery with the public in the Valley? Why is this royal practice of moving the Durbar to Jammu in winters not dispensed with, when the business of moving the British Durbar from Delhi to Shimla in summers was buried decades ago? If the Jammu and Kashmir government stays put at Srinagar during winter, Valley public surely would be better off by way of electricity, water, commodities, open banks, road clearance etc. Can the present government make a break from this tradition with all the comforts at their disposal anyway?

Kashmiri Pandits were forced out from the Valley, years back but is the Valley turning to Islamic radicalisation? Strangely, a country like Bangladesh is openly talking of the scourge of Islamic radicalisation but we are shy of using the term. Zakir Naik would not have been probed, had Bangladesh not asked us to do so. Sure Pakistan is fully into Islamic radicalisation with China-aided nukes tucked in its pocket. But this is despite facts brought out by the University of Maryland Global Terrorism Database that of the 1,67,221 terrorist related fatalities in period 2001-2015, 75 percent of these have been in 25 Muslim-majority countries (Muslims killed by Muslims) albeit fatalities have also included non-Muslims. The US and Western Europe with combined 3,689 fatalities (including 2,977 during 9/11) account for just 2.2 percent of total terrorist related fatalities during same period. Pakistan began going down the terror vortex since Wahabi-Salafi concepts were embraced by Gen Zia-ul-Haq. Pakistan has been making every effort to replace Kashmir’s Sufi culture with Wahabism and appears succeeding to some extent. If MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig says that the Kashmir conflict is on verge of merging with Islamic State’s global war, it didn’t happen overnight and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Maps on internet show IS official branches in Afghanistan (Nangarhar), Pakistan (Karachi and Peshawar) and in Bangladesh – latter confirmed recently by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The Velayet Khorasan in Afghanistan was cobbled together in Peshawar by Pakistan’s ISI and has elements of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad; LeT and JeM operating in Pakistan confirmed in report of UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) released in July 2016. Voice of America says Afghanistan has officially told Pakistan that Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing IS operations in Afghanistan. This is separate from Hafiz Saeed of Velayet Khorasn killed recently.

In the US-led GWOT or other counter-terrorist campaign, de-radicalistion has always been given short-shrift or ignored. US, European aid to a country like Pakistan was never linked to de-radicalisation. We too have never given due thought to how and with what means Sufi culture of the Valley is being replaced by Wahabism; information warfare, optimizing Hurriyat hardliners and through religious preachers. We can’t brush the issue under the carpet by simply under cover of “misguided youth”, “terrorists use children and women as shields” and the like. What about the parents of the children – are they under terrorist threat or are they getting radicalised as well, and if so why and how. Don’t they need to be addressed? Has the state ever talked to religious maulvis and religious preachers since they are crucial to radicalisation and de-radicalisation? Should they not be talked to periodically, to review the situation and make course corrections, as required? Why is it always the calls to the Prime Minister or the Home Minister to talk to the public of the Valley? What is the state administration doing? In the instant case the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister made the first public statement and appearance 15 days after the trouble commenced – only when the Home Minister visited Srinagar.

Operations are essential against the hardcore but military solution is not the key, population being the centre of gravity. True blending development with education, protecting population from violence, counter narrative to external information war and taking proxy war into sponsor’s territory are essential. However, continuous de-radicalisation is must, to integrate education system in national mainstream, separate focus for select communities/regions, teachers/religious teachers, youth, girl child/mothers, apprehended terrorists plus cross-section of population liable to support terrorism, alternatives to expend youth energies including employment opportunities. The psychological operations would include exposing terrorist abuses, inform and empower communities to challenge radical ideology, and monitor de-radicalisation versus ongoing radicalisation. Significantly, civil society usually contributes more to the cause of preventing and countering terrorism than encouraging terrorism. Last but not the least is the massive funding of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, both externally and from within India. The state cannot absolve itself from these happenings and this needs to be quashed ruthlessly.

An all-party delegation, headed by the Home Minister, is reportedly going to Jammu and Kashmir on 4 September. But unless the above issues are addressed holistically, not much may be achieved. At the Heart Security Dialogue held last October in Afghanistan, Salman Khurshid (former external affairs minister) giving keynote address spoke of inter regional civilisation influences and explained that Hinduism is a way of life that embraces all and that “India has Muslim Hindus, Christian Hindus, Buddhist Hindus, Jain Hindus etc - which is common phenomenon”. Ali Akbar Shah (Delhi University) said, “Islamic countries should learn from India where mysticism of all religions including of Islam have been amalgamated and absorbed. As for Islam, India has absorbed both the Islam brought by invaders as well as by sages like Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti”, adding “there is need to revive the true spirit of Islam and while everyone knows what has gone wrong, we need to act to set it right”. Can we have such discourse within India or are we going to let politics hold us to ransom?

The author is veteran Lt Gen of Indian Army.

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