Ghulam Nabi Azad must revisit critique of army in J&K: Fundamentalism took giant strides when he was CM

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad is playing cynical politics by saying that the army kills more civilians than militants in Jammu and Kashmir, and that this did not happen when he ruled the state. He appears to be trying to project his stint as chief minister (2006-08) as a time when forces were disciplined compared to the present time. In fact, the opposite is true.

A Superintendent of Police is still in jail, having been indicted for killing civilians who had nothing to do with militancy during Azad's term as chief minister. Several innocent and impoverished people, including some migrant labourers, were apparently killed for rewards around that time. That continued till the infamous Machil killings in 2010, when National Conference leader Omar Abdullah was the chief minister.

It is partly in response to that sort of murder of innocent people that anger has ballooned over the years, to the extent that people now routinely emerge from their homes to pelt stones at forces. It is in these confrontations that occur between such mobs and the security forces when civilians get killed. Unlike the cynical murders that have come to light about the second half of the previous decades, many of those killed in these confrontations choose to combat the security forces.

It is essential to understand the context of this mass rebellions:

New insurgency

 Ghulam Nabi Azad must revisit critique of army in J&K: Fundamentalism took giant strides when he was CM

File image of Ghulam Nabi Azad. Reuters

Azad ought to introspect on the fact that the current insurgency, violence, and anti-India sentiment came up when he was the chief minister. The insurgency that began in 1988 had as good as ended in the year or so after he took over. The process of that insurgency winding down had begun in the previous couple of years.

The very large majority of Kashmiris used to refuse to give shelter, food, or other support to militants at that time which was a major reason why militancy had shrunk. In the minds and hearts of Kashmiris, by and large, there was a widespread hope for peace, a life of dignity, and opportunities for prosperity when Azad became the chief minister.

In fact, when Azad took over the reins of the state government, many young people, who had grown up watching the futility of militancy during the 1990s, were happy to call themselves Indian. Some of them would back the Indian team while watching cricket matches at home, even the matches against Pakistan.

That extraordinarily positive attitude had been generated when Atal Bihar Vajpayee was the prime minister (1998-2004). The momentum that Vajpayee generated lasted for two or three years after he left office.

People in Kashmir were confident that Vajpayee would bring peace, and that he sincerely meant well for them. Vajpayee, even today, is the single most popular Indian in Kashmir, with the possible exception of Mahatma Gandhi.

Mufti Mohammad Sayeed had added to that sense of hope with what he called a 'healing touch' while he was the chief minister from 2002 to 2005. That easing of the situation gave way while Azad was chief minister. His focus on the Jammu region, and on development through concrete constructions, did not strike a chord among ethnic Kashmiris.

The current period of unrest, rebellion, and violence came to the fore in 2008, when Azad was the chief minister. Owing to the cynical unresponsiveness of successive state governments, combined with foreign abetment, it has gradually grown to a level when common people routinely emerge from homes to pelt stones at forces involved in operations against militants.

Various factors

It is true that the widespread public anger that results in such mob action by stone-pelters has been stoked by the image of the ruling party at the Centre as implacably anti-Muslim, and one which is determined to crush Kashmiris.

Various acts of commission and omission by those in power, particularly in response to beef-vigilantism and other incidents of lynching, have generated that image, and the resultant anger.

This easily plugs in to the messages of radical Islamism which young Kashmiris receive through social media, sermons in some mosques, and the general discourse around them. No doubt, foreign forces have contributed to generating and spreading these messages, precipitate hate, and portraying the forces as determined to kill.

While all this is true, Azad should further introspect on the fact that it was in his time as chief minister that such fundamentalist groups as the Salafist Ahle-Hadith and the Tablighi Jamaat took giant strides to evangelise Muslims to adopt far more puritanical and fundamentalist ways than had been common before. These groups seemed to have the support of the state government.

They have continued to grow, resulting in a fertile ground among sections of youth for even the Islamic State sort of ideology and methods.

Updated Date: Jun 22, 2018 19:58:12 IST