An indescribable pain swept across when news of the death of 14-year-old Faisal Gulzar appeared on social media. He was counted as among three militants killed in an encounter in South Kashmir's Shopian district on Sunday after he had rejected all appeals by the family and security forces to walk out of the gun battle situation. That means that attempts were made to save his life, but he did not oblige his family and the security forces.
This was a painful episode because had the family, society and others acted in time, that is years before all it culminated into the gun battle in which Faisal was a participant, he would have been alive. He did not listen to the appeals because it was too late for him in the day. A closer study would show that this was an outcome of so many fault lines that were ignored by one and all.
It is an unforgiving situation for parents, teachers and society at large if the boys in their early teens are spotted with guns and they show utter contempt to the idea of surrender or returning to their parents. They had evidently abandoned their parents to join the militancy. In other words, they preferred their romance or idea with gun over the family life and societal values. This is a larger problem than boys in their preteens leaving their homes, exhibiting their romance with guns and more respect to the idea of gun in their hands than to the appeals of their parents . It is that we are shy of addressing the real problem, or worse concealing it.
Social scientists and the officials blame it to the phenomenon of radicalization , which has no single definition. It can mean anything, the distortion of facts , creating a sense of belief which is diametrically opposite to the realities. This is pushing forward a narrative that violence can achieve the goals. More conveniently, for that is true to a large extent, the airwaves from across the border and the propaganda on social media are held responsible for triggering such tragic episodes. And, of course, there are mini nurseries of radicalization and recruitment spread all across the region.
While all this is true, but when it comes to explaining the core and content of the issue, all of us offer narrow minded definitions. There is more of a blame game than a sincere effort to understand and tackle the real problem. Sweeping the problem under the carpet has never been a solution. Instead, what should be thought and understood in all sincerity is that how much our turn-the blind-eye attitude is consuming our generations.
Kashmiri society should have acted fast after the February 14, 2019 terror attack executed by a highly indoctrinated Adil Dar at the behest of the forces operating from across, in which 40 CRPF men were killed. The gruesome images had frighteningly close resemblances to those emerging from Syria, Iraq and Yemen .
Instead, a flash back of the 2016 – street protests and use of pellet guns was played out to justify the extreme step. This added to the behavioural change among the teenagers. The boys in their preteens assumed the role of the street commanders of their areas where they directed who could ply vehicle and who is to be stoned . There was an evolution of a false sense of victory by using stones at the security forces. The complexities and consequences of the situation were not understood – it was the repeat of the same phenomenon as was witnessed during the Amarnath land row in 2008, and then in 2010, when the chaos was confounded by deliberate infusion of confusion over the issues involved. The change in the behaviour guided by a mindset to punish had its own consequences. Those are unravelling now.
Coming back to the Pulwama suicide bombing which triggered war-like situation between India and Pakistan, let it be admitted that necessary lessons should be learned by all. Kashmir cannot be pushed to Syria way nor should it become a place of suicide bombers as we know that what fate has befallen the Palestinians. But at the same time, it has to be ensured that there is no repeat of the grim stories that Kashmiris brought home from elsewhere in the country, which fuelled the anger and veered the youth to the weird thoughts of resolving the issues through violence.
The larger and dangerous fault lines developing within the system were ignored – the system ignored what was happening. This added to the disillusionment . It is a shocking reality that is not acknowledged.
Soon Faisal episode will fade out of memory, but Kashmir and the system that governs it will have to come out with human-centric strategies in letter and spirit . That is the basic necessity to take Kashmir forward and save its future generations.
The refusal to accept the realities and taking the debate to the discourse whether the 14-year0olds should be categorized as militants or not obscures the fact that how much ground of failure families and society have covered in negating their own role in putting their own house in order.
The 14-year-olds , younger and older than them should be in pursuit of studies and careers and not as participants in the deadly encounters. It may be considered to be too utopian for very solid reason because Kashmir is yet to come out of the map of the conflict areas .
We can arrange facts to our suitability, but there should be a ring of reality .