Recently, a 14-year-old Class 10th student from Shopian was killed in an encounter. He was the son of an auto dealer and a farmer, and the only brother to four sisters. Two days before the encounter, his parents made a video appeal to Pakistani terrorists to release their son. He had been recruited by a terror outfit. While the father appealed for his son’s release, the mother said that if she had a second son, she would have sent him herself for the greater good of Jihad. This is the kind of indoctrination that has spread like wildfire in Kashmir. Radical Islamists have successfully influenced Kashmiris to the extent that parents and close relatives of terrorists celebrate the martyrdom of their militant sons. The beautifully traditional and peaceful religion of Islam is being preached as one that is insular. Teenagers are being brainwashed to believe that they are engaged in a sacred war - a Jihad that will save Islam and give them a place in Jannat. Radical Islamic theory imported from Pakistan has been unleashed on the younger generation in Kashmir, and as days pass by, they are getting more and more consumed by this hateful ideology.
I firmly believe that the mishandling of J&K by previous governments at the Centre and vested interests at the regional political level has led to alienation among Kashmiris, particularly the youth, against the Indian system. Amidst the dereliction of previous governments to save Kashmiris from getting alienated and the sanctification of Pakistani sponsored terrorism, radical Islamists meticulously worked to transform the demography and society of Kashmir. After the hounding of Kashmiri Pandits, the Kashmiri society has been transformed into a radical islamist and intolerant society. It is common knowledge that Kashmir was a pluralist, inclusive and tolerant society not long ago. Kashmiris lived simple and peaceful lives following their religion without any extremist beliefs. However, with time, it has turned into a radical society with extreme ideological underpinnings. Killing and getting killed has regrettably been normalized in Kashmir.
Radical islamists have successfully indoctrinated the younger generation to the point where barbarism is celebrated rather than abhorred. The hostile attitude that radical extremists and elements sponsored by Pakistan have inculcated among the Kashmiri youth is downright hateful and repulsive. Radical Islamists and masters of terrorism have introduced poisonous ideologies and laid a death trap for young common Kashmiris just to rise in power and wealth.
Manufacturing conspiracy theories and consistently poisoning young minds is a methodology applied by Pakistan for sustaining terror, radicalization, and violence in Kashmir. It has been happening for years, and it continues to happen today. For years now, Pakistan has taken undue advantage of the platform of social media rather fearlessly in Kashmir for the spread of mythical and imaginative ideologies. Terrorists nurtured by Pakistan release propaganda videos on social media depicting barbaric, inhumane, and sadistic behavior towards humans. These videos trend on social media, and thousands of Kashmiris watch them on a daily basis. The continued efforts of Islamabad to radicalize the youth in Kashmir using social media is a challenge that the armed forces and police must rise to meet. For a long time now, Pakistan has been using social media to develop false narratives to radically modify the opinions of Kashmiris in a bid to disrupt stability and peace. Kashmiri youth is being influenced to join the militancy by the Pakistani army that continues exploiting social media platforms to its advantage. The state of matters is alarming, to say the least.
The so-called Intellectual Over Ground Workers (OGWs) for radical & fascist ideology are active on social media to promote poisonous extremism into the minds of Kashmiris. They have no goal, no mission, and no objective. They don’t bother for justice either. The beauty of India’s democracy is that these intellectual OGWs can write whatever they like, and that is just what they do. They are slowly but surely trying to convert Kashmir into an autocratic state from a democratic one, and if that happens, no mouth will be allowed to say anything. The situation in Pakistan is totally opposite, as is evident from the recent suspension of Hamid Mir from the Pakistani political talk show Geo News. Where freedom of expression is celebrated in India, the expression of one’s opinions and perspectives is barely tolerated in Pakistan. India has countless social media handlers who talk about the government, the current legal system, and everything in between on a regular basis. We share our perspectives by writing, speaking, and tweeting without any inhibitions, whereas the same isn’t the case in Pakistan. When it comes to combating serious political issues, freedom of expression is key. The suspension of a senior journalist as influential as Hamid Mir is a testament to just how intolerant Pakistan is against any criticism or verbal attack aimed at its military and system at large.
Evidence suggests that with the severe religionization of Kashmiri youth, it can be easily instigated and indoctrinated to search for eternal life in death. Such a state of mind is abnormal among the blossoming youth of any nation. It is a sign that society has derailed and that children seek meaning in life through extremist and radical notions of liberty. We fail to see who is destroying our younger generation. As a nation, we believe that those who indoctrinate and radicalize our young boys and girls are the saviors of Islam. Indoctrination is influencing the educated and qualified youth of J&K to take up arms. The country continues losing its valuable human resource and bright future to terror and extremism. Nevertheless, we remain a strongly aspirational society. A sizable section of our youth is still futuristic and has high aspirations for their lives and careers. They want to compete globally in education, science, arts, performing arts, music, and all other areas of human knowledge. Hence, there is still hope in the valley. The need of the hour is to make Kashmiri youth unlearn and learn these deeply embedded teachings and beliefs.
It is common knowledge that before Kashmir was radicalized due to the incompetent efforts of the previous governments who ruled at the center and regional level and the spread of vitriolic, false narratives by Pakistan, this region was all about spiritual emancipation and inclusivity. There are many examples of various communities that have suffered immensely following various injustices. They could have easily produced a huge militia. They instead focused on education and became a part of the mainstream, benefitting in diverse ways. The belief of Kashmiris has always been coexistence, tolerance, and social bonding. Being a proud Kashmiri myself, I can attest to the fact that Kashmiris, including myself, delight in the simple pleasures of life. The people of J&K, the government, and the Kashmiri civil society must take immediate steps to encourage our youth to channelize their energies in constructive and positive thinking. They should engage in activities that relieve them of their mental and economic anxieties.
Responding to any kind of negativity and challenge by taking up arms that have been readily made available by our immediate neighbors is not the solution.
The resurgence of radicalization in Kashmir is due to jihadist elements who continue influencing young minds by glorifying the concept of a ‘dignified death.’ Scores of families in the state take pride in the death of their sons for Azadi. Moreover, a sense of anguish and disgust has slowly crept into the minds of Kashmiri youth who have become directionless with time. This needs to end. In order to put an end to a generation of Kashmiri youth growing up with separatists and militants as their role models, this problem must be nipped in the bud. It is time to stop treating the symptoms and start addressing the root cause of the disease to regain our emotional and psychological grip on the valley. I have high aspirations, hopes, and dreams as a young Indian and a Kashmiri, and I believe our vision of a peaceful and prosperous Kashmir will continue seeing the light of day.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Greater Kashmir.