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Mainstream, VOL LV No 21 New Delhi May 13, 2017

Ultra-Nationalists on Anti-National Spree

Sunday 14 May 2017

by M.M. Khajooria

A section of self-styled ‘Hindutva’ zealots have decided the fate of Kashmir. They have dumped all Kashmiri Muslims in the lap of Pakistan and similarly branded the youth of the Valley as stone-pelters. Having made this determination they have decreed that Kashmiri students studying in educational institutions in the country must be made to pay for the sin of “humiliation and injuries inflicted on our brave Jawans” by the stone-pelters. After all, they were chips of the same block, it is argued. Though prima facie absurd, the perception is gaining currency on account of exertions of a section of the media and elements on the extreme Right.

All this is sweet music to the Wahhabis and Pak ISI. It needs to be emphasised that the self- proclaimed ultra-nationalists indulging in harass-ment of Kashmiri students are actually serving the cause of Pakistan, washing out the national gains in Kashmir at tremendous financial inputs and huge sacrifices of our security forces, of course including the J&K Police. Because of their suicidal conduct Pakistan is able to argue in the international fora that “Look, even the Indians don’t want Kashmiris who are making huge sacrifices to get rid of Indian occupation. So what is the Government of India’s rationale for sticking to Kashmir by force and cause so much unnecessary bloodshed?” The argument obviously carries weight with the international community. I need not go into many other obvious advantages that are offered to Pakistan on a platter in the realm of psychological warfare. This madness has to be stopped right here.

 “Safety and security“ of Kashmiri students studying in universities and colleges in the rest of the country has therefore come to top the list of national concerns especially in reference to the ongoing disturbance in Kashmir. The recent instances of harassment of Kashmiri students in Rajasthan and appearance of obnoxious anti-Kashmiri student posters on the walls of a UP town provoked Home Minister Rajnath Singh to direct the concerned Chief Ministers to ensure their safety. The matter was also taken up by J&K CM Mehbooba Mufti with PM Modi who has endorsed the Home Ministry’s directive.

I am afraid this is not enough. Only a personal appeal by PM Modi to the students and teachers and warning to those who fail to fall in line may yield the required results. Obviously, the district administration and university authorities will have to devise and operationalise a mechanism for the purpose under which the responsibility and accountability of the officials charged with specific responsibilities of maintaining regular liaison with Kashmiri students and ensuring timely effective response are clearly delineated. Provision of instant communication facility with responsible police and university officers in case of urgency is the bare minimum require-ment. This done, the core issue of providing a relaxed and friendly environment in which the students can study and socialise as young boys and girls normally do still remains to be addressed.

Here the student organisations and teaching community have to contribute. All political parties, including the ruling BJP, can provide immense positive inputs by directing their cadres to lend a helping hand in this critical national project. Socially and emotionally integrated into the national mainstream, the returning Kashmiri students can and will prove a huge asset and have the potential of altering the entire discourse in Kashmir concerning national integration. I have seen this happen.

What about the “stone-pelters” tag on the Kashmiri Muslim youth? Is it not true that the ‘stone-pelters’ have created havoc in Kashmir and harassed and wounded hundreds of our brave soldiers? Why should they not be punished? Hold on. Are you aware that at the peak of the ongoing Wahhabi-mobilised and led street violence about five thousand policemen sustained injuries? Of these four thousand odd belonged to the J&K Police and over eightyfive per cent of them were Kashmiri Muslim policemen? Talking about the Muslim youth, over thirty thousand policemen in J&K Police are Kashmiri Muslim boys and girls.

Recently we have recruited ten thousand Special Police Officers to add to the then existing strength of over twentysix thousand. More recruitment in the police force is underway. At a rough reckoning, about seventy per cent of this will again be Muslim youth. Have you heard of the famous and highly decorated J&K Light Infantry? A sizeable segment of this regiment hails from Kashmir and amongst them a large percentage comes from Tral, the home town of Burhan Wani. Recently, the J&K LI held a recruitment rally in Baramullah. The ratio of aspirants was, I am advised, more than ten to one post. The preferred profession of the Kashmiri youth is J&K Police/any uniformed force.

Yes, there are Muslim youth on the streets throwing stones and jeering at security personnel. But they represent a noisy, violent minority, some ideologically motivated, some out for kicks. many materially inspired and a large chunk simply alienated. They certainly do not represent the bulk of the youth of Kashmir which resides in the grey area. Overall my assessment is that the situation in Kashmir is indeed very bad but not beyond redemption provided effective remedial measures are determinedly taken both at the political and strategic levels without wasting any more precious time.

Yes, the daunting task of reclaiming the materially inspired and alienated stares us in the face. An even bigger challenge lies in insulating the youth from the creeping cancerous alienation. These challenges merit structured, focussed and compre-hensive responses rising above petty party interests.

At the grassroot level the critical role should be assigned to the SHO of the Police Station, the Tehsildar and the concerned Education Officer. Their ability to succeed will obviously depend on their public relations quotient, apolitical character and determination to make a go for it. Competent authorities must ensure that only officers possessing the necessary skills, reputation for integrity and impartiality endowed with a positive and sympathetic mind-set are selected for these jobs. They must enjoy the full support of the security grid and rest of the administration. The district heads should cons-tantly monitor the progress on the ground and tender advise where absolutely necessary taking care that the working style of the group is not cramped in any manner. Problems and diffi-culties encountered by them should be quickly, positively and effectively responded to. This should cover the operational dimension.

What about the key ideological dimension that inspires, drives and sustains the entire movement? The battle must be joined at the ideological front without wasting any more time. A group of specialists in Perception Management, equipped with excellent communication skills and well versed in theology, local culture, history and heritage, must be put together at the earliest. Name it as a Mission or a Commission, as you wish. The outreach to neo-converts to Ahil-i-Hadith and otherwise alienated youth must become an ongoing process, planned and pursued with vigour, commitment and conviction. Persons qualified for this crucial assignment are available in Kashmir.

The outdated and humiliating system of seeking the ‘surrender’ of boys fallen under the spell of terrorists must end. This could, in fact, be some kind of Ghar Wapsi with the stigma washed out. It is gratifying to note that the Jammu and Kashmir Police are already reaching out to the parents and guardians with a view to motivate them to take necessary precaution to secure their wards from terrorist influence and exercise family and peer pressure for reclaiming the youth gone wrong. This push could be integrated in the suggested format.

The political leadership, the administration and ideologists should get cracking with conviction and determination to win back the confidence of the alienated sections of society, get the youth back on the rails and instead channelise their energies towards the pursuit of a bright future wherein avenues of job-oriented education, progress and upward mobility are guaranteed for all. In due course all young boys and girls of Jammu and Kashmir. should be included in the target zone and become recipient of the benefits. This may seem somewhat utopian but given strong political will, clarity of vision, unwavering determination and sustained focus, it can be and has to be done.

M.M. Khajooria retired as the Director General of J&K Police. As an administrator with wide and varied experience, he had the distinction of being the first IPS officer to be appointed as the Commissioner of a Division (Poonch-Rajouri) in 1979. After the 1971 Indo-Pak war, he was the State Relief and Rehabilitation Commissioner. Besides being associated with the Centre for Regional and Strategic Studies of Jammu University he is the Chairman, J&K Ex-Policemen’s League and heads the Centre for Good Governance and Public Accountability.