David Devadas in a conversation with Aarti Tikoo Singh : Times Of India 13072018
There’s more intense rage among Kashmiri youth now than in 1990 ... minds being shaped by net-based videos and narratives’
On the heels of unravelling of Jammu & Kashmir’s coalition government David Devadas , who researches Kashmiri society and whose latest book is ‘The Generation of Rage in Kashmir’, unpacks the mindset of a new generation of militants in a conversation with Aarti Tikoo Singh :
Is the situation in Kashmir as bad as it was in 1989 when the state was put under governor’s rule for over six years?
It is worse than 1989. This militancy has been building for years. But, even though it’s been accompanied by mass unrest off and on, this militancy has been ignored for far too long – mainly because of the conflict economy. It suits many, on various sides, to treat Kashmir as a perennially ‘disturbed’ place. It is not. Sentiments had settled down a decade ago.
The government measures insurgency and alienation by statistics of kills and catches, but what’s far more important is how much support militancy has from the population at large. People were by and large against it around 2004, and the next couple of years. There were very few fresh Kashmiri recruits after the late 1990s. People were very hopeful about Vajpayee’s peace moves.
A new Kashmiri insurgency has built up since 2010. The first few local boys went underground in 2009, after a gap of a decade. It’s a tragedy that people in government and the forces were patting themselves on the back over peace and normalcy even five years ago, when a full-blown new insurgency was already there. But it only got taken seriously after the mass eruption that followed Burhan Wani’s killing in 2016.
Why did violence and militancy escalate since 2014?
There are external factors too but specifically the past four years are mainly reactions to perceptions. One, the floods of 2014 were in precisely south Kashmir region where militancy and stone pelting are fierce. The perception that the state didn’t do enough for rescue and relief played a part. Jamiat-e-Talaba (youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami) played a major role. Second is the perception that Muslims are being targeted in a hate campaign across the country. Beef vigilantism made a strong impact on Kashmiri hearts and minds in 2015.
In that light, PDP’s alliance with BJP generated rage.
Third, there have been concerted campaigns to promote religious radicalism on the one hand and ‘azadi’ on the other, using terms calculated to draw international parallels. This began in 2008 but has focussed on promoting militancy since 2015. Social media has played a huge role to spread these messages, more so as connectivity has become cheaper.
Is the anger among Kashmiri youth today different from the 90s?
There’s much more intense rage now. There hasn’t been such a motivated, zealous local surge since 1992. This time too, large numbers of terrorists have infiltrated from Pakistan, and no doubt many of the Kashmiri boys too are getting support of various kinds from there. All these trends tend to accentuate consciousness of a separate Muslim identity. A very important cause of rage in this round is that the apparatus of counterinsurgency was not wound down when the first round of militancy petered out a decade ago. The new, aspirational and fearless generation experienced it as invasive, humiliating and plain uncalled-for. To children who barely remembered the 90s, it reinforced the narratives about forcible military occupation.
What should the state have done differently over the last decade in Kashmir?
The state either thinks of counterinsurgency force, or development and job creation.
The government should have realised a decade ago that a new, fearless generation had arrived, connected 24x7 through the net, and shaped by the ‘war on terror’ and global narratives of Muslim oppression. They were not going to cower. Dignity was their touchstone. The government should also have got wise to the ways in which minds were being shaped by net-based videos and narratives, and tele-evangelism, much of it from abroad. Improving education should have been a priority. Social and educational spaces should have been nurtured to engage with youth.
What can the government do under governor’s rule now?
Get set for the external threats for which this has opened the way. Internally, long-term, dedicated efforts are required. But bureaucrats, forces’ officers, and politicians generally only bother about getting through their two or three years in office, disbursing cash and jobs while projecting normalcy. But they build systems, and rewards, that reinforce conflict.
Even such basics as corruption and good governance count. Most young people have little idea what a caliphate or shariat law would actually bring. But it sounds like something ideal and blessed, something that would bring justice, care for the poor and defenceless, and responsive governance. On the other hand, the hope Vajpayee generated by striving sincerely for a long-term settlement made a huge impact which, of course, the statistics of kills couldn’t capture.
Courtesy : Times Group: 13072018