The old Vajpayee line of “insaniyat, jamooriyat and Kashmiriyat” is past its sell-by date as the world around Kashmir, and us, has dramatically changed.
What we are essentially witnessing is the ISIS-isation of the Kashmir Valley, with self-radicalised youths, additionally instigated by the Pakistani Deep State, using “azaadi” as a slogan for Islamist mobilisation and jihadi violence.
Muzaffar Hussain Baig, the
articulate member of Parliament from Mehbooba Mufti’s PDP and former Deputy
Chief Minister of J&K, last night (24 August) gave us good reasons to
believe that old Vajpayee line of “insaniyat, jamooriyat and Kashmiriyat” will
not work. Narendra Modi has been a recent convert to this line of thinking to
bring peace to the valley, but the reality is that the idea is past its sell-by
date as the world around Kashmir, and us, has dramatically changed.
The cries of “azaadi” raised by teenage radicals and young jihadists no longer mean what they meant some time ago. They are about Islamisation and radicalisation that have nothing to do with what India is, or is not, doing to bring peace in Kashmir.
Baig made some important points while speaking on TV channels yesterday. We have been aware of them at the peripheries of our collective vision, but have been reluctant to acknowledge them. Baig was fine with the “insaniyat and Kashmiriyat” line, but added that there is now a strong strain of “Pakistaniyat” in the Valley, with some of the strains of “azaadi” merging with ideas of global jihad and Islamic State (or ISIS). So, without actually saying so, he implied that the old attempt to start talks on greater autonomy within the Indian constitution and abandonment of the BJP focus on article 370 may not be enough bring peace.
Talks on these lines may, Baig implied, help the mainstream political parties regain some political legitimacy, but there can be no guarantees that Islamism and jihad will be abandoned. He said that talks with all stakeholders, including the Hurriyat separatists, would at least force the jihadists to come out in the open and openly declare that “azaadi” means something else, and not Kashmiri independence.
India should take note, especially Baig’s point that Pakistaniyat has some resonance in the Valley, where earlier the jihadists had to be imported from across the border. Jihad has gone local. We must thus prepare for the long haul. There is going to be no easy path from current mob rule to sensible governance any time soon.
What we are essentially witnessing is the ISIS-isation of the Kashmir Valley, with self-radicalised youths, additionally instigated by the Pakistani Deep State, using “azaadi” as a slogan for Islamist mobilisation and jihadi violence. It does not matter if the jihadi elements are just “five percent”, as Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the other day, or 50 percent. It does not take more than a few thousand people to launch and hijack a revolution. The Arab Spring, the Russian Revolution and the Islamic State are clear evidence of that.
Where is the scope for “insaniyat” when insanity rules?
We should perhaps have seen this coming earlier, but now is as good a time as any to do so. When we saw ISIS flags being raised soon after the PDP-BJP government was installed in the state early last year, we dismissed it as an attempt to drive a wedge between the two parties in power. We should have seen it as a signal in itself.
The first question to ask is this: how did the Valley suddenly become enamoured of Pakistaniyat when it had failed in earlier decades?
The answer, with hindsight,
must be this: in the age of ISIS, self-radicalisation is a reality. If earlier, you had to physically motivate the young with radical ideas and real
causes they can identify with, in the age of social media and
self-radicalisation, you don’t need to tutor any local radical to pick up the
gun. They do it for imaginary causes, chasing the delusion of “pure Islam”.
In a world beset with complexity, Islamism offers the young an instant solution. It is an abandonment of reason in order to find refuge in simplistic non-answers. While one can pretend that Kashmiris have unique problems, one has only to look at the radicalisation of young Muslims in Kerala, who can actually have no grievances against the Indian state, to understand why the ISIS-isation of Kashmir is not that difficult either.
Pakistan’s jihadi state, from the ISI down to the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, could not have asked for anything better. Remember, Pakistan is the original Islamic State, the original ISIS in South Asia. It may have failed in its earlier attempts to radicalise the Kashmiris, but now that jihadism helps self-radicalisation through the social media, it is logical for Kashmiris to see the Pakistani idea of an Islamic State with new eyes.
The problem is Islam, among all religions, is inherently capable of radicalising its followers. It is not a religion of peace, but a religion of political power. You may have only a nodding acquaintance with the Koran or the Hadith or Sunnah, but any preacher pouting some verses or interpretations of these sources of Islamic faith can easily radicalise anyone willing to believe that Islam has all the answers. Since many Muslims are pre-disposed to “surrender” to the word of Islam, self-radicalisation is easy. The Zakir Naiks or Anjem Choudarys are mere facilitators in this process.
So what should India do to retrieve the situation in Kashmir?
There answers cannot be simple, but a few basics need to be part of the strategy.
First, talks won’t go anywhere. Talks are useful for optics, but can achieve something only when the state reclaims its power. Right now it is in retreat, and hence it can offer nothing to mobs that they do not already have – control of territory. The first objective of strategy must be to regain physical control of the Valley, through the use of limited force, where civilian casualties are minimised. A tough ask right now, but it needs to be done, and must be done slowly but surely. You can’t buy peace with talks.
Second, the separatists have become irrelevant to Kashmir. It is okay to talk even to them, but it is difficult to see how talking to a Syed Ali Shah Geelani or Umar Farooq will help, when the reality is that the mob has more power than them. Regaining control of the state is actually more important to ensure that these unworthies are not bumped off by jihadists who will then claim the army or the police did it. The separatists may have to be incarcerated for their own safety. Defeating jihad is vital to giving mainstream parties, or even the so-called moderates within the separatists, a chance to speak. Moderates speak the language of extremism if the mobs are in control, for they then fear for their own lives.
Third, since we are now grappling with the ISIS-isation of Kashmir, we need a de-radicalisation strategy for Muslims as a whole, not just in Kashmir, but in Kerala and Uttar Pradesh or West Bengal. But this has to be done by Muslims themselves, and right now Muslims are in no mood to help the BJP government.
De-radicalisation cannot be done by the Indian state, or a Hindu party like BJP. It has to come from within a community. Malaysia is said to have been fairly successful in de-radicalising local Muslims primarily because it is a Muslim state. It is difficult to see a US or even a Germany being able to achieve this. Banning the face veil or burkinis can hardly help this process. This will only give Muslims more reasons to think they are being targeted.
Put another way, de-radicalisation is a process that must begin within the Muslim community. It may take years or even decades, but this is what must be encouraged by the Indian state, including the BJP.
Fourth, defanging the separatists-cum-jihadis also needs political and economic thrusts. Politically, it makes no sense for India to be run from Delhi, and this is not just about Kashmir. More economic powers to states has to be the norm, and devolution to states must thus be encouraged by Narendra Modi. It has to be about all states, and not just J&K, for once such a deal is done with Kashmir, why would other states want to do with less powers? We may think Kashmir is different, but was the Patidar agitation not a challenge to the Gujarat government? Or the Jat one to Haryana? Did West Bengal have the gumption to take on the violent mobs in Kaliachak, where a police station was attacked the destroyed? It is time to shift responsibilities to states. Modi cannot do everything.
Fifth, we have to up the ante with Pakistan, whether on Balochistan or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, including Gilgit Baltistan. If we don’t do this, the illogic of the “azaadi” merchants will not be obvious to Kashmiris themselves. You can demand Islamisation and jihad in secular India, but when you see the same demands being made in that Mecca of jihad (Pakistan), you will pause to reflect. There’s nothing like drumming up anti-Pakistan sentiment inside Pakistan to give second-thoughts to those who think the grass is greener on the other side.
India must dig in its heels in for the very long haul. There are no instant solutions. The tide of jihad and Islamism will not ebb in full moon; we have to wait for it to happen globally before the same sensible idea dawns on our local Islamists.
Islamism will wane when Muslims realise that there is no nirvana in it. But before that there is more bloodshed and lunacy ahead of us. The idea that “insaniyat” trumps Islamiyat is not something you can force down anyone’s throats.
We have to do what we can to protect Kashmir and ourselves from jihadism. Insaniyat is a prerequisite for the abandonment of insanity. But insanity needs to be a spent force before people discover value in insaniyat.