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The suicide-bomber attack on the CRPF convoy in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir has been hogging the headlines over this past one week. This is in the fitness of things, for such a major attack of a similar nature has taken place after a long period of time in the strife-torn state and it involves the loss of more than 40 lives of CRPF soldiers. This is, without doubt, a matter of mourning as well as concern, especially in terms of how the families of the deceased will now cope with their lives ahead.

Of equal concern in the wake of this tragedy are the incidents involving Kashmiri students who have been forced to leave the cities they have been studying in, under pressure from the residents there. The Kashmiri youth was obviously targeted because of the fact that the suicide-bomber was a Kashmiri, twenty-year old Adil Ahmad Dar, a recruit of the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). The sad part is that all of Kashmiri youth is equated with one radicalized militant, as if all Kashmiris are to be punished for the deed committed by one gone astray. The ultra-nationalist discourse looks upon Kashmiris not just as Kashmiris but as Muslims too, conflates the two identities, equates both with militancy, terrorism and anti-nationalism, and makes a target of the whole community. This is what seems to have obviously happened now in the wake of the Pulwama suicide-bombing..

These incidents of harassment of and violence against Kashmiris not just in Jammu but in different parts of the country, are a cause of serious concern. They lead us to think about issues of very deep significance, including how we look at Kashmir and its people, why the youth in Kashmir has gradually been radicalized and how we need to respond to such situations within our federal-democratic political set-up.


According to press reports, 300 Kashmiri students reportedly reached Mohali from Dehradun in Uttarakhand and from the Ambala district of Haryana in the wake of the suicide-attack on the CRPF convoy (https://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/over-300-kashmiri-students-reach-mohali-on-way-to-homes-in-j-k/730961.html). The immediate cause of their exodus was the threat and intimidation they faced at the hands of right-wing outfits or local residents who found themselves unable to resist these outfits. This is not a small number and one can very well imagine the panic that must have been generated in the Kashmiri youth because of the fear they must have been in. The Jammu and Kashmir Students’ Organisation in Mohali and the general public of the city, especially gurudwaras, came together to arrange shelter for these students. The situation there has remained by and large under control, thanks also to the steps taken by the Haryana Police in Ambala District and last but not the least because of the significant assurance given by the Chief Minister of Punjab regarding the protection of these students.

It is, indeed, a sign of the times we live in that the Kashmiri youth residing in states other than their home-state have been made a target for a terror-crime in which they had no role to play. The fact of the suicide-bomber being a young Kashmiri led astray has been enough to bring the ire of misguided elements on to these students. One more factor, though, seems to be some Kashmiri youth taking to social media to air their views that have not gone down well with the nationalist discourse. Going by print news between February 15 and 20, 2019 (The Tribune, Chandigarh), such posts have been reported from Rajasthan (Jaipur), Himachal Pradesh (Nauni – Solan) and Haryana (Gurugram) for sure.  The author of these lines has not had an occasion to see any of these posts but whether or not the person concerned can be held guilty of being “anti-national” will depend on how one views the idea of nationalism, how constricted and limited or broad that idea is in terms of granting space for voices of dissent in a discourse, as also how one views the issue of Kashmir and the sentiment of the people there. Given the sensitivity of issues involved, one would, though, expect people to be careful and circumspect in whatever they post.


Three issues need to be understood and addressed. Why do students from Kashmir come in large numbers from their homes for education and employment to other parts of the country? Second, what is it that leads young men like the 20 year-old suicide-bomber Adil Ahmad Dar or earlier, highly educated Kashmiri youth like research scholar Manaan Wani to move towards militancy? Third, what could be the effect of these latest developments on the Kashmiri youth forced to go back home, even if temporarily so? And last but not the least, what are the long-term solutions one should be looking at?

The now more than 30 years of violence in Kashmir has given rise to a whole generation of Kashmiris that has not seen long stretches of normalcy in the state and has grown up under a cloud of violence. Just a day after the Pulwama incident, in a programme in Delhi, it was heart-wrenching to see an eleven-year old child bring into sharp focus the contrast between the environment in Kashmir and the country’s capital. Her short, three-month stay in Delhi had made her realize the value of freedom as she recounted the fear and trepidation she felt in her home-state while going to school, in contrast with her experience in Delhi. It does not require much imagination to understand that education is very greatly affected by the situation of unrest in Kashmir. There is closure of educational institutions every now and then with every bout of violence, and sessions go haywire. The scenario of employment opportunities too is not as it should be. At some stage of their lives, quite a number of youth move out in search of better opportunities both for education and employment. This is the answer to the presence of nearly 600 Kashmiri students in various educational institutions in the Ambala district of Haryana as stated by the district’s Superintendent of Police recently. Quite obviously, we will find youth from Kashmir in large numbers across the country, in areas with good infrastructure for education and opportunities for employment. They come here in the hope not just of education and employment but also with the expectation of being looked upon as fellow human beings, fellow citizens with space for sharing their views in a democratic, accommodative spirit that is the hallmark of any liberal, secular democracy like ours.

The story of how youth like Adil Ahmad Dar and the highly educated research-scholar Manaan Bashir Wani and earlier, Burhan Wani joined the ranks of militants is more or less identical. It is to be noted that Manaan Wani was a research scholar in Aligarh Muslim University. That is, he had, like so many others, come from Kashmir for education – but went back radicalized. The common thread in all these stories is a sense of deep hurt and injustice triggered by some incident leading up to inner turmoil that finally takes them up the militant’s path. The simmering discontent is the penultimate stage in the journey of the final plunge into militancy that the individual takes. Even while not discounting or overlooking the larger forces from across the border playing their own nefarious games, we as a country have to look to the welfare of the Kashmiri youth. We need to understand why they go astray. And be cognizant of their sensibilities and sensitivity. The rub is that the staunch nationalist narrative looks upon not just dissent but even a divergence of opinion as being anti-national, because it does not have the sagacity to understand that the state of Jammu and Kashmir has a post-Independence history unlike any other in this country – and the Kashmiris as a people have borne the brunt of many an injustice too. And in the nationalist zeal that overpowers many, they forget that for sensitive souls, sometimes even an incident or two is enough to take one down the wrong trajectory.

The father of Adil Ahmad Dar gives voice to what countless Kashmiris feel when he blames politicians for his son’s death, for they, as he says, should have resolved the conflict over Kashmir through dialogue by now. According to a Reuters report quoted by ‘India Today’ online, he says – “It is they who are responsible for driving these youth into militancy. The sons of the common man die here, whether they are Indian troops or our sons.” (https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/pulwama-bomber-adil-ahmad-dar-became-terrorist-after-he-was-beaten-by-troops-say-parents-1457317-2019-02-15). The crux of the issue is that unless and until Kashmir is seen as an issue to be resolved politically through talks, taking into consideration not just the land but the people inhabiting that land, the discontent will every now and then boil over. That is the only viable long-term solution that should be looked at, making it a multilateral initiative that seeks to address the concerns of all concerned – most of all, those within the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Short of that, it has to be ensured that conditions are created in which the people, most of all the youth, feels at home in its own State through a multi-pronged approach that involves various stake-holders in a peaceful Jammu and Kashmir. The armed forces need to sustain initiatives like Operation Sadbhawna (Operation Goodwill) that aim at winning the hearts and minds of the people. They need to be viewed as facilitators in a peace process rather than as a force of suppression and repression, even as the operations to eliminate militancy are underway. Until and unless the armed forces win the confidence of the people in the village and the town and the city, they cannot think of decisively winning this interminable war against militancy. The more one suppresses and violates human rights, the more will be the reaction. It is the human touch that will succeed.

Our relationship with the people and the state of Jammu and Kashmir has to be one that takes into consideration the singularly different, long socio-cultural-political history of that State, especially after the country’s Independence, for the terms of its accession have a history of their own. The federal-democratic polity of the country cannot ignore the peculiar history of this State. If we say that it is an integral, inalienable part of the country, it has to be a relationship of sympathetic understanding that treats Kashmiris on par with all other citizens of India in tune with their constitutional rights, also within the framework of the state’s historical trajectory and its Constitution. Even as we try to right the wrongs of the past – and there have been repeated breaches, like rigged elections in Jammu and Kashmir, for instance – we need to move ahead from where we are. It needs to be understood that this State has a singularly unique history of its relationship with the Union of India – and that needs to be respected.

Students who come from Kashmir to study in different parts of the country come here with expectations of being treated at par with any other Indian – and that is what they most deservedly deserve too. If they go back with bitter memories, we will only be adding to the troubles of Kashmir and Kashmiris – and the country. One can only hope the students who are going back to Kashmir will very soon return, on the strength of the memories of the positive help they have got rather than the few hard, troublesome days that saw them forced into leaving their places of stay.

Ramnik Mohan is an author, formerly an Associate Professor, works freelance based in Rohtak, and is actively engaged with social issues.

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