Srinagar: Dozens of Kashmiri youth, mostly in the 17-24 age group, are joining the ranks of militants every month, a phenomenon that has set alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power, particularly security agencies.
Based on analysis and interpretation, the psychological impact of the 25-year-old insurgency in Jammu & Kashmir is strongly felt by its youth. “Many of those in the post-1990 generation have either witnessed their close family members, friends or neighbours being subject to violence or themselves have faced arrests and humiliation or suffered torture in the hands of security forces, leaving tremendous psychological impact on them,“ a local political analyst said. It has been found that militancy has a higher influence on male youth than female youth.
To vent their anger, they are turning to various militant outfits, particularly the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, resulting in swelling of their ranks. Political developments within the state and the rise of radical groups, including the Islamic State, in neighbouring and far-off countries during the past few years have created a catalyst for the militancy in J&K, local watchers say.
Admitting the fact that educated youth, including those from affluent families, are joining the ranks of militants, a senior Army commander recently said that eyes cannot be closed at the “tragedy”. General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GoC-In-C), Northern Command, Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, however, asserted that apart from alienation among the youth of Kashmir, it is the lack of opportunities that is driving them towards the gun.
He urged the Centre and the state government to introspect to address these issues. He said that while Islamic State flags are being raised every now and then during protests in the Kashmir Valley, attempts have been made to attract the youth by militant groups through the social media, which is having “some impact” and “steps are needed to counter it”. He was obviously referring to recent pictorial posts and videos that appeared on Facebook showing large groups of heavily-armed militants in combat gear “revelling” in the apple orchards of south Kashmir.
Well-known psychiatrist Abdul Waheed, however, said that it is the emotional impact of living under the shadow of the gun that is working as the driving force for Kashmiri youth to turn to militancy. “I think the whole nation is traumatised. People have a lot of suppressed anger and, as we all have seen, they express it through their actions whenever they get the opportunity. They don’t care about any rules and regulations and are least bothered about the possibility of this landing them in trouble,” he said, adding: “This is the result of what we have gone through all these years. Generally speaking, the story is the same with almost everybody.”
Dr Khan said he has treated a number of Kashmiri youth who were violent and depressed. One of them was from the frontier district of Kupwara who had been held by security forces on a suspicion. ”While he was with them, his sister was waylaid by Ikhwanis (renegades) and his father died of shock. When he was brought to me, he was in a terrible state of suppressed anger and vengeful. I simply couldn’t console him. I prescribed him some medicines but since he did not visit me again I don’t what happened to him after that.”
Dr Khan said that everybody in Kashmir may not have turned, or will not turn, to militancy. “But everybody is affected. There are stains left on everybody’s heart and brain. Psychologically, we in our heart of hearts do identify ourselves with each others’ sorrows. We are not absolutely free of the effect although the extent of it may differ.”
National security adviser Ajit Doval was recently in Srinagar for an on-the-spot assessment of the situation arising out of what is officially termed as “negative” and “dangerous” trends in Kashmiri youth.
However, Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, who teaches human rights and international law at the University of Kashmir, seeks to differentiate between militancy in Kashmir and elsewhere. “Kashmir is not Afghanistan, nor is it Iraq. People here are annoyed and feel alienated but we don’t have that kind of temperament here which can make people resort to tactics being adopted by insurgents at those places.” He added, “Insurgency over here has been far more within the parameters of international humanitarian law than in any other part of the world. It is out of frustration that people here at times pick up the ISIS flag and portray certain gestures which appear to be too offensive. But overall, yes they are alienated; yes they have lost faith in peaceful ways of struggle and hence are inclined to militancy. But we can’t expect