It was a beautiful Monday morning, a Kashmiri friend of mine had arranged my meeting with a Professor from a nearby college. I was told that the gentleman I was about to meet is a devout Muslim and possessed deep knowledge on the religion. I was quite excited about the meeting and was keenly looking forward to it. At around 10 am, I received a call from him and he informs me that he just started from his residence and requested me to help him with the visitors check at the gate. I, immediately obliged and sent a word to the gate about my esteemed guest. Its quarter past 10, and I receive an information about an attack by terrorist in the heart of the town. A police constable is badly injured and all efforts underway to evacuate him to the nearest hospital. In comes another call, this time its my guest and he says he is at my gate, I immediately arranged his entry and in a few minutes, he is there at my office, sitting right in front of me, sipping a glass of water. I seek his permission to finish a few left over files and as I hustle through it, I take a glance at my guest. He is average built, formally dressed and has a long grown beard and seemed to be quite conscious about the surroundings. As I finish with my work at hand, we slowly start a conversation on Kashmir.
He starts by talking about his childhood days in Kashmir, how suddenly his parents shifted him to Pune (India) in the 90s, his education in a Central Asian country and his religious education. Sitting and sipping tea in my office, we finally discuss the prevailing situation in the valley. I was very keen to know his views on why so many youth graduate from stones to gun culture. Recruitment into terrorist ranks have increased over the last one year and preventing recruitment has become the most intriguing challenge to the government and the security forces. Furthermore, the average shelf life of a terrorist in the valley is not more that four years post his recruitment and an analysis of some recent cases led me to understand that the same has reduced to two years. Moreover, most Kashmir watchers would agree that any news of elimination of terrorist is accompanied by information of two to three youth missing from their homes.
The valley today would be infested with a few hundred terrorists holding AKs and few SLRs and the simple application of commonsense can make a person understand that this strength is no strength against the state of art security forces. So what makes this terrorism thrive in Kashmir? Why are youth running away from their homes to join militancy? Before every operation, an option to surrender is given and why these terrorist choose Shahadat over surrender? Have they over come the fear of Death?
My guest told me that most youth who join the terror outfits are from poor background, form part of a large family with a number of siblings. I vividly recollect one such case of a slain terrorist, who had six brothers and five sisters, which made him the 12th Man in his parents cricket team and definitely was not missed at home when he joined the terrorist ranks. Some of the them have bad loans and join for the lure of money. There are some who get into stone pelting filed FIR- booked under Public Safety Act (PSA)- no returning back to normal life web at very early age and with a little peer pressure join militancy. One such case came to the lime light when during one protest an 14-year-old boy was accused of snatching a weapon. A number of attempts were made to bring him back to normal fold, but the individual refused to surrender. There are some who get charmed by gun culture and assume that wielding a gun could facilitate womanizing. The infamous Burhan Wani formed part of this clan of terrorist and there were widespread reports of his relationship with multiple women. Then, there are those few who join the folds of terror in the name of religion.
Azadi (Pro-freedom) and Islamic affiliation are at logger heads in the valley, while the concept of Azadi attracts the local militants and pro-Pakistan propels the foreign mercenaries, a new wave of radical Islamic ideas have percolated a very few, the likes of Zakir@Musa and his affiliates. This is no way is a proof of the Islamic State making inroads into the valley, though there are reports of waving of Islamic State flags in certain parts. When I asked my guest on the same, he told me that most of the Pakistani flags and pro-Pakistani graffiti are nothing but an attempt by the locals to irk the security forces and the government and this is in no way approves their interest in joining the state of Pakistan.
Nearly three hours of interaction and he was all guns blazing for Azadi. After listening to him, I asked him few simple questions. What happens after Azadi? Do you think the state of Kashmir would exist? What if there is a civil war in the valley between those pro-Azadi and those who want to continue to be with India? What if, Ladakh and Jammu regions are not interested in joining an Independent Kashmir? With a part of Kashmir with Pakistan and with Ladakhis and Jammuites not joining them, will an Independent Kashmir survive? What makes you so sure that Pakistan wont try annex Kashmir? Well, these are few questions that made my guest ponder and he definitely had no answers, and I m sure these answers are not there with many champions of Azadi.
Well, on that day, atleast we graduated from mere acquaintance to a good friendship and I am sure we both would cherish our friendship for the times to come. As for Kashmir, its going to be an arduous task for the government and the security forces to prevent the young and vibrant Kashmiris from joining the folds of terror.