Posted On : September 24 2018
Writer : Gunjan Joshi
‘Motivation, Pattern, and Objective of the ‘New Millitancy’ Is Different From the Earlier One’ David Devadas
Years 2010 and 2016 will be significant in the history of Kashmir because of mass uprisings which led to deaths of numerous bystanders and deteriorated the fabric of original secular ‘Kashmiriyat’. David Devadas talks to Gunjan Joshi about his new book ‘The Generation of Rage in Kashmir’, reasons behind rage in the youth, and the nature of these uprisings.
About David Devadas: David Devadas is Distinguished Fellow, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, India. He was formerly political editor at Business Standard. An expert on politics and geopolitics, his analyses and predictions about Kashmir since 1988 have been consistently accurate. He has researched Kashmir as Senior Fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, India, as Visiting Professor at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India and as an Erasmus Mundus scholar at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Germany.
As an author and geopolitical analyst, how do you view the uprisings of 2010 and 2016?
The epicentre of uprising in 2010 was in Srinagar city, whereas it was concentrated in rural areas during 2016. The latter also affected places which had not witnessed agitation during 90s. Those who pelted stones in 2010 were generally of the age group ranging from late teens to twenties; while in 2016 those individuals had reached late twenties or thirties. Broadly speaking, the demonstrators did not participate in protests after first couple of days in 2016. The teenagers who pelted stones and manned barricades in 2010 were young boys and represented a different generation of Kashmiris, the millennial.
More importantly, the agitations of 2010 were against the killing of innocents which were not involved in militancy. They could also be seen as a ringing cry for the rule of law. In 2016, a fresh lot of teenagers were specifically protesting the killing of a militant, Burhan Wani. Things had come so far between 2010 and 2016 that millennials had lost all hopes from the system. They had come out openly in support of militants and they continue to so. This had started in 2015 when young people begin pelting stones at security forces during encounters. Many adults may not be similar in their attitudes, but their opinions barely count now. I have analysed the differences and reasons behind these two uprisings in my recent book, `The Generation of Rage in Kashmir.’
How has recent spirals of violence harmed the spirit of Kashmiriyat that once consisted of benevolent rulers and mystics such as Zainul Abidin, Nund Rishi, and Lal Ded?
In one of the chapters, I have analyzed the radicalization primarily of teenagers and pre-teens during the past decade. The ziarat-oriented, syncretistic culture that was a part of Kashmiri identity for centuries is still there but is retreating now. The Salafist Ahle-Hadith movement and the Tablighi Jamaat have grown rapidly during past few years and the Jamaat-e-Islami has bounced back since 2014. I have analysed various factors for the growth of this trend. In my previous book, `In Search of a Future, the Story of Kashmir,’ I had described the love-hate ambivalence that has shaped relations between different identity groups in Kashmir. This was based on religion, sect, and ethnicity grown over some periods of history of this region. The term `Kashmiriyat’ needs a nuanced and contextual understanding.
Kashmir have always been microcosm of secularism, the land from where Mahayana Buddhism spread to further north and Naqshabandi order of Sufism thrived. What do you have to say about it?
Not only the Naqshbandi order, the Suhrawardi and Qadri orders of Sufis have also thrived in Kashmir. Saints like Syed Mir Ali are deeply revered and several other rishis also had great influence in rural areas. The simple living and concern for the environment which these rishis taught paralleled the ideas of sufis belonging to Chishti order that dominated in plains. According to history, the majority of Kashmiris were buddhist, shaivite, and muslims in different era of history. Kashmir has also been an intellectual hub of civilisation for several years. It had cultural and trading relations with the farthest ends of south Asia and Central Asia. However, today’s youth is more influenced by fundamentalist ideas about religion, identity, and culture. For example, slain terrorist like Zakir Musa doesn’t control a significant militant group but his radical ideas are popular.
The term ‘new millitancy’ has been used in your book frequently? What does it mean?
The militancy that began in 1998 ended in around 2006 to 2007. In the mid 90s, it was taken over by Pakistanis and other foreigner groups such as Lashkar and Harkat which later became Jaish. After 1997, Kashmiris played only supporting roles in governance. I have argued in `The Generation of Rage in Kashmir’ that a new militancy came into existence after 2009. Its motivation, pattern, and objective were very different from those of the earlier militancy. This militancy has been shaped by narratives about the previous militancy. It also supported the narratives such as global situation of Muslims, and spoke about occupation, colonization, genocide etc through a concerted discourse.
How do view the slaughter of young Kashmiri boys which joined security forces?
The killings depict a very terrible trend. I have argued in my book that when Mr. Vajpayee had initiated peace talks, a large number of young Kashmiris had developed pride in their Indian identity. Perhaps for the first time since independence, a section of youth thought this way. The irony is that these were the young individuals who had witnessed the wrath of 90s as children. I have also argued that Pakistan subtly took control of the situation halfway through the uprising of 2010 and was firmly in control by 2016.
This simply implies that the rage among youth is being manipulated and channeled by foreign powers. A major part of their strategy is to decrease the presence of pro-India Kashmiris. To execute this arrangement, they particularly target Kashmiri soldiers, policemen, and workers of political parties. Through this, they want to undermine the morale of the forces and pressurise them by sending threats to their families. This is part of a multi-pronged effort which has been evident since 2015.
Your book includes a survey among 6,000 students. What according to you is the reason behind their rage?
Before this new militancy first came up making violence a vicious cycle, the disproportionate presence of counter-insurgency forces was a major reason. Corruption, nepotism, and unresponsive governance are few other reasons behind the rage. This militancy would probably not have taken birth if the apparatus of counter-insurgency had been wound down till 2006-07, when the earlier militancy had petered out. That survey found that there are different opinions and aspirations across gender, location and socio-economic milieu. The word azadi is different for every individual across these sections of society. For young boys, it means the availability of civic rights; while it represented an end to the humiliating presence of counter-insurgency forces for young women. The survey also found that the youth in the valley have only vague ideas about different identity groups and about various religions including their own.
What should have government done differently in the last ten years in Kashmir and what should it do now to break the stalemate of the ‘new militancy’?
The counter-insurgency apparatus should have been wound down a decade ago. A systematic and responsive governance should have replaced it. Now, everything should be done to reduce the collateral damage and killing of bystanders. The forces must exercise extreme restrain. During the first couple of months of governor’s Rule, Mr Vohra had brought down the graph of stone-pelting. A new discourse about the futility of militant deaths is developing now in south Kashmir.
What is your opinion about abrogation of article 370 and 35A?
The key issue concerning both the articles is domiciliary rights, which could also be placed in state laws instead of the Constitution. However, the constitutional safeguards have a strong psychological hold on mind of people. Therefore, this is not the time to tinker with them. It would deeply alienate people and spark a bigger uprising than the killing of Burhan Wani.
How do you view the current security situation in Kashmir strategically in context to coronation of new PM in Pakistan and thriving relationship between China and Pakistan?
I have been saying since 2011 that a triad of challenges emerged in 2008, which will now converge. These three prongs are youth anger in Kashmir, Pakistan’s stratagems, and China’s long-term desire to weaken India as a potential competitor. I believe that convergence is taking place currently. The new Pakistani prime-minister might accelerate the convergence of that triad for national security threats because he is close to Pakistan’s Army. Still, the two countries should engage in serious dialogues in order to forge long-term peace.
Gunjan Joshi is a Delhi based Editor who loves to explore every facet of art and literature. A nature-lover and an avid bibliophile, she loves classics in every form. A perfect weekend evening for her smells the waft of a classic hardback in her bed followed by a black and white movie.
Bookaholicanonymous thanks Gunjan for contributing this very insightful interview on Kashmir. Looking forward to many more from you!