Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News

One of the most disturbing aspects of the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama, Indian-administered Kashmir, was that the suicide bomber was a local, Adil Ahmad Dar, who lived in a village near the Jammu-Srinagar highway where the attack took place.

Although indoctrinated as a fidayeen (suicide attacker) by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, Dar’s act as a militant underlines the vulnerability of impressionable Kashmiri youths to insidious anti-India propaganda by terror groups.

In this instance, Dar was apparently “inspired” to kill himself by the Taliban’s “victory” symbolised by America’s planned withdrawal from Afghanistan. If anything, the tragedy emphasises the inter-linked international dimensions of terrorism.

Relatives of Sukhjinder Singh, a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel who was killed after a suicide bomber rammed a car into the bus carrying CRPF personnel in south Kashmir on Thursday, cry as his body is taken away for cremation in Gandiwind village, northern state of Punjab, India, on February 16, 2019. Image Credit: REUTERS

From Syria to Afghanistan to Kashmir, the terror mindset is primed among the youth by Daesh’s war against kafirs (infidels).

Safeguard

Unlike the Middle East and even in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Indian democracy provides a safeguard against such a struggle, which is why an overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims, including those in Kashmir, remain committed to the democratic system.

Indian democracy provides a safeguard against such a struggle, which is why an overwhelming majority of Indian Muslims, including those in Kashmir, remain committed to the democratic system.

- Amulya Ganguli, political analyst in India

It is evident from the recent panchayat (local self-government) and municipal elections in the state even if the polling percentages in the Valley were low.

However, it is undeniable that a section of people in the Valley remains alienated notwithstanding attempts to reach out to them through negotiations by the Indian federal government representative, Dineshwar Sharma.

But if his efforts have failed to defuse the situation, it might be due to the government’s reluctance to implement some of the recommendations made by the Dileep Padgaonkar Committee.

These included reducing the army’s visibility, addressing human rights violations, reviewing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and lifting the Disturbed Areas Act.

These initiatives were aimed at reaching out to the hearts and minds of ordinary people whose commitment to India cannot be doubted as the continuing relevance of the mainstream parties like the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party show.

Special status

What is required is a major gesture to defang the terrorists and wean away the youth from their self-destructive path.

One of them is to consider freezing the AFSPA (former Congress minister P. Chidambaram wanted it to be scrapped) and to give a cast-iron guarantee that neither Article 370 nor Article 35A will be touched.

The former confers a special status on Kashmir, and the latter relates to citizenship rights. Such “big ticket” reforms can end the sense of alienation among the youths who are exploited by terror groups.

An outreach of this nature will confirm that the government does not regard Kashmir merely as a law-and-order problem, where all that is needed is a harsh crackdown on the malcontents.

Arguably, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) may not find it easy to change its long-standing stance in favour of dispensing with Article 370.

But it has to be remembered that former prime minister and BJP stalwart the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee did put Article 370 in cold storage in 1996, along with his party’s demand for building a Ram temple and introducing a uniform civil code when he was looking for allies to form a government. Vajpayee had also called for looking at the Kashmir issue within the parameters of insaniyat (humanity) rather than of the Constitution.

Such broad-mindedness is the need of the hour to dissuade deluded young men like Dar from the path of nihilism. Otherwise, more such brainwashed youths will leave their families to court untimely death.

India has dealt with rebellious outbreaks in different parts of the country from the northeast to the Maoist belts in central and western areas with a fair amount of success.

- Amulya Ganguli, political analyst in India

Equally, scores of security personnel will be in danger of losing their lives because official policies have failed to assure the discontented people of a state with a distinct cultural ambience that they are the nation’s cherished citizens.

It is only when the Kashmiris are visibly mollified that Pakistan’s “isolation”, which the Indian government is seeking, will be complete.

India has dealt with rebellious outbreaks in different parts of the country from the northeast to the Maoist belts in central and western areas with a fair amount of success.

There is no reason why it cannot achieve the same in Kashmir with a patient understanding of the grievances affecting the state, especially when it has leaders like Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti with their political and administrative experience.

True, the terrorist factor makes it difficult for a government to adopt a sane attitude because of the irrational pseudo-religious fervour of the militants. But an overt demonstration of being sensitive can enable the government to enlist the support of Kashmiri society and enable the elders to rein in the rebels.

— IANS

Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst in India.