Niloofar Qureshi

Celebrating ‘Rejuvenation’ of the ‘Armed Struggle’

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In January this year a piece appeared in the media in which the author described Aligarh Muslim University research scholar Mannan Bashir Wani’s joining Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militant group “a major setback to the efforts by security forces to wean away youngsters from the path of militancy.” What the author has stated reflects the collective sentiment of those in Kashmir (and there are plenty of them) who tend to view everything through the prism of confrontation. Thus, those who support militancy would certainly be celebrating the security forces’ failure “to wean away youngsters from the path of militancy,” as big ‘victory’. However, the bigger question here is whether this trend of youngsters joining militancy which ultimately results in their death is something that’s really worth rejoicing?

The latest trend of educated boys joining militancy in large numbers is also being seen as another one such big ‘victory’ by those who back the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. However, here again the jubilation is not because highly educated youth picking up the gun has proved to be ‘game-changer’ for the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ but only because this phenomenon has rung alarm bells amongst the administration, police and security forces.  So while this may be a cause of celebration for some, it is disconcerting for many as statics prove that the majority of ‘scholars-turned-militants’ have died in gunfights even before they had a chance of getting to grips with the situation. And the first instance that comes to mind is the heartrending case of Kashmir University associate professor Mohammad Rafi Bhat. Probably the most educated person to have joined militancy, Bhat was killed just 40 hours after he picked up the gun!

However, this is not the only such case. A few days ago, a group of five well educated militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were killed in a gunfight with security forces in Shopian. While three of the deceased were science graduates and held diplomas in various medical related fields like health care, nursing and laboratory technology, the fourth was a first year student while the fifth person was a seminary pass-out. However, the most tragic part is that while the leader Umar Nazir Malik, a graduate and diploma holder in health care had picked up the gun in April last year, the other four had joined militancy between April and July this year. And with such little experience of militancy, these boys obviously stood no chance against the much better trained and more experienced soldiers. Thus, Kashmir became poorer by five educated minds in a matter of hours.

Soon after the Shopian encounter we once again heard the sad news that Pulwama resident and B Tech graduate Khursheed Ahmad Malik had been gunned down by a joint team of army and JK Police. Malik’s death came just three days after he joined the Al Badar militant group! And four days after his death, Malik’s name appeared amongst those who had been shortlisted for recruitment into JK Police in the rank of sub-inspector. However, what’s even more intriguing is that Malik filed his online application for Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) examinations and then went and joined militancy on the same day! Malik’s case should interest those who are studying reasons as to why educated young boys are picking up guns as it reflects the inner conflict that preoccupies the minds of present day youth. It also reveals how even the well educated are extremely vulnerable to external influences and that they can take impulsive decisions despite being fully aware of the dire consequences.

Though I am amongst those who don’t support use of violent means for achieving the ‘right to self determination’, I nevertheless do respect the views of those who do so. I also have the highest regards for those who picked up guns and have attained martyrdom while fighting with security forces. My aversion to violence is not due to any personal, ethical or philosophical beliefs but for practical reasons. We may deny or ignore it but three decades of ‘armed struggle’ has made two things very clear- one, that the gun can’t drive out Indian forces from Kashmir and thus clear our way to ‘self determination’. And two that militancy can most certainly make us lose a lot of goodwill and many friends. Moreover, when achievements of the ‘armed struggle’ are compared with the heavy cost in terms of human lives that it is extracting from Kashmiris, then the scales don’t tip in militancy’s favour.

All countries and organisations that support ‘self determination’ in Kashmir univocally call for a ‘peaceful settlement’ of this issue. And even though Islamabad approves of militancy in Kashmir by calling it a “freedom struggle,” yet its official stand that the ‘K’ issue should be resolved through peaceful means remains unchanged. Even the recent report prepared by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights (OHCHR) on human right violations in Kashmir has noted that “Any resolution to the political situation in Kashmir should entail a commitment to ending the cycles of violence and accountability for past and current human rights violations.” By making the need to end “cycles of violence” as the stepping stone for resolving the Kashmir issue even the UN has rejected the very idea of using ‘armed struggle’ for achieving this aim. And when no one sees any role of guns in resolving the Kashmir issue, then why are all of us behaving like mute spectators while we are losing our boys in an ‘armed struggle’ that no one approves of?

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