J & K Valley’s prolonged anti-India protest; rising insurgency, intense counter- insurgency operation has caused severe distress in the region. Demand for the political outreach emerged to prevent radicalisation of local youth which is the topmost concern for the Indian security establishment at present.
What escalated the unrest in J&K?
- Radicalisation played a major role, though its impact was felt in other parts of the country as well, as several men were arrested for being inspired by the Islamic State.
- Brainwashing via the Internet played a key role.
- Poor and Unemployed youth can easily be targeted by radicalists.
- It was a concerted effort by some to radicalise the youth to spread violence.
Reasons behind such trend:
- The political community is largely marginalised in the Valley heartland due to personal security issues and the local administration, despite having some experienced officials, cannot initiate social outreach measures.
- Operations by security forces have resulted in neutralising a large number of terrorists, mostly local. But, they have created an almost similar number of terrorists through recruitment and infiltration, leaving us in sheer quantified terms, where we began in 2018.
- While the army’s Operation Sadbhavna (a military civic action initiative of 20 years) has helped in extending marginal outreach, the lack of mass engagement has prevented the development of any perception change and the creation of alternative narratives to counter the propaganda from Pakistan and the separatists.
- The army’s initiatives are personality and formation based; the J&K Police is far too embroiled in policing issues. The CRPF, deployed in strength in the urban areas, has been insufficiently used.
Strategy to tackle the situation:
Isolated efforts by different organisations prevent the emergence of a cogent strategy.
There are four areas in this “outreach strategy” that need refinement and coordination by all stakeholder organisations. The intelligence agencies need to provide their support.
- The first involves direct outreach, A model for that exists from 2010-12 when the army successfully undertook the conduct of public meetings or “awami sunwais” in the field in areas where the reach of the administration had become marginal.
- Local problems that were languishing over time were corrected by officials through direct contact with the people. It gave an opportunity to the leaders and the administrators to listen to the people.
- A deliberate effort was made to engage with the youth through meetings at universities and schools, something that is difficult to imagine today.
- The recruiting rallies for different central and state institutions must be exploited for such windows of engagement, as the youth is usually in a different frame of mind while seeking employment opportunities.
- The second element is to engage the clergy and, through that route, seek its cooperation in messaging the youth and others on the uniqueness of the Indian system.
- The clergy has a powerful hold over the public in any Islamic society — to the less informed, this need not necessarily give the perception that it is an unnecessary boost to the position of the clergy that might prove counterproductive later.
- The third aspect of the strategy is the exploitation of social media, as much as the countering of online propaganda.
- Surprisingly, intelligence agencies, the MHA itself and the army’s public information directorate, have all understood the concept but are hesitant to join forces due to lack of trust and the potential loss of individual space.
- The army’s focused information warfare at the Corps and Command level is simply outstanding, but exists in isolation.
- The need for 5,000 young civilian “information warriors” under the aegis of a joint organisation under the Unified Command in J&K. It will give the requisite continuity, technology and content support to the campaign.
- The fourth, and final domain, is the setting aside of the mutual fears of the people of J&K and bringing the people of Ladakh into this ambit as well.
- If the people of these regions have to live together as an entity of one state, they need to stop suspecting each other.
- Through the ambit of the central and other universities in the state, we need to create a platform for the “meeting of minds” from all three regions and from different professions and callings.
- No doubt, the current situation of J&K demands a coordinated efforts from all stakeholder organization to effectively deal with the problems.
- The ongoing operation all out will no doubt continue successfully throughout 2019, but it should become a supporting campaign to the above four initiatives outlined instead of the other way around.