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The Rediff Special/ Major General Arjun Ray

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Rebellion is the act of an educated person

"The principal motivation for becoming a
terrorist is to belong to a terrorist group.
J M Post

Group cohesion is a driving force which affects soldiers and militants alike. More the uncertainty, greater the need for group cohesion. Wounded soldiers in Srinagar's 92 Base Hospital are often asked whom they would like to be visited by -- senior officers' wives, their wives or their fathers. Most desire to meet their company commanders!

In all detention camps, there is a system called 'Milan', where once a fortnight the close relatives of militants are encouraged to pay them a visit. During these family get-togethers while the older militants show less emotional detachment, it is not an uncommon sight to see the younger lot distancing themselves from their loved ones. This is quite apparent both in speech as well as body language. No longer do they experience the same love, the same warmth or the old desire to be reunited. To them filial relations have become inconsequential.

Relationships are also fleeting because of the fear of getting too involved emotionally in a situation of war and death. If it is impossible to live in the present, it is pointless to live in the past. The tanzeem is the future, that is what tomorrow is all about. And the 'Revolution', in a literal sense, substitutes the family.

Notwithstanding Jammu & Kashmir's not-too-bad economic indicators, unemployment is rampant. Gaunt expressions, poor health and youthful faces turning prematurely old are caricatures of economic deprivation. Seventy-six per cent militants are between the ages of 15 to 30, 26 per cent are illiterate and 48 per cent are either dropouts or below high school pass. Even those who want to go to schools cannot.

Most schools have been burnt down and those that still stand -- mainly 150 madrassas [Islamic religious schools] and an equal number of schools controlled by the Jamaat-e-Islami's Falah-am-Trust, impart an education with overdoses of rabid religion. There is little room for teaching of chemistry, physics or humanities in these seminaries.

So where do the keen students go? Those who have the money and the right connections migrate to Indian schools outside the Valley. Those who cannot are condemned to live in a school-less society, in a state of social illiteracy. Remain poor, get poorer, become criminals or pick up the gun; these are the choices. Unless the government is able to provide jobs and avenues for economic progress and employment opportunities, tanzeems will continue to receive a steady stream of recruits.

Alienation is widespread; it is linked to economic deprivation. Kashmiris allude alienation as 'oppression' -- political, economic as well as military. In recent years, the latter is more visible and palpable and therefore more wounding.

Whether only 20 per cent Kashmiris want Pakistan, whether the majority of those remaining want azaadi [freedom] , or whether a fair proportion are fence-sitters is irrelevant. Such notions are esoteric and divorced from ground realities. The fact of the matter is that a large number of Kashmiri Muslims want some form of independence; call it autonomy, azaadi , Article 370 or whatever. While the greater number of Kashmiris do not want Pakistan, they do consider Pakistan an ally in the realisation of their aspirations. Naive, but that is the way it is.

The alienation factor in reality is the metaphysical rebellion -- loss of human dignity, of human values and the basic needs of a citizen's security and sense of belonging. When tolerance limits are stretched beyond their elasticity, men stop behaving like serfs. Enough is enough; they are not prepared to listen any longer. Such a mental state is described as 'idiocide' or death of oneself, of one's individuality, of one's respect, of one's fundamental rights. The New Man's resentment (negative) and acceptance of his state of hopelessness pushes him over the brink into a positive arousal -- the flag of revolt.

"Better to die on one's feet than to live on one's knees."
Albert Camus

There are 100 flags for every one flag. If life is meaningless, Death (for a cause) has meaning. Having thrown away his chains, he is prepared to seek a new identity; and in the process even defy the gods should that be necessary.

"I rebel therefore we exist."

Towards this conclusion -- All or Nothing, it can be said unequivocally that the Kashmiri militant is an educated man because rebellion is the act of an educated person. Willy-nilly, the quirks of history are strange; alienation may not bring about enough literacy, but it does bring about education. In a wider sense, education generates the spirit and understanding that brings home the realisation that something has to be done to change the status quo. This is the beginning of education.

The Kashmiri militant is unlike a nihilist because of his unflinching faith in Islam. The nihilist is an atheist. Like Sade and Dostoevsky, he does not believe in the existence of God. If there was a God, how could he stand by and watch wicked deeds of man and do nothing about it?

The Kashmiri militant on the other hand invokes the word of God to usher in the morrow. How and why we have come to this state of affairs has been debated and articulated ad infinitum. Every bookstall in Delhi has at least 30 books on Kashmir, dilating upon the political bungling of the past and pontificating on what needs to be done.

Militants consider Sheikh Abdullah's rule to be the starting point of economic and political oppression. The elderly amongst the militants who remember the sheikh's days, are angry and puzzled by his double standards. To begin with, the people had blind faith in him, they believed his rhetoric about Kashmir becoming independent. But this was all double-speak, the militants feel.

Farooq Abdullah completed what his father had started off: amassing wealth for the Abdullah family at the cost of economic development in the valley, and playing into 'Indian' hands by giving up the call of azaadi .

The feeling of oppression is fuelled by two other factors: one, anger at alleged excesses by the security forces (mainly directed against the Border Security Force), two, rampant corruption. Several developmental projects in the districts are lying idle as petty government officials siphon off money. One of the district magistrates of Anantnag is alleged to have amassed Rs 80 million. It is popularly believed that only about eight paise in a rupee is spent on projects; the rest go proportionately into the pockets of corrupt officials, contractors and now the militants. These are not only perceptions but also beliefs. As long as they continue to exist, we are not going to see the early end of militancy. We are in for a long haul despite the presence of a representative government in Srinagar. Because, the task of erasing the imprints of earlier "rule" and rulers is very hard and very slow.

A point that is often lost sight of by politicians, generals and civil servants who are involved in combating militancy is that alienation is not a legal or a political issue; neither is it determined by logic. Rather, it is a matter of the heart. Whether 'oppression' and 'alienation' are real or imaginary is immaterial. It matters little what is right or what is wrong.

What matters is how people perceive something to be right or wrong.

We live today in a world where even morality is negotiable; it is therefore up to the authorities to correct perceptions, redress the wrongs, and where wrongs are big, to atone for them. Only then will they be able to alter beliefs. Till such a down-to-earth approach is adopted, the alienation factor, fuelled by Islamic fundamentalism, will continue its roller coaster ride.

Excerpted from the Kashmir Diary with kind permission from Manas Publications.

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