Acts of violence are a tool to justify political and theological ambitions. History has a precedent for it. Many documented battles over time periods show this repetitive fact. Various events of history highlight the above proposition. The expansion of Rome, The Crusades, the continued invasion and conquest of India, the Spanish Inquisition and the World Wars are such seminal moments in human history.
These episodes of war and carnage were fought between empires and nations. But there have been secret brotherhoods, assassination orders, rogue militias and mercenary bands with political and religious ambitions hiding behind the shadows. To pursue and propagate their ideology into the mainstream or to hold on to existing positions of power, these agents of chaos create unrest and brew political turmoil in countries of interest.
Post the creation of nation states, these bodies have taken new shapes. Like old wine in a new bottle, they have spruced up in the form of spurious non governmental organisations and terrorist organisations. The agenda by the NGOs is carried out through social outreach programs, judicial activism and being a part of policy decisions. But radical proponents of an ideology take to violence and intimidation to get their point across. They use acts as of terror as a symbol of their political and religious goals.
The terror outfits that rose to prominence in the 1970s had politically motivated goals. They centred around the idea of secession and bringing in a different system of governance. The activities pursued by these groups involved attacks on government installations, stalling of developmental projects and assassination of political leaders. These groups wanted the world to sympathise with their cause. This enabled them to find benefactors to provide political and financial support.
This phenomenon of terrorist and radical groups espousing socialist and nationalistic causes in different walks of life was not limited to any geographical area. It was an international crisis with country specific ideological goals by home grown terrorist modules. The Ku Klux Klan in the United States, the Irish Republican Army in the United Kingdom, socialist terror outfits functioning inside countries under the Soviet influence, the Naxals and the insurgent groups in the North Eastern India all of them are cut from the same cloth.
The Iran-Afghanistan war in 1978 and the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union the following year vitiated the peace and stability of the region. A decade long invasion opened a path to radical Islamic groups to make their presence felt in the region. Trained by the ISI in Pakistan, the mujahideen under the command of Afghan warlords came under a single umbrella called the Taliban. This final gambit of the Cold War won by the United States saw Afghanistan ravaged. The battle hardened fighters indoctrinated in the ideology of jihad were used by Pakistan to fight and create unrest in Kashmir after the Khalistan movement was quashed by the Indian government.
Meticulously planned, terrorism was used as a tool to foment political unrest in Jammu and Kashmir . The seeds though for the seventh and latest exodus of the Kashmiri Pandit community were sown during the sixth exodus in 1931. The perpetration of the exodus under the aegis of Muslim Conference was led by Shiekh Abdullah along with the Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu Kashmir. Post Independence, Article 370 was introduced at the behest of Shiekh Abdullah to have a separate constitution. This tacitly allowed them to frame rules that enabled them to propagate their ideology.
Unabated and unchecked, the power amassed by the political parties from the Kashmir valley let the geopolitical incidents affecting the backyard of the Indian subcontinent to shape the local and international politics. Mujahideen trained by the Pakistani army and fresh off fighting a war in Afghanistan were let loose in the Kashmir Valley and districts of Jammu. This quest of establishing an Islamic rule in Kashmir and making it a territory of Pakistan was aided by the locals.
The question to be asked is why and how did the locals get involved in the jihad? With Article 370 of the Indian Constitution shielding the parties at the helm of governance in Kashmir, they turned the state into a bureaucratic fiefdom. On the sly, they policies they built favoured the majority Muslim community. The minorities of the state were the serfs for the elite. The political atmosphere in the state enabled them to create and pursue the radical Islamic ideology in the state following the example of Afghanistan.
The war imposed on Afghanistan by the Soviets ravaged the country, the economy was decimated and its liberal society was destroyed. With no formal government, the space was ceded to the Afghan warlords. With the religion acting as a glue to bring them together and pursuing them to a follow and radical form of Islam considered by them to be puritan saw the deterioration of society. Osama bin Laden made his name as a dreaded terrorist during this time. Gaining brownie points by supplying money, ammunition and fighters to the cause, he went on to build his own terror organisation the Al-Qaeda responsible for some of the deadly terror attacks in the world.
With the war coming to an end and the Taliban becoming the de facto government in Afghanistan, the mujahideen did not have much work to do. These mujahideen not affiliated to either Taliban or the Al-Qaeda were pushed towards the international border in Jammu and the LoC in Kashmir. The Pakistani Army and Intelligence services provided the logistical support to these terror groups that were formed after the infiltration of the mujahideen. Like minded criminal entities across the nation collaborated with these terror organisations across the border to carry out dastardly attacks. The blasts that rocked Bombay and the conscience of the nation in 1993 brought these links to the fore.
Taliban applying its radical form of Sharia on its citizens banned everything good in life. Music, art, literature, history, discourse and individual freedoms suffered as a right. With this hedonistic approach taken by the ruling Taliban, the economy was brought to a standstill. Industry was destroyed. To overcome this situation, they began trade in narcotics and armament. All industry within the country depended on this single source. They made money from the sale of narcotics and few small arms and used it to buy much better ammunition to continue their reign of terror.
There is often an perception that poverty makes people pick up the gun. I vehemently disagree with argument. All the heads of various terrorist organisations and members in leadership roles of these outfits come from educated backgrounds. They are engineers, physicists, communication experts, economists, mechanical designers, web designers, IT professionals that aid them carrying out different verticals enabling them to extend their reign of terror.
People though educated, living under the yoke of a tyrannical rule have no job prospects. With local industries shut down, foreign investment is the only way of creating industry and gaining employment. But the volatile political atmosphere prevalent in the country discourages investors. They fear for the safety of their employees. With scientific and holistic education replaced with the study of the Quran, there are no job prospects for the future generation on the horizon. It makes it easy for the terror outfits to lure young impressionable minds and indoctrinate them into the radical Islamist ideology in exchange for money. As this money helps them feed their families.
This model of terrorism and governance was to be replicated in Kashmir. The separatists and hardline Islamic elements contesting elections in the 1987 State elections of Jammu and Kashmir vitiated the already volatile political atmosphere in the state that was build up after the 1975 Social Accord. Communal fault lines were being quietly drawn. The push of the battle hardened militants coming off a war in Afghanistan was the spark that set the powder keg alight.
The Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Jamaat-e-Islami and like minded organisations were opposed to further integration of the state with India. With radical and hardline elements taking control of the narrative, activities to intimidate the minorities were on the upswing. The nuanced progression of such activities culminated in the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits on January 19, 1990. It was the beginning of a series of horrific massacres across Jammu and Kashmir.
With the demography of the geographical area changed, it became far easier to push the radical Islamic ideology. With tacit support from the political parties and nepotistic bureaucracy, the separatists supported by the Pakistani authorities aided the terrorists operating in the region. Providing them with logistical and monetary assistance they terrorised the minorities in the state. Later, they staged coordinated attacks on civilians and security personnel.
Along with challenging the security apparatus, the life of the ordinary citizen was disrupted. Apart from trans-LoC trade that put in money to fund terror activities, the local economy was destroyed with continuous shutdowns forced by the Hurriyat and other outfits under its umbrella. The terrorists in the name of a fighting a political battle burnt down private schools and kept students away from education. Ruled under a separate constitution, the state did not allow anyone from outside the state to hold any land. This dissuaded companies and industries from setting up shop there.
With lack of job prospects for the youth in the valley and any educational opportunities, the separatists and terrorists have created an economy around terrorism. Investigations into hawala transaction that fund terror in Jammu and Kashmir by the investigative agencies Enforcement Directorate and National Investigation Agency have uncovered these links. There are rate cards for stone pelting, lobbing grenades and for joining terrorist organisations.
What happened in Afghanistan, happened in Kashmir. Tailored to suit the local demands and lure in the local youth. But there was one difference between Afghanistan and Kashmir. The mujahideen in Afghanistan were the defenders of the country against the oppression of the Soviets. Only after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan did their barbarism come to the fore! In Kashmir, with democratically elected governments the paramilitary forces and armed forces were put in action.
But did the world learn its lesson? It seemed to have skipped by the United States of America. In 2003, America along with its allies invaded Iraq on the pretext of Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction. One of the first steps taken by the invading forces was that of disbanding the Iraqi army. The Arab Spring of 2011 complicated the geopolitics of the Middle East. The ongoing Syrian civil war only exacerbated the flared up region.
With large swathes of land losing the status of nation states due to the unrest, it was easy for the upgraded version of the Taliban commonly known as ISIS or Daesh take Syria and Iraq. Under the leadership up of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi they set up a caliphate in a region where economy and civil liberties were under siege. The Islamic State trampled down hard on the last vestiges of any of the remaining freedoms and liberties. They imposed rules of the medieval era society in the 21st century. They rigidly advocated the following the Sharia as it was followed in 7th century CE.
The mass killing of Yazidi men and enslaving Yazidi women in Sinjar and treating them as sex slaves and parading them as cattle to be sold in the market square presented their antediluvian mindset. In an approach that is dichotomous they propagated their ideology in a tech savvy manner. Using digital tools they marketed and spread their ideology across the world. They created literature to indoctrinate and posted DIY kit information on making bombs and carrying out lone wolf attacks. Their ideology attracted followers from countries across the world. It was not limited to the Islamic world. People from rich and developed European countries to citizens belonging to financially lower strata of society went there as fighters. Teenage girls traveled to Syria after being radicalised to become jihadi brides. The countries from the Western world had a higher ratio compared to the rest of the world.
We can determine studying the following theatres of terrorism that there is a definite pattern to terrorist campaigns. Firstly, the demographics of the area must be compatible to be indoctrinated to their ideology. The ideologues prey on the people to make the local population their foot soldiers. Secondly, education is a not a determining factor in people choosing to become a terrorist. The indoctrination and radicalisation can brainwash the most educated of people. The ISIS rule in Syria or arrests of ISIS modules prove that in a comprehensive manner. Terrorists through their campaign of jihad destroy the economy and industry of the area to keep people poor to ensure that the vicious cycle of violence does not come to an end.
The push back to break the cyclical process of continued terrorism is to weaken the strangle of the terrorists in the region. Then engage in capacity building of resources and human capital to steer them away to a more promising life. Whitewashing terrorists of their crimes by media organisations painting them as austere scholars and father figures aids in creating sympathy for these dreaded criminals. And thus enable the cycle to continue.