|Source :NewsBharati Date :26-Jul-2018|
Minister of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijju, has stated in Parliament that there are reports of extremists groups in the country using children for “their nefarious designs to destabilize the state.” In support of his statement, he named the Maoists and more significantly two terrorist organizations operating in Jammu and Kashmir, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Hizbul Mujahideen.
The statement was made in response to a query raised by an independent member of the Rajya Sabha, Amar Singh. The issue is significant but it is not new. Use of children for terrorist activities is as old as terror itself and it has been fine-tuned into a productive practice by the foreign-sponsored terror machinery operating in Kashmir.
The fundamentals of the concept lies in the group of people termed as Over Ground Workers (OGWs) who have, since the advent of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir more than three decades back, been providing logistic support to the terrorist machinery operating in the state. In the early days there was a large network of OGWs, more than double the number of terrorists. They were used for carrying weapons and war like stores from one place to another, for passing information, for providing intelligence about movement of security forces and as porters to carry stores and provisions to terrorist hideouts in inhospitable terrain. The OGWs were a mix of volunteers and those who were compelled into the job due to threats and coercion; they were told that they and their families would be eliminated on refusal to adhere to the terrorist diktat.
Children were particularly preferred for OGW tasks like carrying weapons and ammunition inside their Firrans (the long overalls that Kashmiris normally wear), for carrying messages and also in some cases for planting IEDs and hurling Grenades. In many cases, the innocence of the children was exploited to get them into working as OGWs, but more often, the parents were coerced into making their children perform the given tasks.
Over the years the number of OGWs has decreased drastically since the people are no longer afraid of the terrorists and refuse to be drawn in. The few who are still working are doing so for the vast amount of money that they get for the job.
The exploitation of children, however, has evolved in a more diabolic manner. They are being indoctrinated at a very early age through the medium of Madrasas (Islamic seminaries) and lectures of Mullahs (religious teachers) broadcast from Mosques that have proliferated in huge numbers in Kashmir. The young innocent minds are tuned towards a radical religious thought process which identifies other religious segments as infidels, the Indian state as the enemy and the terrorist as the righteous and God-ordained Mujahedeen. The crop thus created is used for traditional OGW work in the pre-teen age, for stone pelting during teen age and as terrorists once they grow up.
There are countless videos in the net where children are seen shouting anti-Indian and Pro-Pakistan slogans or demanding Azadi (Freedom) that indicate the extent to which this malaise has spread in Kashmir.
The Minister has named only two foreign-based terrorist organisations in his statement. These two organisations are simply the tip of the iceberg. On ground are civilians, politicians holding a separatist ideology, Mullahs and many others spreading this poison with the support of unlimited flow of funds from inimical foreign shores! The use of propaganda, jaundiced literature and verbal diatribe is rampant in the indoctrination process.
Drugs are a potent tool of terrorists and their masters to control the youth of Jammu and Kashmir, especially so, in the Kashmir Valley. Trading posts opened between India and Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir are being used as conduits for the smuggling of drugs despite stringent measures to check their proliferation. Innovative methods like passing the drugs in PVC pipes from under the Line of Control fence are being used. Drugs are also being carried by infiltrating terrorists. According to a United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) sponsored survey, the Kashmir Division alone had 70,000 drug addicts. There are inputs to suggest that the number runs in Lakhs. The problem is acute enough for the Director General of Police of the state, SP Vaid, to emphasise that Drug abuse is a "bigger challenge" in Jammu and Kashmir than terrorism. He goes on to underline that much of the blame for this problem also lies at the door of Pakistan.
Pakistan fully realises that, at this stage, when terrorism is not producing the desired results it is the “youth dimension” that can be depended upon to carry forward the struggle. This resource is now gaining a lethal character that lies somewhere between the terrorist and the OGW. In the use of children and youth for fostering extremism the “establishment” in Pakistan has hit upon a workable plan to give impetus to its evil designs for the Kashmir Valley after a long time; it is not likely to allow the same to die down in a hurry
The Government needs to give top priority to de-radicalisation of the youth in Kashmir and ensure that they do not remain targets for the “nefarious designs of extremist groups” and others who are so well organised to exploit them. The Mullah-Masjid-Madrasa nexus needs to be broken, the forces carrying out anti-India propaganda in Kashmir have to be identified and neutralised and the Drug menace needs to be addressed with urgency. Action needs to be taken to re-channelise the youth on to the mainstream through the medium of better education, sports, rise in awareness levels and job opportunities etc. The parents of these misled youth and the civil society also need to work towards wresting them away from the clutches of disaffection, which would ruin their very lives.
The issue is much bigger than what Kiren Rijju has made it out to be in his statement in Parliament and the Government needs to take quick, decisive action to tackle the same.
(Jaibans Singh is a reputed expert on national security)