by Zahid Iqbal Shah
The battle of Badar was the first and the most critical battle in the history of Islam. The importance of Badar can be understood by the fact that even Hazrat Abu Bakar (RA) while supplicating said, “Oh Allah, if this group of people loses the battle today, Islam will be wiped out forever.”
There was an imbalance of soldiers and arms in the battle, and Allah had to send angels to help the Prophet and his companions. If Muslims would have lost the battle, Islam would have been wiped out from the earth forever and the children and women of Muslims enslaved, as per the tribal rules. Even at such a critical juncture when the very survival of the nascent Ummah was at stake, the Prophet refused to recruit children for the battle.
The situation in Kashmir is very bad, but definitely not as bad as Badar. The militancy in Kashmir was never supported so openly and explicitly as it is today. When hundreds of unarmed people are ready to die for a single militant, then under what extraordinary circumstances were a 14-year-old kid recruited and given a gun?
Nobody can deny the right to struggle for self-determination of Kashmiris. If militancy is the rational means of struggle in Kashmir context or not, that’s a debatable question but unfortunately, it is a fact that militancy is being seen as the most effective means of resistance in Kashmir. The argument goes that it was only because of militancy Kashmir issue has received whatever little attention it has received on the international forum.
Indian state and media have always propagated that Kashmiri militants are brainwashed by Pakistan. After Burhan Wani’s rise, the new narrative propagated by India media was that young boys in Kashmir are brainwashed in the name of religion. The “analysts” employed by different arms of the Indian state came up with different theories – from the allure of seventy-two virgins to lack of employment opportunities – to explain the rise of “new militancy”.
As the insurgency unfolded in time, the aforementioned phantasmagorias of the Indian think-tanks were falsified by the events. When Dr Rafi joined militancy, although he did not survive for more than two days, it was enough to nullify this propaganda. None could say that a university teacher with a doctorate and more than twenty research papers were brainwashed and unemployed.
Besides, Mannan Wani through his writings was extremely successful in differentiating between a religiously brainwashed militant and a soldier who fights for freedom.
It can be argued that Dr Rafi and Mannan, being so intellectually rich could have contributed better through other means. Unlike the 1990s the life of a militant is very short in Kashmir these days, but none can question decision as they were intellectually more sound than most of us and adults too. One can argue that irrespective of consequences, their individual decisions of joining the militancy were conscious and calculated. Although they did not survive for long they definitely were successful in changing narratives about Kashmir militancy forever.
But one wonders how useful a 14-year-old kid is to the tehreek? Can a young boy, who is just 14, take a conscious and individual decision with ramifications of life and death? Can this decision be regarded as rational? Could he comprehend the political or religious dynamics of the Kashmir conflict? Ignoring all these things one might question how useful can a teenage boy with a gun be to the tehreek?
Most of the militants operating in Kashmir today are ill-equipped and without any proper arms training; at this point, it is difficult to understand the rationale of recruiting a young kid like Mudasir of Hajin.
Recruiting a young boy in such circumstances to fight one of the world’s largest militaries doesn’t seem a rational decision. Such irrational and absurd decisions only end up providing more fodder for the great Indian propaganda machine.
If we criticize India of being brutal for blinding children and non-combatants, then the same rules should apply to the other side as well. Dragging an untrained and immature kid into the battle is as bad as torturing him. All those people who celebrate the act of a young kid joining militancy and then glorify his death should visit his home. They should stay there in the shed in which his family lives, for a few days and feel the pain of his parents.
When one claims to be just, he should be totally differentiable from the other. If we claim that the militancy in Kashmir is indigenous and for the people of Kashmir then we have to be more sensitive towards the social dynamics of the conflict. States are always brutal in nature and while fighting a state if the other party is not sensitive towards the native population, it turns into a civil war. None can ever deny the struggle for the right to self-determination of Kashmiris, but the question is: can we ignore the means for the end? And if we do ignore the means for the sake of the ends, then what is the difference between the oppressed and the oppressor?
Although, we are, by default, all of us, part of the conflict but,is neither moral nor rational to drag an under-aged kid or a lone bread-earner of the family into active resistance, at least not from the side which claims to be just and right.
There is another aspect of this phenomenon. Most of the time, it is the authorities with their coercive apparatuses – the police, the black laws, etc. that force young people and even kids to take the path of violence.
Even for the state that has forced one of the most totalitarian military set up, is it justified to slap a small child with PSA, lock him up in a police station, and beat him under the jackboots?
And, when the same kid joins the ranks of the militants to evade further arrests and torture, he is executed in a faux gun battle. Kashmir might be an open war zone but there are some rules that both sides would do good to follow.
And, although, I do not expect the state to change its DNA, I do hope that the people who are the decision-makers within militant groups will reconsider the whole idea of recruiting kids to fight the Goliath.
(The author is a student of Political Science at the University of Kashmir. Ideas expressed are personal.)