‘Those who can make you believe absurdities,
can make you commit atrocities.’ – Voltaire
The state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has long been plagued by religious radicalization, which has played a significant role in the ongoing conflict in the region. This radicalization has been fueled by a variety of factors, including the support yfrom across the borders from our adversaries, historical grievances, political repression, economic underdevelopment, and a complex web of ethnic and religious tensions. The primary drivers of religious radicalization in J&K have been the long-standing dispute over the region’s status and the propaganda driven fuelled by our adversaries. The state of J&K was initially granted a special status under India’s constitution, which allowed it to maintain a degree of autonomy in matters such as taxation, land ownership, and the administration of justice. However, this special status was revoked in 2019, which has opened the gates for development in the region and provides a ray of hope for the Kashmiri youth.
In the recent past the Terrorist organisations such as Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, have tried to use the revocation of J&K’s special status as a tool to fuel a sense of alienation and anger among the region’s youth and they have orchestrated a series of high-profile attacks on Kashmiri Pandits, Indian security forces and civilians. Another factor contributing to religious radicalization in J&K is the economic underdevelopment of the region. Despite being rich in natural resources, J&K remains one of the poorest states in India, with high levels of unemployment and poverty. This has left many young people feeling hopeless and disillusioned and has made them vulnerable to extremist ideologies. In addition to these factors, the complex web of ethnic and religious tensions in J&K has also played a significant role in driving religious radicalization. The state is home to a diverse array of ethnic and religious groups, including Kashmiri Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs, as well as a significant population of migrants from other parts of India. This diversity has often led to conflict and tension between different communities, with each group vying for political and economic power. Militant groups such as the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and the All Parties Hurriyat Conference have exploited these tensions, promoting a narrow and exclusivist vision of Islam that has alienated many non-Muslims in the region. In order to address the problem of religious radicalization in J&K, it is important to understand the complex array of factors that are driving it. One key step is to address the political grievances of the population by allowing them to have a say in the governance of the state.
The Central Govt along with the Civil Administration and Indian Army has now initiated steps to address the economic underdevelopment of the region, by investing in infrastructure and creating job opportunities for young people. With the initiation of several programs to provide employment opportunities to the youth in Jammu and Kashmir, the overall employment rate has increased exponentially by 22%. The government backed scheme called ‘Himayat’ to provide training and placement to the unemployed youth has proved to be a boon. The job fairs at major towns are also being conducted regularly and the general satisfaction level amongst the youth, is far better than what it was in the past. This has not only provided a sense of hope and purpose for young people, but it has also helped to address some of the root causes of religious radicalization. Finally, it is important to address the underlying ethnic and religious tensions in the region, by promoting a vision of J&K that is inclusive and tolerant of all communities. This can be done through initiatives such as interfaith dialogue and community-building programs, which bring together people from different backgrounds to promote understanding and cooperation.