It is said that “An idle mind is devil’s workshop”. This saying holds ground much more in Kashmir than any other state of India. The most obvious rationale is Pakistan inflicted terror. When the youth have little or no education and fewer opportunities for good jobs, the mindset can be easily steered towards destructive activities. This kickstarts a chain reaction, much like a nuclear reactor. The terrorism inflicted by Pakistan has effects in varying degrees, starting from the direct impact of destruction and bloodshed to long lasting impacts on the mental state of Kashmiri Awam.
The period of Kashmiri turmoil can be broadly classified into three phases. The first phase was at beginning of insurgency in Kashmir in 1990s when foreign terrorists were sent to influence more and more youth to join militancy ranks and glorify the concept of freedom. Pakistan was successful at exfiltrating a large number of Kashmiri youth across the Line of Control(LoC) into the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, to train, radicalize and recruit them in rebellions against India. Easily the 1990s were the worst period in Kashmir since independence, accounting for 2/3rds of the violence, turmoil and bloodshed. Kashmiri Pandit’s were attacked and AFSPA was implemented. Pakistan however began training camps in POK, some of which are still operational today, undertaking to train anyone who joins the ranks of militancy. Such a step saw an extreme rise in youth picking up arms and were venerated as “Mujhaheed” which means “ one who fights Jihad (Holy War)” Such apalling glorification further glorified terrorism. Least amount of emphasis was given to education and jobs which took Kashmir back in terms of progress. However due to constant efforts of Indian Army some stability was restored to the region which saw a massive declinel in recruitment in the valley by the end of 1990s.
The second phase was in the millennial era of 2000s, when terrorism in the valley was at an all time low and Kashmir prospered with the help of Indian Army’s pilot project Op Sadhbhavna which was launched in 1998 and continues to engage the youth in better , more constructive ways, and continues to do so till date. Figuratively speaking, an increasing number of youth took up higher education and settled in good jobs, as compared to the 1990s.
In the third phase a key factor which shaped the dynamics of Kashmir was when likes of Burhan Wani joined the ranks of Hizbul Mujahideen in 2010 and became the face of militancy in Kashmir due to his reach on social media. He glorified militancy and Kashmir saw a surge in youth leaving education and jobs to get recruited. The third phase also saw an increasing number of individuals who were well educated, had good jobs or were from a wealthy family like Zakir Musa(Engineering student in Chandigarh), Eisa Fazili, Rafiq Bhat and many more. Which leaves us with a blaring questio What is the motive behind joining militancy ranks, which leads us back to the after effects of the First and Second phase? Many of these individuals joined the ranks after Burhan Wani glorified the freedom concept and also due to one-sided false narrative which sees the Indian Army as the enemy and perpetrator of atrocities on Kashmiri people. However, the trend is reversing fast.
As a major initiative, Op Sadhbhvana (Goodwill) was launched by Army in 1998 which aimed at “Winning the hearts and minds” of the people. Many schemes and initiatives under Op Sadhbhvana were launched such as infrastructure development, medical care, women and youth empowerment, educational tours and sports tournaments. Over 450 Crore Rupees have been directly spent under this Project. Sadbhavna’s projects are planned with the aim to get Indian army closer to the people, develop mutual trust and customized as per the needs and requirement of the people.
Major initiatives launched under Op Sadhbhvana are as follows,
In 2013, the Indian Army teamed up with the New Delhi-based NGO, Centre for Social Responsibility and Leadership (CSRL) and launched a coaching class for intelligent students to help them crack JEE and enter into IIT. The concept was similar to one started by Abhayanand in Bihar. The initiative was highly successful and subsequently changed to Super 40. In 2016-17 nine students of Super 40 cleared the difficult exam of JEE. Following this success the batch will be expanded to Super 50. These batches are funded by donors including Tata Relief Committee.
The Indian Army has established 53 English medium Army Goodwill Schools scattered throughout Jammu and Kashmir. Assistance has also been provided to approximately 2700 public schools. These army schools are known to provide uninterrupted and superior quality education even during times of unrest. Army Goodwill Schools operating under the shadow of operation Sadbhavana, are educating more than 10,000 students in the Kashmir Valley itself and over 14,000 students in Jammu and Kashmir.
Here women are taught various skills, awareness is raised about health and birth control, information regarding banking and loan procedures is imparted, basic education is imparted including operating computers, fashion designing and craft related skills.
Between 2012 and 2015, the Indian army conducted over 250 educational, national integration and capacity building tours (CBTs) and in each tour around 30 members are accommodated. The members of the tour get to visit places such as Punjab, Dehradun, Kerala, Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Gopalpur, Agra and New Delhi which makes each tour being unique in its own way. The students also get to interact with students of other states, administrative and government officials, which sometimes also includes the President and Prime Minister as well as other prominent figures. For many of the Kashmiri children on tours, they get the opportunity for the first time to travel outside Kashmir.
Medical Camps are conducted on a regular basis by the Indian army. A Military Hospital in Kargil has also been set up which also caters to civilians with various services being free of cost. The Pritam Spiritual Foundation (Poonch) under Operation Sadbhavana has provided artificial limbs free of cost to over 3100 people who have been victims of militancy, mine blasts or cross-border firing. Under operation Sadbhavana veterinary aid camps and free treatment to civil animals are also offered.
The Indian army organises various sporting events in Jammu and Kashmir in coordination with local sports bodies. Some events that have been conducted under this initiative includes the Kashmir Premier League, Baramulla Girls Badminton League, Baramulla Cricket Premier League, Kupwara Premier Football League, Gingle Volleyball League.
On September 2014, Jammu and Kashmir witnessed severe flooding in many areas. The rainfall and flooding resulted in loss of lives on both sides of the border. Indian Army was deployed to conduct search, rescue, relief (NDRF and other local bodies also coordinated efforts). Nearly 30,000 troops were deployed. By mid-September, over 200,000 people were rescued by the Armed forces.
The efforts of the Indian Army have made Kashmir peaceful in many ways. The effect of projects like Op Sadhbhavna can be seen as less and less youth are joining militant ranks and more youth are willing to join the Army. Local people have noticed the positive impact of a peaceful state on the economy and the upgradation of lifestyle. Such targeted and unperturbed efforts can eventually make Kashmir the tourism capital of India and simultaneously better the life of locals as a society.