The tale of a former stone pelter How he got dejected, disillusioned with violence Discusses methods, motivations, mechanisms What the government should do

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I salute JK Police. They are fighting militancy. They are giving very big qurbani

But JK Police do not work smartly

I salute JK Police. They are fighting militancy. They are giving very big qurbani. But JK Police do not work smartly.

They think that by eliminating three, four, five or even 15 militants, they shall be able to eliminate militancy. No. It shall not happen that way. This is a physical war and also a psychological war. It has to be battled as much psychologically as with force. You have to work on the mindset of the boys who get into stone pelting or who get involved with militant networks.  India is fighting such a big war in Kashmir with billions of rupees, but unfortunately no such research has been conducted. The same mistakes are being made over and over again. I know that these mistakes are being made unintentionally. But they are happening. Kashmir is paying a huge price for them. The nation is paying a huge price for them. The game of the mindset is so dangerous. If the police think we will punish the offenders physically, how will they get any output? If the problem is dealt with psychologically, it will be a big achievement. The police think – if we punish a youngster, vo sudhar jaata hai. But some agency should be made accountable for this. Somewhere this study has to be conducted to find out – after punishment, what happened? Kya vo sudhar gaya? The police may beat a youth or torture him. What will they gain?

Many of these boys are teenagers. They get influenced by Pakistan propaganda, by poisonous talk in their environment, by paid ISI agents in their society. In the heat of the moment, they get involved in some anti-social activity like stone pelting. There are many factors which come together to make an innocent boy commit some anti-social activity. The police must see the stone pelters as misguided boys, not as villains. They are part of Kashmiri society. I know we have made mistakes. Our youth have got radicalized. They are misguided by Pakistan’s propaganda. They are misguided by the jihadi preaching by some preachers. But is punishing them the way forward? The Police must work with the mindset to reform these youth, not punish them.

Police approach has not changed

They think that by punishing a youth they shall be able to reform him. After the abrogation of Article 370, we don’t have any large scale stone pelting or violence in Kashmir which will make media headlines. But small incidents keep happening. Stone pelting had become a bimari in Kashmir. It will not go away so soon.
I have seen boys take to stone pelting following some misinformation or rumour. But the police forget that these are innocent boys caught up in the local culture of stone pelting. They are not hardened criminals ki aap un par FIR laga do ya PSA laga do. I know what people think – that how can a stone pelter be innocent? He may not be completely innocent, but he isn’t a hardened criminal either. He is a boy or youngster full of anger because of many factors.

You can’t treat a stone-pelting teenager as a hardened criminal. Police cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach. The gravity of the offence must be understood in the right perspective. You can’t treat a stone-pelting teenager as a hardened criminal. There is need to communicate with them, gently and convincingly reason with them, reform them. In most cases, the opposite is happening. After the standard tough approach adopted by the police, it is rare for boys to go back to a peaceful life. It is important for the police to remember that these boys aren’t habitual criminals. Some rumour spreads in the area. The boys get influenced and charged up, and resort to stone pelting. Gentle, reformative state action and counseling can bring back these boys from the pattern of violent behaviour. If the police is harsh with the boys in jail, they get further hardened. Yahan par 90 per cent militants azadi ke liye nahin ladhne aaye. They came into militancy because they got into the wrong path, and nobody was there to handhold them and correct them. The boys pick up the gun because of so many reasons. They are venting out their aggression. They are venting out their frustration. They do not find any ray of hope that they can survive.

What Modus Operandi After A Stone Pelter Is Released?

I know that police have to engage with a stone pelter even after he is released. Follow-up action by the police is important. But it can be done differently. Even after these boys are released, cops keep visiting their houses again and again. Cops keep asking questions or take away their mobile phone for days together. It can be done tactfully and in a gentle man. The police must not adopt a sledgehammer approach to deal with boys who got involved in wrong activity at some time.

How ISI Hunts For New Recruits In Kashmir

The ISI stooges in Kashmir are on the constant lookout for boys who have been to jail for stone pelting or any related offence. They collect full information on the boy’s background, the sources of family income. If the boy is poor, they send money to his house through some friend, in order to gain sympathy. Later, when the boy is released, they don’t have any difficulty in getting him into their fold. Suppose a youth is an OGW. But an OGW is also part of the society. He has friends. When the police catches him, at times the police also takes away the other boys who were in contact with him. Police do not examine – this boy is a student. If we register an FIR against him, how will it impact him?  Pakistan has paid networks in Kashmir. They build connection with the youth’s family when he is in jail. They build a relation with the family. When the boys come back, the work begins to draw them into militancy.

Most boys who spend time in jail are full of hate. They don’t have any fear in their hearts now. Pakistan makes good on this. When these boys are in jail, Pakistan agents start trapping the boys and their families emotionally by providing them false support. The Police should provide a support system at this time. They should assure the family – we will try to help as much as possible. You all should also try that your son does not get misguided again. Many boys are from very poor families. Their family members don’t have money to meet them. Police can facilitate meetings with family members. When a boy becomes a militant and he is caught in an encounter, the police connect with his family, asking him to surrender so that he is not killed. Why don’t they connect with his family when the boy is in jail? Why do they connect with the parents so late? The poor family members of the stone pelter are tired of running around in courts. The police can provide them some support system, some compensation. The police can make some relation with the family. I keep saying this – please understand. These stone pelters are misguided youth. They are not hardened criminals. If you treat them like hardened criminals, they will become the same.

Why should a boy be slapped with PSA, with FIR? Why so much extra punishment for a boy in his teenage years or in early 20s? When he is released, police should stay connected with him gently. They should listen to his problems. They should give solutions to his problems – that is the road to his reformation. If the family faces mental torture and the boy faces mental torture, it is the best formula to make him pick up the gun. If a boy is dealt with harshly in jail, trust in the system, the trust in the police finishes. The boys know that even if we surrender, again and again they will keep coming back and re-arresting us for one offence or another. I say this because the police did not give a good chance to the boys who surrendered.

You ask some youngsters who have been in jail – what pushed you into militancy. The boy says the police keep visiting him, questioning him, troubling him. With their constant questioning, the police play a highly negative role. This is the bitter truth. The Army strategy has changed. They have a constructive strategy. But the Police keep on re-arresting the same man. That is highly traumatic for any young man who wants to re-build his life. The boys who are arrested for stone pelting face great stress regarding their career after they are released. They think that their career is finished. Now I know that it is not actually finished. A boy can rebuild his life. The police, the state must help him to do so. Otherwise he shall get misguided and lost to militancy.

Pakistan Targets Those Who Want Peace In Kashmir

Pakistan’s maksad is that Kashmir should be constantly disturbed. They do not want any big attack. They know otherwise India will do chadhai on us. But small, local attacks in Kashmir are their strategy. That news runs for four days, then everybody forgets. But the fear quotient remains high. I don’t dismiss the role of Pakistan. Even globally it is known that Pakistan is playing a very dirty and bloody game in Kashmir. Pakistan will not get into a big war with India, because it knows phir India chadhai kar dega. But Pakistan makes sure that the cycle of killings keeps happening, whether the victims are Kashmiris or outsiders. Pakistan constantly wants to give the message ki hum kahin nahin gaye hain. Hum yahin hain.

Anybody who wants peace here – Pakistan finishes them off. If I identify myself, they will not spare me. Anybody who tries for peace, he is killed. The police, the Army sometimes asks such people to speak at platforms. Those people who want peace in Kashmir – they motivate the youngsters not to go on the wrong path. But later the Army or the police don’t care for this man’s security. Then Pakistan gets such people killed.

Everyone Has Self Respect

The Police Must Know How To Deal With People
The Police do not know that indirectly and unintentionally they are creating militancy. The policemen do not know how to deal with people. Everybody has self respect. If a boy gets arrested for stone pelting, the police do not know how to deal with his parents. These things matter. Wahin se kahani shuru ho jaati hai. Then other things come together. Propaganda from Pakistan. Poisoning in the media. Pakistan will keep on doing its dirty work in Kashmir. But it is the responsibility of the police to keep things right. Police represents our nation at the ground level. If you meet any policeman on the road, they don’t know how to talk to people with respect. The police are not bothered about the law. They misuse the law.

MAHARASHTRA ANTI TERRORISM SQUAD DE-RADICALIZATION PROGRAM

Kashmir Needs This Positive Police Intervention Model 

In 2019, I read about a series of news reports in The Indian Express on the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) de-radicalisation programme. The report said that police from Jammu and Kashmir and some other states were studying the possibility of replicating the model. It said that the Maharashtra experiment was being seen as a tangible intervention to draw back misguided youth.  I felt very happy that such a good police intervention model would be implemented in Kashmir. I kept on waiting for it so that aur ladke is bhatti mein na jayen. But the program was not implemented here. In Kashmir, the police is still making the same mistakes that it made 20 years ago.

Maharashtra ATS worked on the roots. They thought – if we punish the boys, it will spread among other Muslim boys. Police can play a very big role in bringing about peace in Kashmir, but they do not do it.  If the Police know how to deal with the boys at the psychological level, many will get reformed. Who needs psychological treatment, who needs firmness – police must know the distinction.

Excerpts From The Report Published in The Indian Express, August 2019

* The de-radicalisation programme of the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad has been able to pull back many youngsters from the edge. According to Maharashtra Deputy Commissioner of Police Dhananjay Kulkarni, the three-year-old programme has “reintegrated” at least 114 young men and six women who were being wooed by IS. The ATS claims to have counselled 200 others, too.

* As part of the de-radicalisation programme, the police turned counsellors and worked with a hastily put-together roadmap with a clearly defined goal.

* At the ATS office, there was no lock-up, just a lot of questions, conversations, and long counselling sessions over multiple days.

* “While my son was with the ATS, I felt he was secure because they treated him like family,” said the father.

* “By the time my counselling got over, everyone became my friends. I have their phone number and I have been in touch with them. I come here quite often to meet them,” said the son.

* For the next 15 days, the youth reached the ATS office at 11 am to “chat” until late in the evening. Sometimes it would be just one officer, at times there would be two or three. “Rather than formal sessions, we made it seem like informal chats. We would chat about his perception of the world. It was more like friends talking over tea,” an officer said.

* At least three officers involved in the counselling said the topics would range from Bollywood to key events in Islamic history.

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