Lolab in Early 90’s
The sight of heavily-armed foreign terrorists almost two decades ago was the common phenomenon in Lolab which provided conducive environment for the terrorists.
The Valley used to thunder with guns and was considered to be a safe haven for the terrorist infiltrating though the Line of Control; such was the dominance of militants in Nineties in Lolab.
From early 90’s onwards till early 2000’s, hordes of battle-hardened militants from Pakistan had turned the Lolab Valley into a sort of liberated zone. More so Pakistani spy agency, ISI and Pakistan army have been putting continuous efforts to revive that deadly phase of militancy in Lolab so that it could act as a nerve center of terrorism in Kashmir. Lolab, a breeding ground of separatist ambitions, has been wrecked by terrorism since 1989. India has repeatedly called Pakistan to end its “cross-border terrorism” in Kashmir resulting into conflict between the militants and the Indian security forces which led to large number of casualties including many civilians who were also targeted by the various separatists groups.
Reasons Causing Mass Support to Terrorism
A major reason behind youth joining terrorism was the lack of economic opportunity which leads to unemployment and frustration. Lolab is experiencing a “youth bulge,” where most of the population is under the age of 35. Sadly, a large section of youth in the Lolab Valley is currently unemployed.
Youth over here have grown up in this adverse environment and have faced tremendous stress. Feeling of desperation, anger and helplessness is largely prevalent among them. The fragile socio-political landscape, affected by continuing violent conflict and instability, has created a deep sense of uncertainty among the local population, particularly the youth.
India Army Wins Hearts and Minds
Winning “Hearts and Minds” of the locals by undertaking a large number of civic initiatives is an integral part of Army’s activity in the state. Stress has been being laid on constructive engagement of youth to mitigate the venom instilled in their minds.
Army, by virtue of its vast organisation and spread in remote places, continues to hold great potential for playing a vital role. Efforts by the army to reach out to the youth have been well appreciated by Kashmiri society. This is an area that needs more traction since it will accrue the best results.
A Healing Step by the Government
The situation demanded an urgent need to engage with the youth and wean them away from the desire to pick up the gun for a non-existent, self-destructive cause. The need to look deeply into the reasons behind the frustration that leads the youth towards pursuing mindless violence and taking all necessary steps to stop the same was addressed systematically.While the Army has played the role of a protector, the Government has launched a number of schemes to provide employment to youth in the state. Infrastructure in terms of schools, colleges, community development centers, ITIs etc has also been established to impart quality education and generate self-employment opportunities. Besides, a good amount of stress has been laid in the field of sports to encourage the young to channelise their energies in the right direction and also pick up sports as a career.
It cannot be denied that the Government is attempting to remain focused on the development issue despite the law and order challenges. Launching of employment generating programs & education have been given priority. More and more students are being sponsored for education in other states to widen the base. The passion that the youth have for games should be leveraged. Searching and nurturing talent should be followed with providing opportunities to compete within the state and in larger platforms.
Support from Locals
The civil society of Lolab has played a vital role in removing the feeling of hatred and frustration that had enveloped the youth of the Valley. Even during revocation of Article 370, people had supported the government and had realized after experiencing peace and prosperity. This is undoubtedly a long term process but a beginning has already been made. Sincere efforts from the people have the potential of further changing the socio landscape of the trouble torn region.
Let’s Keep the Journey Going
The region promoted as safe for tourism and investment with commensurate incentives, publicity and promotion must continue. Government and the Armed forces have already done a lot to serve the people, going out of their way in education and developing local supply sources.
There are miles to go but idea is to create ‘Ease of Living’ in the region hence campaign has to continue at all levels to ensure the peace, progress and development of the region on this ‘Paradise on Earth’.