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‘Can’t win unless you have a counter-narrative in Kashmir’

IANS | New Delhi |

Home-grown militancy is a greater threat than cross-border terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir and only a stronger counter-narrative to jihadi radicalism can defeat it, says a retired three-star general of the Indian Army who has served in the violence-battered state.

Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain, who commanded the Srinagar-based 15 Corps that serves as the nerve centre of all anti-insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley, said India’s counter-narrative in dealing with Kashmir militancy was “very weak”.

Hasnain was speaking on Thursday evening at the launch of a book “She Goes to War: Women Militants of India” by senior journalist Rashmi Saksena.

“The issue is all about the local militancy. Terrorism today is largely driven by funerals of local terrorists. It is reported that when two or three militants are killed, there is a funeral (in which) people turn out in large numbers and within two or four days, 10 terrorists are created.”

Strongly advocating a new counter-narrative to jihadi radicalism in the fight against home-grown militancy in the valley, Hasnain said the approach to kill every local militant was giving an “upper hand” to local militancy.

“You can continue your military operations. You will keep fighting this, for the next 30 years, 40 years. Unless you have a counter-narrative for this, you cannot (win).

“The problem is that we are very weak with our counter-narratives. The idea of how to get the information going, how to get the counter-narrative going and syncing with the people. You have to create a network, situation. And that is how it works.”

He said the solution to violence could only be found by calming down the situation. “Unless you calm the environment, you cannot start a counter-narrative to find peace.”

Hasnain said over 20,000 former militants in the state were also waiting to be integrated into society and promises made to them by the government before their surrender had not been fulfilled.

The decorated former commander said when people give up arms they do so with certain expectations that needed to be met.

“They expect that society will forgive them and will treat them equally. But today, we can see what is happening in Kashmir. Over 20,000 terrorists are yet to be integrated into the society.

“They are still waiting for the fulfilment of promises made to them by the government,” said Hasnain.

He said women can actually become an instrument of peace.

“The role of women in conflict is very important. They play crucial roles in a man’s life. They are mothers, wives, sisters and daughters. All these relations can make sure those men, who have nothing between their ears, do not pick up the gun.”