Field Trip Report: The Role of Military in Community Peace Building in the District of Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir

  1. Introduction

The purpose of this trip report is to provide a summary of activities on community peace building conducted by the military settling in the district of Baramulla, northern Jammu and Kashmir State. The material was gathered during interviews and meetings with several stakeholders, such as militaries and elementary school teachers working in peace building, as well as with civilians, and university and school students. Baramulla is one of the 22 districts in Jammu and Kashmir. While Uri is a town on the river Jhelum in the Baramulla district, which is very near the de-facto Pakistan border. Uri and Baramulla sub-districts are located in one corner of the Jammu and Kashmir. To get from Srinagar to Uri, it takes a five-hour journey in private operator-run vehicles.

Trends in Jammu and Kashmir suggest that this northern district of India is likely to emerge as a ground for the recruitment and training of terrorist elements. The biggest threat facing Kashmir is terrorism. Given the fact that almost three fourth of the Kashmiri population is under 33 years old, the effort to overcome the possibility of Kashmir emerging as a recruiting ground for terrorists, by recruiting unemployed Kashmiri youths to involve in terrorism, is extremely important. This is especially important in Kashmir where 48 per cent of youth are unemployed.[1] For this reason, apart from building intelligence to tackle the threat, long-term community peace building is imperative to ensure the elimination of joining terrorism among the youth. In addition, an empowered, trained, and skilled youth force can be an important agent for positive change and economic growth, while a frustrated, unemployed youth population can serve as a fuse for violence.

  1. Military and Community Peace Building

The Indian army has been waging a long struggle in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to win over the people, although reports of human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian military personnel are widely cited. The situation in the state is challenging; the army in the process of defending people has emerged as a source of uneasiness and common people distancing themselves from the army have suspected as supporting terrorists. Conventionally, the military has been trained to fight enemies and not for protecting its own population. These situations have created certain trauma among the people in the presence of military. Since the operational dynamics of the military has changed, given the realities in Jammu and Kashmir, community-building program could contribute in addressing the loophole.

However, no other dimension of the Jammu and Kashmir issue requires immediate attention than bridging this gap between the people and military. Because the success or failure of the various peace plans, economic proposals, and strategic doctrines will be determined by the equations shared between the local population and the army personnel. Fortunately, this notion has been viewed by the military in Baramulla as an effective strategy to win over the people. In this process it has experimented with a variety of strategic solutions, one is through community building.

While the strategic significance of this region and certain negative developments have been highlighted in the previous section, there have also been a few positive developments in the last few years. At least two encouraging developments are worth mentioning – decline in militancy and greater gross-LoC movement of divided families. While militancy reached a peak in the late 1990s in this region, in the last few years, it has been gradually dying out. Baramulla is thus, moving gradually towards a post-conflict environment.

Building peace through community building is manifold, such programs as providing neutral meeting place for activities to build trust and cooperation, enhancing participation through public outreach, organize recreational and educational activities, foster informal indigenous mechanisms for dispute resolutions, and  provide resources for community projects among others, are all certain activities that can support and maintain peace in post-conflict environment.

In the aftermath of events precipitating increased tensions and mistrusts between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, the effort on the part of military in Baramulla has been to ensure that the confidence building measures (CBMs) was to be conducted, to eliminate mistrusts among civilians over the presence of military in the regions, and to enable the two entities in creating a semblance of normalcy for their co-existence. Fortunately, the impressive range of community rebuilding initiated by the military in non-military nature has been ensured by events such as festivals, education and youth training, and army recruitment, among others. What are the major achievements of this community rebuilding and how a community building and regional festival can play a role in this will be answered as follows:

  1. Community Building as an Agent of Peace Building in Baramulla
  1. Community Building Trough Education and Youth Training

Uri, the ancient town, has many famous schools and temples. There are twenty higher secondary schools and a government college besides many private institutions; famous among them are Army Goodwill School, New Light Infantry English Medium School Uri, and M.M. Gujral Education Institution. A private school of high reputation named ‘K.A.D.’ is also rendering its service to the people of Uri and Boniyar from last twenty years. There are nearly 100 government schools in the education zone Uri. The earthquake of 2005 destroyed many schools and half of them are yet to be completed besides a time period of 4 years. Army run school is also imparting education to a number of students of the area and is mainly responsible for increase in literacy rate in Uri.[2]

Youth hold much promise for a united Jammu & Kashmir, but if not properly prepared can also be a risk. For this reason youth training institution is critically important. A Youth Employment Guidance Node (YGN) has been established at Army Primary School Boniyar on 9 December 2011 under the aegis of Pir Panjal Brigade. It was inaugurated by General Officer Commanding Dagger Division for the public. With its inauguration for the public it is hoped that YGN will facilitate the local youth to choose and select from the various employment opportunities available and facilitate them on choosing various avenue available for pursuing higher studies at various institutions located all over India.

The facilities available at YGN will facilitate the local Awam, who are ignorant of vast opportunities available because of their isolation and lack of proper infrastructures. YGN has been equipped with modern facilities like free internet access, free registration, coaching, display boards and a library, computer laboratory in preparing for their choicest jobs and higher studies.

According to one of the student sitting in the seventh class, he said that he aims to join the army, and some others who are also following suit, while others are willing to become scientists or to continue their further studies in Bangalore. Interestingly, in 2010, Shah Faisal, the young Kashmiri doctor have topped the IAS examination and is the first candidate from Jammu and Kashmir to have bagged top position in the most coveted exam in the country.

  1. Awami Mela in Uri

As part of the agenda of community building and to reach out to the populace of the border areas, Kalapahar Brigade, in close coordination with the civil administration and various government and non-government, organized Awami Festival (Awami Mela) at Uri. The Mela, which was held on 17 March and 18 March 2012 witnessed a huge gathering of over ten thousand civilians which included the prominent citizens of Uri town, Government officials, locals of nearby villages and school students. The even gave an opportunity to many local and students to know the army and be a part of it. It also gave a stepping platform to many budding local talents who performed in various cultural programs and made the event lively and colorful by showcasing the local and Kashmiri culture and traditional art forms.

The success of the event can be seen from the amount of goodwill brotherhood that has been shown by the awam, who were delighted to see the warmth that has been extended by the army. Furthermore, the success of the event significantly contributes to a greater chance for peace to flourish. The Awam Festival is equally important from the perspective of cementing the ties between the army and local populace. Therefore, using festival is also a very significant and appropriate idea to promote peace in the region and increase trust between civilian and military.

  1. Army Recruitment in Baramulla

Since political turmoil broke out in Jammu and Kashmir in early 1900s, growing unemployment in the region has been assuming disturbing proportions. The turmoil indeed has contributed to the emergence of a large number of jobless people. Tourism and private business sectors, which have hitherto provided jobs for thousands of youth, have badly affected due to conflict. This has led educated unemployed youth to rely heavily on the state government jobs for their subsistence. Unemployment issue thus, becomes one of the biggest challenges of the state government. However, this condition has led a large number of youth, especially those who live in rural areas, to show their interest in joining the Indian army.

Over the years, the changing situations in Kashmir have also forced the change in the youth mindset. Majority of local youth, who have become used to the gun culture in the early years of 1900s, have abandoned violence activities and prefer to build their better future. During the early years of militancy, they refused to join the Indian army, partly because of support given to them by the militant groups to fight against Indian security forces, and partly due to their predetermined belief that Kashmir was under illegitimate occupation of India.

The youth are also wholeheartedly joining the army in the fight against the militants operating in the valley. With the active support of local youth, the Army would be more effective in tackling the militancy in the state. Giving the evidence that during the past years, militants who turned pro-government soldiers have been active in crushing militancy in the state.

  1. Conclusion

Given the facts of the role of the army in the community building for the local people of Baramulla, this peace building initiative will be able to devise strategies for providing security with development to the local population. Community building post-conflict reconstruction would also create space for social and human concerns in the macro politico-strategic perspective of the government of India. This effort may appear a time consuming proposition and long-time investment, but it is time to realize that Jammu and Kashmir is not a traditional theater of war and hence innovative strategies need to be devised for countering the challenge, in which national plan must be ensured to support. Looking into the geopolitical condition of Baramulla, and in terms cross-LoC infiltration and terrorism, the army is still likely going to remain there, and that the people should learn to live with the forces peacefully.

————————————

References

Aslam, Faheem. ‘Unemployment in JK exacerbated by Conflict: Report’, Greater Kashmir            Online: 14 September 2011.

‘Uri, Jammu and Kashmir’, Wikipedia. Accessed from: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uri,_Jammu_and_Kashmir

Alam, Ajmer. ‘Army Establishes Youth Guidance Node at Boniyar’, 9 December 2011. Accessed from: http://armyinjk.blogspot.in/2011/12/army-establishes-youth-guidance-node-at.html

‘Army Establishes YGN at Boniyar’. Newspoint Bureau, 9 December 2011. Accessed from: http://www.jknewspoint.com/index.php/j-a-k-news/32718-army-establishes-ygn-at-boniyar


[1] Faheem Aslam, ‘Unemployment in JK exacerbated by Conflict: Report’, Greater Kashmir Online: 14 September 2011.

[2] ‘Uri, Jammu and Kashmir’, Wikipedia.

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~ by zulkhanip on May 21, 2012.

One Response to “Field Trip Report: The Role of Military in Community Peace Building in the District of Baramulla, Jammu and Kashmir”

  1. Its my village

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