No Captain Amrinder Singh, ‘Radicalisation’ is not a Drug Habit, You can’t send boys to ‘camp’ for it.

It is naive to think that De-Radicalisation camps is the solution to the problems of Punjab. The plan to start these camps reflects the congress ruled Amrinder Singh headed govt’s inefficiency. Read on the Exclusive.

Captain Amrinder Singh has suggested that boys in Punjab influenced by “radicalisation” ought to be “put in de-radicalisation camps”. His views have since been echoed by the director-general of police Dinker Gupta.

Before reminding Captain about the laws, it can be said that this proposal betrays a poor understanding of the phenomena of both radicalisation and de-radicalisation. I wonder how Amrinder Singh proposes to read the subconscious mind of children and determine their ‘degree of radicalisation’ before he forcibly packs them off to de-radicalisation camps. Unless he wants to do that based on what one likes or posts on social media which not only reflects his poor intellect but also makes a mockery of Punjab Intelligence Bureau.

Etymologically, the word radical comes from the Latin radix-radicis meaning ‘root’. According to the Concise Oxford Dictionary, the word radical means affecting the foundation, going to the root; seeking to ensure removal of all diseased tissue. The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as believing or expressing the belief that there should be great or extreme social or political change. The dictionary opposite is ‘conservative’.

As such, there is nothing problematic or illegal about being radical or radicalised. A similar misconception exists among counter-terrorism strategists regarding the word “fundamentalism”. The Niagara Bible Conference (1878–1897) had used the word fundamentalism first when it defined certain things that were fundamental to belief.

In general, George M. Marsden defines it as a “deep and totalistic commitment” to a belief in, and strict adherence to a set of basic principles (often religious in nature), a reaction to perceived doctrinal compromises with modern social and political life. Once again, there is nothing objectionable in it.

Wahabism, criticised for its ‘fundamentalism’, happens to be the state-sponsored form of Sunni Islam in Saudi Arabia and that nation is not a terrorist state. Thus, Wahabism per se, cannot be synonymous with terrorism. Still, Western prejudices result in scholars like Ira Lapidus sweeping that the West may not like at some point of time inside the rubric of fundamentalism. There is no universally accepted definition of radicalisation either.

People talking of simplistic solutions like de-radicalisation camps do not understand that if somebody were prepared to die a horrible death, resisting the temptation of a comfortable family life and everything that he cherished, obviously something more powerful than the picture of Jarnail Bhindranwale is at work. We have to address that.

“Nothing comes close to a non-remedy to fight the menace of terrorism than our latest gimmick—‘the terrorists have been brainwashed, so let’s read to them another narrative’. Anyone who believes that those committed to a cause deeply enough to blow themselves up could be ‘reprogrammed’ by a mantra, obviously has no idea what ‘de-radicalisation’ entails.” This statement by former ISI chief puts all the terrorism experts to think about these camps.

General Bipin Rawat received criticism from all corners when he suggested the de radicalisation camps for Kashmir. Obviously nothing could justify the word ‘radicalisation’ and its context back then as well.

So what is happening in Punjab and why?

Complex problems demand complex solutions. Let us not run away from grappling with that complexity.

Yes that’s what is happening in Punjab. Captain is running away from the complex problems of Drug Abuse, illicit alcohol industry, the water table issue, poor agricultural policies, slow exodus of Punjabis, falling numbers of majority community, unemployment of the highest %age in years.

I’m not blaming captain entirely for what he is doing, we are collectively responsible for what moves he takes. Captain is milking on the narrative of ‘either or’ which has unfortunately taken a high ground in India at the moment. The popular narrative along with supporting laws like UAPA is enough to call out anyone as a terrorist if he/she doesn’t agree to a certain defined narrative.

Let’s take example of few arrests and subsequent releases in Punjab recently which are a slap on the face of Punjab police and please note these are the factors to push the idea of De radicalisation camps.

A boy watches a YouTube video on ‘Sikh Struggle in 90s’ and drops his comment. The boy is arrested within a week for being ‘radicalised’.

Another boy aged 24 is arrested for putting up his display picture that Police thought was outrageous and he could possibly have terror links. Punjab police has also set up a social media team to monitor the likes and shares that Sikhs make.

I normally don’t believe the left platforms on their reporting but I decided to fact check this one report by Caravan which said that ANI has created multiple Sikh accounts in Punjab to push the message of Khalistan or extremism to attract people and report the rise in radicalism. On deeper inquiry and conversation with a social media monitoring agency in Chandigarh, it was revealed that fake accounts with ‘Kaur’ and Singh have emerged. These accounts are majorly created on Facebook and Twitter. 98% of these accounts do not have any original posting but tend to share and tag multiple other accounts on propaganda. It cannot be said who operates this army of anon accounts but there should be no surprises that this comes after social media team of Punjab police has been action.

What are the alternatives?

De-Radicalisation takes place all the time. From my experiences on Kashmir I know with most certainty that people do leave the terror groups voluntarily as well and it doesn’t happen just because they happened to watch Kardashians or how good life is on the outside. The concept is so problematic that it doesn’t distinguish between an actually guilty person with intent to blow up and someone who is merely a historian or is interested in learning about terrorism. Of course arresting people based on what they read in Ardaas is not going to help. There is no clear solution to it but some things can be of help to Captain in the longer run

State run initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship and hence reduce the unemployment, methods to stop the brain drain from Punjab, control and effective measures to curb drug abuse. These solutions can go a long way in helping Punjab govt than the concepts of De radicalisation which are merely political tools to keep Delhi in the dark and milk the national sentiment in the name of ‘terrorism’

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