The other camp
Nowadays India offers certain moments of sheer bewilderment. The recently anointed chief of defence staff, Bipin Rawat, has always been one of the major suppliers of this experience, but he surpassed himself at the Raisina Dialogues, 2020, an international conference with foreign diplomats and government officials, by claiming that India has deradicalization camps. This is a frightening revelation, if true. Where are these camps and who runs them, the military? Are these camps built on the Chinese model, where Uighur Muslims are allegedly sent in their thousands to be, reportedly, imprisoned and tortured in the name of vocational training? Or is the CDS talking through his much honoured hat? There have been efforts at deradicalization in central India where extremist groups were active, with the police talking to the community and so on. But that was not what the CDS was saying. For he singled out Kashmir as the site of radicalization, claiming that even children of 10 or 12 have been radicalized there, and the radical elements would have to be ‘sent’ to deradicalization camps. There can be little misunderstanding on this score: while the Narendra Modi-led government, with boring predictability, remained silent, the director general of police, Jammu and Kashmir, was quick to assert what a good thing deradicalization camps would be.
This is not just bewildering, but terrifying on a number of points. If detention camps are being built, why not deradicalization camps? They would just be two sides of the same piece of silver. The bigger issue is that the CDS’s assumption that Kashmiris are radicalized is a form of profiling apparently being made by the State, since it is being articulated by the CDS at an international conference. Yet it is from Hyderabad and places in Kerala that the greatest number of people are known to have left to join the Islamic State; while some were stopped from leaving and subsequently counselled, others left and a few even died in battle. The reference to Kashmir alone in the context of radicalization is deliberate and ominous. But the biggest question is this: why is the CDS making these statements? Since when is a general deciding what is to be done with civilians? Perhaps the Modi government should think once more about the purview of the CDS.