New York, January 18 (KMS): Rights activists and Kashmiri intellectuals are deeply unsettled over Indian chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat’s statement that Kashmiris could be shipped off to ‘deradicalization camps’, The New York Times reports.

A report published in the American newspaper quoted the rights activists and Kashmiri intellectuals as saying that the General’s words revealed how the highest levels of the Indian military viewed Kashmiri people and that his comments could presage another disturbing turn of events.

The newspaper quoted Siddiq Wahid, a Kashmiri historian, as having said that it was shocking the General would even suggest this. He said, he doesn’t think the General realises the insanity of what he is talking about. He further said that he was concerned about Rawat’s use of the word ‘camps’. “Are we talking about summer camps or one-year camps where you strip people of their identity and rebuild them?” he asked.

The newspaper quoted Noor Ahmad Baba, a professor of political science at Central University of Kashmir, who has studied patterns of radicalisation, as having said that India might now try to crush all political dissent in Kashmir. Baba said, Kashmir is a political issue that needs a political solution, not deradicalisation camps. He maintained that even thinking of a deradicalisation camp is a dangerous precedent. “It is not compatible with the democratic setup,” he added.

Saket Gokhale, a Mumbai-based civil rights activist was also quoted by The New York Times as having said that this was the first he had ever heard of deradicalisation camps inside India. He maintained that there have been outreach programs, but a deradicalisation program is very different from a deradicalisation camp.

Rights activists and Kashmiri intellectuals also said that under the government of Narendra Modi, just about anything – however unbelievable just a few years ago – was possible.

“Modi’s party has been pushing a religious nationalist ideology that critics say favours India’s Hindu majority and deeply alienates its Muslim minority. Just last month, Modi’s government passed a highly divisive law that creates a special path for migrants to get Indian citizenship – if they are not Muslim. Outrage at the law set off weeks of nationwide anti-government protests, which are continuing,” the newspaper wrote.

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