The Goodwill schools that the Indian Army runs in Jammu and Kashmir are essentially ‘preventive radicalisation camps’, India’s newly recruited Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, has told News18 in an exclusive interview.
Explaining his controversial remark at the Raisina Dialogue that young children being radicalised in Kashmir need to be identified and placed in de-radicalisation camps, Rawat once again emphasised the need for ‘preventive radicalisation’.
“Why must you allow a person to be radicalised and then de-radicalise them?” he questioned after being asked if he had reconsidered his position on the matter.
Rawat, however, sought to redefine what he meant when he used the word ‘camp’ for these de-radicalisation efforts. “Camp does not only mean a military camp. The word ‘camp’ can be used in different terms. Open a dictionary and you’d understand,” he said while speaking to News18 at the Defence Expo in Lucknow.
Giving the example of the 46 Goodwill schools, he said not a single child who passed out of them had picked up stones or guns.
“We have got Army Goodwill schools in the Valley. What are these? Why do we run these schools? Is it my task to run schools? Why am I running them? I am preventing some of these children from going adrift and getting radicalised. So you might call it de-radicalisation but I would say it is preventive radicalisation. These are not camps…” he said.
At a panel discussion held mid-January at the Raisina Dialogue, Rawat had stirred up a controversy with his claim that there are de-radicalisation camps in the country and even Pakistan was doing the same.
The CDS had said girls and boys as young as 10 and 12 years were being radicalised in the Kashmir Valley and should be identified, isolated and taken to some camps.
"These people can still be isolated from radicalisation in a gradual way. But there are people who have been completely radicalised. These people need to be taken out separately, possibly taken to some de-radicalisation camps. We have got de-radicalisation camps going on in our country," he had said.
The statement had created panic in the Valley, drawing comparisons to the internment camps being run for Uighurs in China. The government finally had to clarify in Parliament that there was no proposal to set up any de-radicalisation camps in Kashmir.
Rawat, on the other hand, told News18 that the Army’s Sadbhavana Mission in which schools, teachers, families and 'maulvis' take part was also a part of the de-radicalisation programme in the Valley to keep young people away from extremism.
“I get a group of 'maulvis' and send them on a ‘Sadbhavna Tour’ for 15 days. Why pick 'maulvis'? What did you think the 'maulvis' were? You felt that they were possibly the elements which were causing trouble and you wanted them to see the other side of the picture. You wanted them to go around, maybe Ajmer Sharif or Taj Mahal… you wanted them to see various 'masjids' in Delhi and Lucknow. You showed them this and said, ‘yaha bhi aapke jaise maulvi hai. Aap suno unko. Aap kya kar rahe the?’ What was this?" he asked.
Rawat also again claimed that Pakistan runs de-radicalisation camps and he has evidence to prove it.