Niloofar Qureshi

Kashmir and the ‘armed struggle’

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With Tehran once again reiterating its support for the “peaceful struggle” of the Kashmiri people for their ‘right to self determination’, the three decade old question of whether the ‘armed struggle’ is contributing positively to the Kashmir cause has once again cropped up. A reality check reveals that except for Islamabad, no other government in the world supports the ongoing ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir. However, of what use is Pakistan’s support for this ‘armed struggle’ when it has been placed in the ‘grey list’ by Financial Task Force (FATF) for failing to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system!

While Islamabad and the separatists may laud the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir and try hard to give it an aura of legitimacy, the world continues to view militancy as terrorism. Thus, while we are continuously losing our boys in gunfights with security forces, it is most unfortunate that their sacrifices fail to stir the conscience of the international community. What’s even more surprising is that even though our leaders keep complaining about the international community’s apathy towards Kashmir, they aren’t willing to do anything about the ‘armed struggle’, which incidentally is the main issue that is alienating us from the world. When all our leaders unanimously agree that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved by international intervention, isn’t championing the cult of violence suicidal for the ‘K’ cause?

Whether we like it or not but the fact is that those who support the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir haven’t been able to cite even a single benefit that militancy has provided. On the other hand the ‘armed struggle’ has helped India diplomatically. By announcing that terror and talks cannot go together, New Delhi has defended its decision of not entering into dialogue with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue. And by saying that though “talks and terror cannot go together but talks on terror can go ahead,” New Delhi has deftly capitalised on the international community’s disapproval of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir and thus successfully managed to play the ‘victim’ card! The fact that the international community hasn’t pressed New Delhi to give up its obduracy and commence talks with Islamabad only goes to prove that the world seems to agree with India’s contention.

The recent encounter in Hakoora village of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district in which three militants were killed is bound to further alienate the international community. A subsidiary militant group called ‘Ansar Ghazwatul Hind’ (AGH), which is the ‘Kashmir cell’ of Islamic State (IS) has claimed that one of the deceased militant was its cadre. And since the AGH has posted his photograph with this group’s deputy chief Rehan Khan posing in front of an IS flag, the international community would obviously take the claim made by AGH very seriously. And with the IS dimension being added to the ongoing violence in Kashmir, which country or organisation of international repute would like to get involved in the Kashmir issue resolution process?

The separatists and the United Jihad Council (UJC) have already disassociated themselves from the AGH and this is understandable as its chief Zakir Musa (who himself is a former Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander) has openly threatened to execute separatist leaders. Yet what is incomprehensible is the fact that the UJC and separatist leadership despite making claims of enjoying overwhelming popularity and local support haven’t been able to get hold of the errant Musa and his boys. The international community will obviously interpret the presence of an AGH militant alongside Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen district commander Eisa Fazili and his associate when the trio was cornered by security forces in Hakoora village as a clear indication that the Hurriyat and the UJC are hand-in-glove with the AGH and this is something that is extremely worrisome.

The problem with the gun is that it ultimately goes out of control and this is exactly what is happening in Kashmir. Three decades ago when JKLF fighters brought the Kalashnikov into Kashmir they told us that they were waging an ‘armed struggle’ in order to achieve ‘azadi’ (independence) and we were upbeat. Then came the HM which decimated the JKLF in a bloody purge and changed the aim of ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir from independence to ‘merger’ with Pakistan. Once again we warmly greeted the HM and quickly replaced our dreams of ‘azadi’ with the ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ (Kashmir will become part of Pakistan) idea. And now we have the AGH which rejects the HM’s vision for Kashmir and instead wants to convert Kashmir into a ‘Caliphate’ with the radical IS brand of Islam and find people waving IS flags during public protests despite repeated appeals by Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani and other leaders not to do so.

Though our leaders have openly denounced the IS and are confident that this radical terrorist group has no presence or support in Kashmir, the inability of UJC to hunt down Musa only goes to prove that pro IS sentiments are very strong in Kashmir.  And it is most probably the full  confidence that locals will not disclose his whereabouts to UJC and Hurriyat sympathisers that has given  a new comer like Zakir Musa the audacity to threaten veteran Hurriyat leaders with decapitation. When Musa issued this threat, many (including me) were convinced that it was just a matter of time before he was tracked down and ‘punished’ by the UJC. However, since Musa continues to live unscathed and his cadres are freely intermingling with other militants as the Hakoora encounter has revealed, it is apparent that the AGH is rapidly gaining popularity amongst both militant groups and the public in Kashmir.

The sudden transformation of  Zakir Musa who was one of HM supremo Syed Salahuddin’s most trusted lieutenant from a die-hard HM commander to an IS ‘convert’ proves that Kashmiri youth are not immune to radicalisation. With the emergence of fundamentalist groups like the AGH, Kashmir will soon be swarming with ‘bad terrorists’ who could upset the UJC’s agenda and end this militant conglomerate’s monopoly over the ‘armed struggle’. This prognosis may appear farfetched today but it would be naïve to reject it on the grounds that this eventuality is beyond the realms of possibility!

The need of the hour is to get over the habit of wishful thinking and instead act immediately to prevent the scourge of fundamentalism from spreading in Kashmir.

Tailpiece: Three decades ago when the ‘armed struggle’ started in Kashmir, there were many leaders who openly disapproved use of the gun to achieve ‘self determination’ as they were convinced that this would ultimately prove to be a counterproductive proposition. And even though such people were branded as ‘Indian agents’ and threatened with dire consequences, most of them didn’t relent despite being fully aware that they would be killed by militants. Today, seeing the way in which the ‘armed struggle’ is harming the Kashmir cause, one realises the profound wisdom and astute farsightedness of those leaders who opposed this idea and even embraced  death by standing firm on their convictions.

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