Niloofar Qureshi

Respecting the “Blood of our Martyrs”

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One fine September morning in 2017, residents of Shopian woke up to find the streets lined with posters denouncing former Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Zakir Musa who had quit and become chief of an Al Qaeda affiliate called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGuH) by calling him an “Indian agent.” Accusing him of “helping Indian forces kill Kashmiris,” these posters written in Urdu mentioned that “This traitor (Zakir Musa) is creating different outfits in league with the government. Initially, he was part of Hizb and thereafter, he joined hands with the Government of India. He even termed Hurriyat wrong.” The posters also carried an appeal cum instruction that “wherever you find him, kill him”! Though no organisation took responsibility for these posters, the finger of suspicion was pointed at HM.

Just a month later, this apprehension proved to be correct when Syed Sadaqat Hussain,the spokesperson of United Jihad Council (UJC), an umbrella organisation coordinating the activities of various militant groups fighting in Kashmir gave a similar statement to local news agency CNS. Hussain claimed that “Using the façade of Zakir Musa, a new Ikhwan (armed pro-government vigilante group) is being created in the name of ISIS and Al Qaeda for the past several months.” He went on to add that “Paid Indian agents are being recruited for this brigade. They are being hailed by Indian media and impression is given these paid agents are the real heroes of the Kashmir freedom struggle.”

At that time there were good reasons to believe the ‘Indian agent’ theory because Musa had hit out at both militant groups as well as the Hurriyat and not even spared Pakistan. In a video message, he had outrightly rejected HM ideology by making it clear that "Nationalism and democracy are not permissible in Islam. When we pick up stones or guns it should not be with this intention that we are fighting for Kashmir…the sole motive should be for the supremacy of Islam so that Shariah is established here.” He also issued a warning to the separatist conglomerate saying that "If Hurriyat has to run its politics it shouldn’t be a thorn in our way, otherwise we will chop off their heads.”

The rift between AGuH and UJC become even more pronounced thereafter and with HM militant commanders being killed by security forces with extraordinary precision in rapid succession, the suspicion that Musa’s outfit was providing this information gained credibility. Now it’s almost certain that it was AGuH that passed information to security forces that led to the killing of firebrand HM commander Yaseen Itoo during an encounter in Awreena area of Shopian on August 13, 2017. Itoo was one of the few who had the courage to publicly chastise Musa for “sowing the seeds of discontent” by “challenging the legal and historic nature of Kashmir conflict” and probably this is what may have made Musa think of Itoo as “a thorn in the way” that needed to be ‘removed’.

Similarly, even though an unknown militant group calling itself Mujahideen Taliban-e-Kashmir claimed responsibility for passing information to security forces that led to the killing of HM commander Sabzar Bhat. However, the explanation that they did so since “he was coming in the way of Kashmir’s Islamic struggle” leaves little room for doubt that this was also the handiwork of AGuH. And then came the cold-blooded murder of senior Hurriyat leader Mohammad Yusuf Rather who was shot dead by two co-passengers inside a vehicle. In an audio message, Musa himself took responsibility for having ordered this killing. By saying that "The assassins are enjoying the full support of their sponsors and a territory which is controlled by seven lac people roaming with lethal weapons, can never be a safe place for people like Rather,” the joint resistance leadership (JRL) of the Hurriyat once again hinted that the AGuH chief was an “Indian agent.”

After Musa was killed in an encounter with security forces, the JRL and UJC maintained a stoic silence on this important development for nearly 24 hours. However, a day after Musa’s death, the JRL surprised everyone by announcing a shutdown to protest against his killing.  And though the UJC had branded Musa as an “Indian agent” just 18 months earlier, but after his death, CNS mentioned that its chief Syed Salahuddin paid rich tributes to the AGuH chief and said that “despite having differences with his ideology, Musa fought against the government forces and preferred martyrdom over surrender for sake of freedom and Islam.”

Tailpiece: For a person who had declared that “I am fighting for freedom for the sake of Islam; my blood will spill for Islam and not for a secular state," to be given the honour exclusively reserved for their freedom fighters by the Hurriyat and UJC is perplexing. And while one doesn’t know the exact reasons for this intriguing anomaly, but it’s certain that none our martyrs would have ever shed their blood for the skewed cause that Zakir Musa stood for?

Let’s respect the blood of our martyrs!

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