Niloofar Qureshi

Kashmir: Tough Times Ahead!

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

For the last three decades, living in Kashmir hasn’t been easy because ‘azadi’ (independence),which we were told is “just around the corner” would be achieved soon through what was called ‘armed struggle’. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen and this struggle is going on even today. And just when the people had learnt how to live in warlike situations, the pluralistic religious beliefs and tolerant Kashmiri social culture is facing threats from fundamentalist groups like Islamic State (IS) and Al Qaeda who are propagating their regressive ideologies.Surprisingly, even though the separatist leadership as well as militant commanders have both made it clear that IS and Al Qaeda aren’t welcome in Kashmir, these organisations have made their intention of waging ‘jihad’ in Kashmir for establishing a caliphate here absolutely clear.

To achieve their sinister designs these two internationally banned terrorist organisations have even created separate groups and are luring local youth to join. The Al Qaeda affiliate in Kashmir is called Ansar Ghazawat-ul-Hind (AGuH) and the Kashmir chapter of IS has been named Islamic State of Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK). Though the United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Salahuddin had initially welcomed foreign groups like the Taliban and Al Qaida to join the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir, he subsequently withdrew this offer by declaring that such groups had no role or place in Kashmir. What he did was right because both these organisations have a fundamentalist outlook and follow an agenda that preaches hatred and encourages violence. ISJK and AGuH didn’t come into Kashmir overnight.

The first indication of their presence came when IS flags started appearing during protests and this was followed by Al Qaeda’s announcement regarding creation of AGuH with former Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander Zakir Musa as its chief. However,the Hurriyat and militant leadership dismissed apprehensions of IS and Al Qaeda ideology making its way into Kashmiri society. Instead, they alleged that waving IS flags was being done by ‘miscreants’ with the aim of giving the Kashmir struggle a bad name by linking it to terrorism and Musa was an ‘Indian agent’.Suspicion that something was amiss grew stronger as the public appeal of Hurriyat (G) chairman SAS Geelani requesting protesters not to wave IS flags during protests went unheeded. And when some masked youth attempted to desecrate Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid, it became quite clear that the fundamentalist ideology of IS and Al Qaeda had found acceptance amongst a section of Kashmiri youth.

In a video message Musa had declared 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” and went on to emphasise that “The sole motive should be for the supremacy of Islam so that Shariah is established here.” This viewpoint of AGuH goes against the basic rationale behind the three-decade old aim of the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir and should have evoked massive publicoutcry but it wasn’t so. In fact, the exceptionally large congregation of mourners who attended Musa’s funeral despite police curbs and unfavourable weather conditions shows the popularity of Al Qaida’s ideology amongst Kashmiris. And the most disturbing issue is that it appears that our youth are beingdrawn more by the idea of waging ‘jihad’ in Kashmir for setting up a caliphate rather than for seeking ‘self-determination’.

Reports of bloody clashes between militants of AGuH and ISJK on one side and HM and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) on the other have been making news for two years now but no one seems to be taking these seriously. The recent clash between ISJK and HM militants in Anantnag in which one militant of ISJK was killed and another injured was triggered by an argument over ownership of an AK rifle shows how some people who carry weapons have no value for human lives. Since both ISJK and HM have blamed each other for the death and injuries caused to ISJK militants, it appears that just like in the early nineties when JKLF and HM killed each other to gain supremacy, Kashmir will once again witness a blood bath as young boys go about spilling each other’s blood just for becoming the dominant militant group.

The recent video in which Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawari speaks of waging jihad in Kashmir is a clear indication that this fanatical terrorist group is very serious about expanding its operations in Kashmir. By saying that “I am of the view that the mujahideen in Kashmir- at this stage at least- should focus with single mind on inflicting unrelenting blows on the Indian Army and government so as to bleed the Indian economy and make India suffer sustained losses in manpower and equipment” he has given a call for unity amongst militants, which is a welcome step.

However, by adding that “All the Pakistani army and government are interested in is exploiting the mujahideen for specific political objectives, only to dump or persecute them later, “Zawari has made it clear that he considers jihad in Kashmir a part of Al Qaida’s quest for global Islamisation. With IS and Al Qaeda ideology rapidly gaining acceptance within our society, we are heading for tough times. Thus, we can no longer afford to continue living under any illusions or underestimate the threat being posed by ISJK and AGuH by dismissing these as mere conspiracies.

The time has come when our leaders have no other choice but to take hard decisions to prevent the situation from plummeting to irretrievable levels. The first step that the joint resistance leadership (JRL) should take is to declare ISJK and AGuH as enemies of Kashmiri people and socially ostracise those who join or support such organisations. This may seem to be an extreme measure but this is necessary to prevent unscrupulous people from misleading our youth by misinterpreting Islamic teachings. At the same time, militant groups should remember that preventing their cadres from switching loyalties and joining fundamentalist terrorist groups like AGuH or ISJK is a moral responsibility they have towards the people of Kashmir!

The writer is a Delhi based columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *