Jammu and Kashmir witnessed a very violent Eid (Bakrid), a day after the appointment of a new governor of the state. Was it co-incidental or a planned effort to send some signals to the new governor, the first political figure to be appointed to the post in a long time?
Violence after Eid prayers is not unusual in Kashmir but its intensity this time was different from the past, posing challenges for the new governor.
Hizbul Mujahidin (HM) claimed credit for most killings. Syed Salahuddin, head of HM and chairman of United Jihad Council (UJC), continues to live in a safe haven in Pakistan Occupied J&K under patronage of the Pakistan Army and ISI. Therefore, a clear connection exists between the killings and Pakistan.
The change of regime in Pakistan is not going to make any difference as far as violence in Kashmir is concerned. The new Pakistan premier Imran Khan does not have the mettle and political experience to challenge the ‘K Policy’ of the military-mullah-militant troika. Pakistan has no respect for religion or Islam. Bloodshed in Kashmir on the joyous and pious occasion of Eid-ul-Zuha does not perturb the troika in Pakistan but emboldens it as it keeps Kashmir on the boil. The troika does not want Kashmiris to live in peace and enjoy the dividend of development and progress of the rest of India. They aim is to keep Kashmir in a constant state of conflict so that the Indian Army can be tied down in counter infiltration and counter terrorism operations and not pose a major threat on its western borders.
Killing of a political worker and a couple of policemen is a cause for worry. The jihadi terrorists are motivated by ISIS ideology. Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), when on rise, became notorious for violent operations and Salafi-jihadist ideology. ISIS may not have footfalls in Kashmir but its ideology has penetrated other jihadi terrorist groups active in the valley.
This ideology justifies use of violence as a necessity to defend Islam and as an obligation for the true Muslim believer. Islamic State believes in the concept of a “caliphate”. Democracy and nation-state are not compatible with the Salafi-jihadist ideology. So, any one serving the nation or believing in democracy is an enemy of Islam as per this ideology. This is the reason for targeting members of the police or armed forces and political workers. ISIS is no threat to India but its ideology, which is responsible for spread of radicalisation, is.
ISIS ideology also threatens the Kashmiri society. Kashmiri culture is a mix of three religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Kashmiri culture is in danger of being overshadowed by Salafi-jihadist ideology that justifies use of violence and terror to realize political objectives. It is a major challenge that civil society in Kashmir has to unite to fight against, lest Kashmir becomes another Syria.
Another fall out of Salafi-jihadist ideology is radicalisation. It is spreading in Kashmir like poison. The violence resulting into stone-throwing on police personnel on duty, display of ISIS flags and Musa Army banners, attack on Army posts and heckling of Farooq Abdullah at Jama Masjid are all manifestations of radicalisation.
Zakir Musa is emerging as a new poster-boy of terrorism in Kashmir. His message on the eve of Eid was full of venom and warned of Ghazwa-e-Hind, a threat which re- emerges yearly, for reasons not understood. The entire concept of Ghazwa-e-Hind is a religious fantasy to raise the morale of Sunni Muslim jihadists. Radicalisation promotes a thinking process of transition from true Islam to Islamic State. Musa is spreading this concept in Kashmir to which the youth appears attracted.
Fiery speeches were made on Article 35A and other anti-national issues before and after Eid prayers, arousing sentiments of youth who were motivated by paid goons to indulge in show of force (using pre-dumped stones) against police personnel deployed there. The policemen were being provoked to open fire that could lead to escalation of violence in the state.
Lack of knowledge about religion, or distorted knowledge of religion among youth also leads to radicalisation, because a “knowledge vacuum” leaves them ill-equipped to reject extremist ideology. This is why hate-speeches delivered by the Maulvis after Friday prayers or at other religious congregations and the venom spread by Maulvis in some Madrasas act as a catalyst to radicalisation. ISIS has deliberately tailored its propaganda to appeal to those with little religious knowledge.Radical preachers and hard-core Salafi-jihadists when kept in prison with juvenile stone-pelters, radicalise them beyond redemption. Giving amnesty to such youth to return to the mainstream has been repeatedly unsuccessful, because they get re-cycled into ‘sangbaazi’ (stone-pelting).
In a society engulfed in conflict for three decades, a perceived sense of discrimination, false promises by politicians, lack of role models and opportunities, denial of justice, harassment by security forces and fear of losing their monolithic culture are driving youth towards radicalisation. What the new governor can do immediately to counter radicalisation is place checks on “maulvis” and religious preachers. Most of them are non-locals who spread Salafi-Wahabbi ideologies using the precincts of religious places and madarsas. The local preachers who follow and preach Sufism have been side-lined.
The heckling of Farooq Abdullah, four-time Chief Minister of the State and MP, preventing him from offering Eid prayers at Jama Masjid is also an act of defiance. To shout slogans while prayers are offered and ‘khutbah’ (sermons) are delivered is against the basic tenets of Islam.
A section of people also shouted slogans of “azadi” (freedom). Misguided youth is being exploited by self-seekers whose own children study in posh residential schools/universities outside the state and abroad. Azadi is a dream sold to youth to motivate them to pick up the gun. Radicalisation has hardened and brain-washed the local youth to the extent that they are not ready to accept the reality of J&K being an integral part of India as enshrined in Article 1 of the Constitution of India and Article 3 of the state’s constitution.
Abdullah rightly asserted that these misguided people need “counselling” and called them as “enemies of the state’ who “don’t want peace and are thriving on violence,” he said.
Forces inimical to return of peace in trouble-torn Kashmir succeeded in according a “bloody” welcome to new governor Satyapal Malik and showing him the challenges he faces.
Radicalisation is the major challenge which Malik or any government can ill afford to ignore. It needs to be tackled on a war-footing, along with counter terror operations.
(The author is a Jammu based political commentator, security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)