Kashmir witnessed one of its most violent and bloodiest Bakrid in the recent times, just a day after the announcement was made of appointment of a new governor of the State. Was it co-incidental or a planned effort to send a few signals to the new head of the state, first political figure to be appointed to that post almost after 51 years? Violence after Eid prayers is not unusual in Kashmir but its intensity and audacity this time was definitely different from the past. There are a few deductions from the happenings of this Bakrid which may ultimately emerge as challenges for the new Governor.
Hizbul Mujahidin (HM) has claimed credit for most of the killings. Syed Salahuddin, the head of HM and chairman of United Jihad Council (UJC) continues to live in safe haven in POJK under the patronage of Pakistan Army and the ISI. Thus, a clear cut connection exists between the killings and Pakistan’s hidden hand behind it. 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-Zua does not perturb the troika in Pakistan but in fact emboldens it since it suits their sinister design of keeping Kashmir on the boil. The troika does not want the Kashmiris to live in peace and enjoy the dividend of development and progress in the rest of the nation. The troika’s aim is to keep Kashmir in a constant state of conflict so that it can tie down the Indian Army in counter infiltration and counter terrorism operations so that it does not pose a major threat on its western borders.
Brutal killings of a political worker and a couple of policemen is a serious cause of worry. The jihadi terrorists are motivated by ISIS ideology. Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), when on rise, became notorious for its violent operations and Salafi-jihadist ideology. ISIS may not have foot fall in Kashmir but its ideology has penetrated the other jihadi terrorist groups active in the valley. The 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 enemy of Islam as per this ideology. This is the reason for targeting the members of the police or armed forces and political workers. ISIS is no threat to India but its ideology is, which is also responsible for spread of radicalisation.The ISIS ideology also threatens the Kashmiri society. Kashmiri culture is a mix of three religions, Hindu, Buddhism and Islam. Kashmiri culture that once was proud of its oneness irrespective of religion is in danger of being overshadowed by Salafi-jihadist ideology that preaches a return to true Sunni Islam and justifies use of violence and terror to realize political objectives. It is a major challenge the civil society in Kashmir has to accept and unite to fight against it lest Kashmir also 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 Dr Farooq Abdullah at Jama Masjid are all manifestations of radicalisation. Zakir Musa is also emerging as a new cult and poster-boy terrorist in Kashmir. His message on the eve of Eid to the terrorists was full of venom and warned of Ghazwa-e-Hind, a threat which re- emerges year after year for reasons not understood. The entire concept of Ghazwa-e-Hind is nothing but a religious fantasy to raise the morale of Sunni Muslim jihadists. Radicalisation promotes a thinking process of transition from true Islam to Islamic State. Zakir Musa is spreading this concept in Kashmir which the youth appears to be attracted towards.
Was it a signalling exercise intended at the incumbent governor? To me it appears so. Fiery speeches were made on Article 35A and other anti-national issues prior to and after the Eid prayers. It aroused the sentiments of the youth who were motivated by paid goons to move out and indulge in show of force (using pre-dumped stones) against the police personnel deployed there on duty. It goes to the credit of policemen that they did not get provoked and retaliated with non-lethal weapons of crowd dispersal despite grave provocation. The policemen were being provoked to open fire that may lead to escalation of violence in other parts of the state.
Lack of adequate knowledge about religion or distorted knowledge of religion amongst the youth also leads to radicalisation because “vacuum of knowledge” leaves them ill-equipped to reject extremist ideology. This is the reason that hate-speeches delivered by the Maulvis after Friday prayers or during other religious congregations as well as the venom spread by Maulvis in certain Madrasas act as 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 together in the prisons with juvenile stone-pelters radicalise them beyond redemption. Therefore, to give amnesty to such youth and return them to the mainstream is like playing with fire which has proved unsuccessful time and again because the same youth gets re-cycled into ‘sangbaazi’ (stone-pelting).
In a society that has been engulfed by a state of conflict for last three decades, paternal absence and exposure to the messages of radical preachers could also lead to radicalisation. “Key-pad jihadists” spreading radical ideology can be another source of radicalisation. In Kashmir, perceived sense of discrimination, false promises by politicians, denial of justice, harassment by security forces and fear of losing their monolithic culture are also driving the youth towards radicalisation. What the new governor can do immediately to counter radicalisation is to have a check on the “maulvis” and other religious preachers. Majority of them are non-locals who spread Salafi-Wahabbiideologies using the precincts of religious places and madarsas. The local preachers who follow and preach Sufism have been side-lined by them through the power of petro-dollars. The Salafi-Wahabi preachers need to be replaced by Sufi preachers and the former ordered to return to their respective native states.
The heckling of Dr Farooq Abdullah, a sitting MP and four-time Chief Minister of the State and preventing him from offering Eid prayers at Jama Masjid because a couple of days back he had shouted Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Jai Hind at the top of his voice in a gathering in New Delhi is also anact of defiance. To shout slogans and hoot while the prayers are being offered and ‘khutbah’ is being delivered is against the basic tenets of Islam. The behaviour was completely un-Islamic. But who cares, when it is being done at the behest of somebody else as part of a larger agenda.
A section of misguided people were also shouting the slogan of “Azadi”. The seekers of “Azadi” need to understand that they are living in a utopian world much divorced from the reality. The misguided youth is being exploited by self-seekers whose own children are studying in posh residential schools/universities outside the state and abroad. It is a dream sold to the youth to motivate them to pick up the gun. It has not been achieved in the past seven decades and would never be achieved, is a hard reality the youth needs to realise and revolt against the self-seekers. 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.
Dr Farooq Abdullah rightly asserted that these misguided people need “counselling”. All nationalist voices in Kashmir have condemned this unruly behaviour of a section of the people. Dr Farooq called them as “enemies of the state’ and said that he knew who were the people behind it. “You will pay a very heavy price for this one day. They don’t want peace and they are thriving on violence,” he said.
The forces inimical to return of peace and normalcy in trouble-torn Kashmir have succeeded in their intent of according a “bloody” welcome to the new governor and also signalling him of the challenges he faces during his tenure. To my mind Radicalisation is the major challenge which the governor or any other government can ill afford to ignore anymore. It needs to be tackled on war-footing along with counter terror operations. De-Radicalisation is time-consumingand lustreless akin to de-addiction. Patience is the main virtue that will pay in the end but it cannot be brushed under the carpet any more.