Homeland Security

The Talibanization of Kashmir
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 05 Jul , 2012

Troops patrol in Kashmir

The threat to Sikhs for conversion to Islam has upset the Hurriat leaders, both the Geelani and Umar Farooq factions. They have conveniently blamed the Indian intelligence agencies for this new development in the political discourse of Kashmir.

It may be recalled that when two Sikhs, Jaspal Singh and Mahal Singh, were beheaded in Peshawar by Tehreek-e-Taliban of Pakistan (TTP) in February this year, the Pakistani leadership had blamed the Indian intelligence agencies for the incident and alleged that there was deep linkages between TTP and R&AW.

Use of religion or any “ism invariably gives rise to multitude of radical streams out of control of the main leadership. This is what has happened in Kashmir because a whole generation has been brought up in a culture of religious fundamentalism and intolerance of other faiths.

The truth, however inconvenient to the Hurriat leadership is that the threats issued to the Sikhs is a progression of the Islamic agenda of the Kashmiri leadership and Pakistan’s ISI over the years for their objective of weaning away Kashmir from India into the folds of Pakistan. Nevertheless, the Hurriat leadership is upset because the intimidation to Sikhs in Kashmir, for the moment runs contrary to the overall designs of the ISI. The ISI, as can be evidenced from the recent arrests in Punjab, is desperately trying to revive the Khalistan movement.

Use of religion or any ‘ism’ invariably gives rise to multitude of radical streams out of control of the main leadership. This is what has happened in Kashmir because a whole generation has been brought up in a culture of religious fundamentalism and intolerance of other faiths. Even in Pakistan, the ISI, the benefactor of various Sunni jihadi groups has not been able to restrain them from targeting the Shias and Ahmedias.

This new development has left the moderate separatist leadership worried regarding the so-called ‘freedom movement in Kashmir’, as it dents its credibility and international support, especially at a time when Obama is to visit India shortly. The threat to Sikhs for conversion of Islam raises serious questions about the very moorings and character of the movement. It only vindicates the contention of the sizeable constituency, which since the eviction of Hindus from the Valley, has been harping that the movement in Kashmir is not about Kashmiriat, but is impelled by religious agenda.

In the ISI’s scheme, manipulation of Sikhs sentiments is an important part of its strategic agenda. The grant of commission to a Sikh officer in the Pakistan Army has a strategic design rather than any change of heart in favour of secularism or with regard to the religious character and composition of the Pakistan Army.

The threat to Sikhs to convert to Islam is not a new development. On 28 July 2010, one Harmeet Singh, an employee of the Border Road Organization (BRO), was subjected to the worst kind of humiliation by radical Islamists at Malangopra (Pulawama district). He was asked to raise pro-freedom slogans and beaten up in full public view. Allegedly, his hair was then chopped off. It may be mentioned that there are more than 60,000 sikhs in 120 villages in the Valley. The incident was reminiscent of early 1990s, when the Kashmiri pandits, while they were still part of the valley and very much part of the Kashmiri fabric, were forced to fly Pakistani flags on the Independence Day. Even earlier, militant groups in their religious zeal indulged in activities, contrary to Pakistan’s Kashmir script. On 20 March 2000, 34 Sikhs were massacred in Chittisingpora village of Anantnag. The Hurriat on the instructions of the ISI did then go out of the way to placate the Sikhs and assured them every kind of security.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

RSN Singh

is a former military intelligence officer who later served in the Research and Analysis Wing, or R&AW and author of books Asian Strategic and Military Perspective and The Military Factor in Pakistan. His latest book is The Unmaking of Nepal.

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