Mass upsurge in Kashmir is extremely regressive in nature
Terrorist operations and street mobilisation have been fully under the command of LET and Ahl-i-hadith.
The present regime in New Delhi has made two welcome policy departures vis-a-vis Pakistan and the separatist movement in Jammu and Kashmir. One has been that it has clearly delineated that dialogue and terror cannot go together. The other measure has been not to show any eagerness to talk to the separatist establishment in the state and regularly underlining that internal dialogue will take place only within the framework of the Constitution of India. These two departures have caused maximum discomfiture to both Pakistan and the separatist establishment in J&K. The concept of “uninterrupted and uninterruptible dialogue”, which underlined the peace process with Pakistan during the previous ruling regimes in New Delhi, was essentially subversive in content and served Pakistan’s interests in more than one way. However, Pakistan has been by and large successful in unleashing a new wave of Pan-islamism on the ground in J&K. It has succeeded in introducing Caliphate consciousness and Apostasy punishment into separatist thought and action in J&K.
The campaign of “fundamentalisation” of the Kashmiri Muslim social milieu, which Pakistan has unleashed, seeks to widen the role of local sons of the soil (Ibn-ul-balad) in its terror operations on the ground. This campaign of “fundamentalisation” actively introduces the creation of the Caliphate as the overarching goal for Muslims and the concept of “takfeer” into the ideological lexicon of the new foot soldiers of jihad. Takfeer declares all Muslim individuals, organisations and institutions of Muslim societies and state apparatuses of Muslim countries who have entered into tactical, strategic or economic relationship with any secular idea, system or state as expressions of apostasy to be treated as legitimate targets of jihadi war.
Saleem Shahzad, one of Pakistan’s best investigative journalists on the dynamics of jihadi movements there, was assassinated in 2011. He described takfeer as the “best way” to unleash the strategy “that would separate the newly propped-up Islamic factions from the statecraft…” Launching jihad against Pakistan became an imperative necessity for the Islamists after the Pakistani army moved against the Taliban in Azam Warsak in June 2002. Until then they were very comfortable with the Pakistani role of playing host, facilitator and promoter of Pan-islamic militarisation.
Takfeer was deployed by Al Qaeda and other pan-islamist terrorist regimes to disrupt the joint US-PAK anti-terror operations against the Taliban and other pan-islamists. More significant development than this was Pakistan’s eagerness to deploy the same takfeeri terrorism in J&K. It was done to divert the new breed of jihadi foot soldiers towards J&K and offer them a more enticing focus than the state of Pakistan. Insulating the separatist movement in J&K from the pulls of power politics had also become an imperative necessity for Pakistan.
PAN-ISLAMISM IN J&K
Pan-islamism, predominantly of the Wahhabi type, erroneously called radicalisation in India, has not descended into J&K from nowhere and all of a sudden. It is also not a new idea for the fundamentalist regimes operating on the ground. Ahl-i-hadith is one of the oldest pan-islamist organisations, well spread out in society through a network of mosques, seminaries and schools in Kashmir. Jamat-i-islami, which came to the fore a little later, has also been pan-islamist in approach. Both organisations, Ahl-i-hadith and Jamat, have been always in competition with each other to be better beneficiaries of the support and patronage of the state of Pakistan and many Arab regimes promoting Wahhabism globally. Pakistan didn’t have to search for institutions on the ground or create new ones to promote Pan Islamism and yet be within the controlling mechanisms of Pakistan to serve its interests in J&K. Presently, Ahl-i-hadith has been the favourite of the ISI more than Jamat-i-islami, which has been relegated to a lower level of patronage.
The concept of Caliphate and the threat of apostasy sought to serve the purpose of keeping the separatist regimes in J&K unstuck and insulated from the pulls of power politics deployed by the Indian government.
LET, AHL AT THE HELM
Indian policymakers missed the developments surrounding the entry into J&K of panislamic doctrines revolving around the creation of an Islamic Caliphate. They wishfully hoped that the creation of a neo-taliban in Pakistan would be a Pakistan-specific phenomenon. They had already missed, or taken lightly, the handing over by ISI to Lashkar-e-tayyaba the terrorist operations in J&K.
Arif Jamal, a US based journalist and contributing writer to the New York Times writes that the ISI, as early as 2002, had asked jihadi groups to send their unmarried men to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and settle there. He notes that “the bulk of those who moved were JUD militants”. JUD is the mother organisation of the LET and is itself the child of the Salafi Islamic movement Ahl-i-hadith. The statement of Hafiz Saeed in Outlook as far back as in 2001 that “our struggle will continue even if Kashmir is liberated…the liberation of Kashmir will not end our resolve”, was not only an ideological expression, but also reflected a confidence resulting from the realisation that LET had managed to get deeply entrenched in Kashmir for the long haul. The deepening of the entrenchment had happened in a permissive atmosphere of a democratic order in a state driven by the politics of half-way separatism.
The relentless terrorist campaign in Kashmir, predominantly through sons of the soil (Ibnul Balad) happened because of an ever enlarging infrastructure of Islamist indoctrination and propaganda permitted and promoted willingly by the mainstream political parties operating in the state. In 2014, general secretary of Jamiat Ahl-i-hadith said in an interview, “A decade back we had 150 mosques and 30 schools. The total number of membership of the organisation was 2,000-3,000. Today we manage 700 mosques and 150 schools and membership has gone to 1,500,000.” The former DG of the state police, M.M. Khajuria had then commented on such a revealing proclamation: “The Wahhabi/salafi cult that they preach is the ideological bedrock of pan-islamist terrorism… Their reach, sources suggest, extend to the state apparatus through conversion of officials, not excluding those occupying high positions. This should be a matter of concern.”
The new “fundamentalisation” targeted the local youth. It also sought to undermine the leadership of both the mainstream and secessionist outfits. It inculcated insubordination amongst the youth against the established political leadership, both in the mainstream and in the secessionist outfits, and succeeded in putting the blame of the failure of the separatist movement in J&K squarely at their feet. Through a sustained process of defamation, intimidation and physical retribution, Pakistan managed to harness various variants of separatism and Islamic fundamentalism in J&K, to promote its tactical and strategic manoeuvres. Halfway separatism represented by greater autonomy and self-rule politics, frank secessionism of merger with Pakistan or independence and pan-islamism of Ahl-ihadith and Jamat-i-islami have been forced into a state of interdependence, bereft of any legitimacy and autonomy of their own. The established leadership has been relegated to be merely a civil political mask for the religious fascist movement.
Competitive secessionism and communalism have already reduced the mainstream National Conference and People’s Democratic Party to be mere appendages of the separatist establishment, doing their bidding and competing for Pakistan’s endorsement. The main leadership of the separatist establishment has also been reduced to a state of total subservience, stripped of any autonomy to take decisions. No less a person than Syed Ali Shah Geelani was forced to write a letter to Syed Salahuddin, the chairman of the United Jihad Council, which was released to the press as well, asking him whether the destruction of communication towers at various places in Kashmir was being done under his instructions. He perhaps wanted to give the first formal expression that the separatist operations on the ground were being conducted by a command structure from which he had been excluded.
Terrorist operations and street mobilisation on the ground in J&K have been fully under the command of LET and its mother organisation, Ahl-i-hadith. The separatist leadership, called Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), has only to own the instructions and directives issued by LET chief Hafiz Saeed from Pakistan.
The present situation in Kashmir is best depicted by the reportage of the pro-separatist paper Greater Kashmir on the recent killing of six terrorists belonging to the Zakir Musa group. “A year after he established Al-qaeda affiliated Ansar Ghazwat-ul-hind, the chief of the militant outfit Zakir Musa suffered a major setback on Saturday when he lost six out of his total nine comrades, including the deputy chief, in a gunfight in southern Tral area…thousands joined the funerals… Ten rounds of funeral prayers held for the slain militants…” Pan-islamist terror outfits including those associated or affiliated with Al Qaeda or ISIS are operating freely in Kashmir and they enjoy a huge following. Stating this fact is not demonising J&K, but facing the reality that the mass upsurge in Kashmir is an extremely regressive movement, which seeks to establish a totalitarian religious order. The killing of local police personnel, political workers, civilians in gruesome ways is an operation to destroy all dissent and make everybody conform to Islamist diktat.
We are not witnessing the disruption of peaceful mass protests by the security forces, but instead direct seditious and fascist mob attacks on security pickets and personnel. Kashmir has witnessed the highest number of mob attacks on security forces in India, ever since stone pelting seditious mobilisation started complementing terrorist operations. At the peak of mob violence, out of around 6,000 injuries, the share of policemen/security force personnel exceeded 3,000. The level of restraint shown by the security forces can be gauged from this reality. No security establishment anywhere in the world can demonstrate so much restraint in an atmosphere where they are being attacked directly. In J&K, the security forces are operating in an atmosphere of internal subversion and a large segment of the political class is ever eager to indict them, the very political class whose political freedom they have been ensuring.
The character of mass protests particularly in Kashmir has to be recognised. Leading psychoanalysts who have done studies on fidayeen/ suicide terrorism describe fidayeen suicides as conjoint suicide murders. Motivating or coercing people to disrupt security operations against the terrorists are actually mass conjoint-suicide-murder operations. These also act as training grounds for fidayeen recruitment. Sending youths with stones to battle zones helps in creating a fidayeen psychology. Such operations will soon be a global threat and need to be delegitimised through all means.
A large number of terrorists were killed in Kashmir last year despite the use of civilian shields to protect them. This is an achievement by itself. But we don’t have to forget that the security forces have suffered the highest number of casualties in a decade, last year in J&K. We have come face to face with a religious fascist upsurge. Indoctrination and propaganda are its arms, bigger and more effective than the terrorist arm. Indoctrination and propaganda can be defeated by being ahead in the information war and through active contestation. Is Kashmir being demonised in rest of India or the stark reality on the ground is such that this can no longer be hidden? The grim reality is that a relentless campaign demonising India is taking place in J&K on a daily basis. India is being described as an imperialist occupier and Indian security forces as occupation forces. We cannot let religious fascists and their collaborators take control of the narrative. Dr Ajay Chrungoo is the chairman of Panun Kashmir and an analyst on J&K affairs.