ISIS and Kashmir

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Islamic States’ claim that its cadres carried out first strike in Srinagar’s Zakoora suburbs, last week, in which one police officer and one militant were killed, has generated a debate on the outfit’s presence in Kashmir. Though TehreekulMujahideen, a local militant outfit, punctured their claim by owning the slain militant Mughees Ahmad Mir of Parimpora as the outfit’s district commander for Pulwama, however, some sections in and outside the government find it alarming. There is no denying the fact that the ISIS, after its defeat in Iraq has been trying to make its foothold in south Asia, mainly Afghanistan. The outfit has, in the past, claimed that Kashmir was also in its scheme of things but the outfit failed to get the required support at the grass root level. It is for this fact the Director General of Police said that there were no footprints of ISIS in Kashmir. Indian media and military establishment have been giving a shoehorning perception about Kashmiri youth. They are being associated with global narrative of Islamic threat and culture clash. This debate has been generated by a new breed of educated youth who have in recent times joined militant ranks. The recent statements by HizbulMujahideen commander Zakir Musa only added grist to this propaganda mill that the ongoing trouble in Kashmir is extension of international Jihad guided by outfits like ISIS and Alqaeda. His threat to chop off Hurriyat leaders’ heads should they try to secularize the movement, though, came as a serious shock in Kashmir but it provided the required material to the anti Kashmir lobby in and outside Kashmir. Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin, in no uncertain terms, rejected ISIS and Al-Qaeda perception of the movement and Islam, and described it as an “Indian attempt to link Kashmir freedom struggle with international Jihad”. Musa, however, stood to his ground. He chose it to leave the organization than relent and modify himself. The public reaction to Musa’s statement was also on the same lines. That makes the Kashmir case squarely different. ISIS or Al-Qaeda is an idea. These groups don’t need to come physically to set up their bases in any area. It is also true that a section of young-Muslim all over the world is influenced (rightly or wrongly) by this idea. Some feeble voices from a few Face Book ‘Jihadis’ and some banner-raising incidents in Srinagar give impression that Kashmir too has its share of ISIS effects . However a keen study would make one believe that this idea has no social and political acceptability here. Even the extremist sections in the religious camp abhor the ISIS’s idea of Islam. Syed Ali Geelani, the most ardent religious and political voice of Jammu and Kashmir, dubbed ISIS as anti-Islamic, created and patronized by United States and Israel. Syed Salahuddin, the symbol of armed movement, too, on many occasions, has cautioned militants in particular and Kashmiri youth in general not to fall prey to the so-called religious propaganda of ISIS. There are mostly local factors that work as igniting force in motivating youth to join militancy. For Burhan Wani, who is known as face of new Kashmir militancy, it was the humiliation he was subjected to by Special Operation Group (SOG) that drove him to militancy. Waseem Shah, another feared militant of Shopian, who got killed last month, had the similar story. So could be the case of many more. At the heart however is the very political uncertainty that has been centre to Kashmir politics since 1947. The official figures reveal that less than 200 militants are presently operating across the state. There was time, (90s) when armed militant used to roam and rove round in hundreds rather thousands across the state. Kashmir militancy is not born from any religious orientation. It is a politically driven thought that has affected the people of Jammu and Kashmir in general irrespective of their religious and political beliefs. In early 90s when thousands of young boys took to arms, the radicalization was altogether missing from the public and political narrative. “Azadi” was the only buzz one could hear. The militancy was, in fact, spearheaded by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which by its political and religious philosophy is secular. HizbulMujahideen, the pan Islamic religious group, also never made it a matter of religious duty to pick up the arms. So is it true for other militant groups. “Hum KiyaChahte Azad” has remained popular slogan during all the years of trouble and turmoil. The case in all probabilities becomes more of political nature than religious one. Kashmiri militants have never stepped beyond their pronounced position of ‘fighting for right of self-determination’—the right acknowledged and accepted by the United States. In this context, the ISI claim is far from the fact.

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