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Is Kashmir Fighting A Religious War?

Is Kashmir Fighting A Religious War?

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Asem Mohiuddin       Kashmir

Srinagar: Last week the PDP patron and senior political leader Muzaffer Hussain Baig expressed his opinion that if ever Kashmir gets a chance to choose between Pakistan and India, they would definitely choose latter. Baig said that Kashmir despite having Muslim majority population would opt for India for its secular character and would never be part of a state dominated by religiosity.

Baig was speaking during a discussion ‘Kashmir: The Way Forward‘, organised by Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

Given to Baig’s political position there was nothing special in it, however, what set his critics fury when he linked the Kashmir’s separatist fighting as a religious movement?

He candidly said that in Kashmir it is not a fight for political freedom, however, it is a fight to choose between “hell and heaven”.

“It is an ISI sponsored religious war in Kashmir. Now the choice is not between India and Pakistan, but between heaven and hell,” he said.

He, however, added that the state’s majority population (Muslims) do not want Islamization or radicalization. “It is the people who get killed, get the ‘publicity and fame’ as thousands come to mourn their death. And mothers take pride on the dead body of their 14-year old child. She waits for the next child to grow and wants him to be martyred like the other one as she believes it is for God.”

Baig substantiated his point and said that had it been the political fight, the youth of Kashmir would not have negated the call of senior separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani in 2010 when he asked youth refrain from stone pelting.

“He was hooted down on the same evening as stone pelting is not a new phenomenon in Kashmir. Even 400 years back when Mughals were ruling Kashmir stones were hurled at them,” he said.

On the other side the separatists in Kashmir continue to denounce it as religious war and consistently maintain that the separatists fight is for the political rights of Kashmir who were betrayed by Indian leadership time and again and not conducting referendum as per UN resolutions.

Back in the resolutions of UN which dates back to 1947, the Kashmir is left with only two options either to choose India or Pakistan. It doesn’t give any option for freedom. “Since there is no option for freedom in the UN resolutions that is why I say Kashmiris would choose India instead of Pakistan,” Baig reiterates.

The observations of Baig came days after when security forces killed 6 militants in Tral town of south Kashmir during a brief encounter in an open apple orchard.

All the six militants belonged to Ansar Ghazwatul Hind outfit. A young man Zakir Musa- an engineering drop out from the same town launched the outfit in 2017 after deserting Hizbul Mujahidin although he succeeded as its senior commander after the death of poster boy Burhan Muzaffer Wani in 2016 July. After parting ways with Hizb, Zakir Musa first denounced the separatist leaders for making Kashmir movement as political. He even threatened in an audio message to chop off the heads of separatists at city centre Lal Chowk and claimed that they are fighting for the pan Islamic movement.

However, Musa was also disowned by all separatist groups followed by the United Jihad Council (UJC) who accused India of defaming their indigenous movement.

So are Kashmiris really fighting a religious war?

Nevertheless, both the separatists and the militant outfits failed to stop the growing influence of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind across the Kashmir. In just a year, the outfit was seen gaining its ground in central Kashmir and subsequently in North Kashmir where slogans are shouted in every slain militant’s funeral in favour of ISIS and Zakir Musa although the dominating slogans are pro Islamic and pro Pakistan.

The south Kashmir also observed shutdown and thousands of people thronged to participate in the funeral prayers of all the six slain Ghazwatrul hind militants.

As it was not enough, a disturbing 30 seconds video clip surfaced on social media after the statement of Baig showing a young masked man rushing to the pulpit of historical Jamia Masjid and waving an ISIS flag amid slogans. The young man was shouting pro Daish and pro Islamic slogans while some devotees were struggling to bring him down. The netizens termed it as an attempt to discreet the holy place and condemned the act.  But the attempt of young man by some social media users hailed him.

On 30 December a statement was carried out in the local press by Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) and said that such acts shall only strengthen the adversary’s narrative.

“We condemn the act the act of some masked men who are violating all teachings, sanctity and value of the mosque in the name of Kalima and discreet the pulpit of Prophet (PBUH),” it reads.

This has not been first time when separatists denounced and condemned any presence of youth affiliated to ISIS and other Islamic radical groups.

But did it stop those youths to join or follow the ISSI who believe in the radicalized Islamist ideology?

A year back in the Srinagar outskirts just few kilometres away from this historical jamia mosque in Zakura Security forces killed a militant of ISIS-Mugees Ahmad Mir. Mir- a city boy apparently was the first militant who belonged to the ISIS and is survived by his wife and a young daughter. Hundreds of people from across the city joined his funeral and the black flags of ISIS dominated the green for the first time.

In Zakura Srinagar Mir along with his accomplices attacked the security officer Imran Tak and killed him while his guard sustained injuries who later survived. After this attack then DGP SP Vaid refused to accept first that ISIS has any footprints in valley. Mir was later buried in the flag of ISIS.

Some parts of Srinagar close to his residence observed complete shutdown while youth had brickbat battles with security forces for four days till his chaharum.

Interestingly, the separatists had not called for any shutdown on his killing.

Esa Fazili, Syed Kousar and MD Taufeeq, the three militants of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind had earlier in March 2018 died in South Kashmir encounter. While Taufeeq hailed from Telengana- a southern state in India, Esa and Fazili were Kashmiri youths who had left the college midway to join outfit.  

“While such incidents in the past several years are enough indicative over the growing influence of religious fundamentalism  in Kashmir, it is absolutely right to say that in Kashmir the battle of youth is between the hell and heaven.” observes a senior political analyst, wishing to be anonymous.

“The bitter truth is separatists are losing ground and control over the ongoing movement in Kashmir as all youths who join the rebellion desire to die for heaven,” he adds.

With this latest message by the separatists to condemn and denounce the Islamist militants in valley only the time will tell how separatists are heard and followed amid growing influence of religious radicalization.

 

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