ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Kashmir

Fortress Special/Srinagar-Islamabad

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has become a bogey for all anti-Islamic propaganda. Having arisen from the democratic, freedom-demanding protests of Syria in 2011, it morphed into a barbaric movement that represented all that was wrong with humanity. It became a sectarian, ultra-orthodox, violent cult, that unleashed horrors on people everywhere in the world, in whose name, no one knows.

However, one important fact remains: ISIS, despite its grandiose claims to superiority and success, never mounted a successful attack in Israel or India. Despite being a few kilometers from the border of Syria with Israel, and despite having advanced weapons at its disposal, ISIS never thought of attacking the centre of all troubles in the Middle East: Israel and Zionist Policy towards Muslims.

Rather India and its media seem to be enchanted by the concept of ‘ISIS.’ Not a day passes by with a media channel portraying Muslim abodes as ‘dens of ISIS,’ of portraying peace-loving Muslim preachers as ‘agents of ISIS,’ and of a dangerous ‘bothering’ of Muslims by labeling them as ‘ISIS.’ Kashmir is not far behind. Ever since ISIS became a household name in 2014, the signature black flags of ISIS have made an appearance in protests and funerals across the Kashmir Valley.

Although then pro India chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir Omar Abdullah clearly denied the presence of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) elements in the state, and called them the waivers of ISIS flag in the valley as “idiots”.  Who asks for them and why they are being displayed, no one seems to know. It is strange that an Indian military grid that keeps tabs on who enters and who leaves even the smallest hamlet on a hill in Kashmir, does not seem to know where these ISIS flags materialize from. Every exit and entry point in Kashmir is manned and can be sealed in a few minutes, yet ISIS seems to enter and spread freely in Kashmir. Why?

It will be no surprise if the Indian army suddenly declares Martial Law in Kashmir, closes down every means of communication, and goes on a killing and arresting spree if and when the next round of massive protests occurs. This has been suggested in a national newspaper in 2016. As news-presenters in India seem to be frothing at their mouth with hate and venom against Kashmir, the Indian army will not be called into question for anything it does in Kashmir – thanks to the bogey of ‘ISIS.’

In the 1990’s the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits provided India with the fodder it needed to paint what was largely a peaceful movement of Kashmiri Muslims as a violent ‘Islamist’ attempt at takeover, a label that was repeated in 2016. It also provided the Indian armed forces with space within the population centers to establish bases and operate torture cells in erstwhile Pandit property. An attempt at repeating that with Sikhs failed catastrophically in 2010. There is, however, an attempt to repeat that soon.

As per a report in 2017, only three Kashmiris were inspired to join ISIS – one hasn’t been heard of since 2016 after taking off to Turkey in 2016. The other two have been deported back to India. There were rumors in Indian media that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) supporters and members in India have formed a group Ansarul Khilafah Jammu Kashmir in Indian Kashmir to build a strong footing in the country.

It’s easy to imagine the need for the flags to be waved – it feeds the prime time anchors on TV – it gives the intelligence leeway to operate with impunity and it allows the peaceful movement to be labeled as a blood-thirsty ‘terrorists’ attempt at ‘takeover.’ It also sows confusion among the ranks of militants – who have operated with a surprising sense of unity and purpose over the last few years.

For last three decades India was propagating that Pakistan is harboring militancy in Kashmir blaming that Hafiz Saeed’s led Lashkar-e-Taiba(LeT), Masood Azhar (JeM) and other kashmiri militants groups  are the handiwork of Pakistan who is funding and training them against Indian rule in Kashmir, but the inclusion of Hizbul Mujahdeen commander  Burhan Wani presence and death in Kashmir changed to whole scenario. The indigenous factor of Burhan Wani forced India to leave the decade old narrative that Pakistan is behind every militant activity in Kashmir because Burhan Wani’s death and the resulting public fury brought the armed struggle into the mainstream democratic movement in Kashmir

The Indians hardly need alternative narrative to keep Kashmir away from political solution and they rejoiced when a former Hizbul Mujahdeen commander Zakir Musa issued a series of audio messages in April saying that Kashmir’s struggle was for the Islamic cause and had nothing to do with nationalism, later in July he announced the creation of Kashmir based Ansar Ghawzat-ul-Hind organization confirmed by Global Islamic Media Front a media wing of Al-Qaeeda.

But the fact is that the both legitimate forums of Kashmir movement APHC and United Jihad Council harshly denounced the rumors of ISIS and non state actors in Kashmir.  All Parties Hurryiat Conference (APHC) leaders Mir Viaz Umar Farooq Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Yasin Malik categorically rejected the rumors of emergence of ISIS in Kashmir.

The stronger message was from the United Jihad Council’s chairman and supreme commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Syed Salahuddin who clearly said that ISIS and Al-Qaeda has no role in Kashmir. Refereeing towards Zakir Musa who parted ways from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, he said that some of “our friends play in the hands of our enemy and are harming the unity of the nation and its leadership”.

In this scheme, by successfully manipulating national opinion against Kashmir and its legitimate struggle for a political solution, the ruling party BJP gathers more votes, and greater support. By painting Kashmiris as ISIS and Al-Qaeda sympathizers, India is mobilizing opinion against any political solution to Kashmir, and receiving a carte blanche from the people for any type of violent crackdown that is needed to keep Kashmiris from mobilizing.

About Arif Qureshi

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