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Last calls for jihad: Audio, video messages from militants before death are a big problem for India

Riyaz Wani | Updated on: 4 August 2017, 13:49 IST
Kashmiri mourners carry the dead body of Sajad Ahmad a Kashmiri rebel of Hizbul Mujahideen in Srinagar. Sajad was killed along with two other rebels in an encounter with government forces in central Kashmir's Magam, Kashmir police said. (Faisal Khan/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Aur sanao, kya haal hai (And tell me, how are you),” the Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Dujana told the Army officer when he urged him to surrender minutes before he was killed in an encounter at Hakripora, Pulwama.

“I won't surrender. I have left home to get martyred. One has to die tomorrow also, today also.”

But more important than what Dujana actually said in the conversation, is the easy, nonchalant manner of his speech. He exhibited little fear of death, engaged in casual talk, sometimes bordering on banter, and broke intermittently into wry laughter.

“After so many days and years, we met at last. Played a lot of chor-sipahi game. Sometimes we were ahead and you behind. Sometimes, you are ahead and we are behind. Lekin akhirkar pakad liya mujko, mubarak ho aapko (But at last, you got me, congrats to you),” Dujana told the Army officer adding that he had no personal enmity with him.

“You do your duty. I will do mine.”

Dujana was killed soon after. The forces blew up the house in which he was staying.

The audio of the call between him and the Army officer later went viral on social media and on Whatsapp. Much like the scores of the other voice clips of militants in their last moments. As soon as they are tracked down by the forces, these militants invariably make these last calls to their families and sometimes to fellow militants.

A new trend

Such calls soon hit social media, sometimes accompanied by music and an introduction to celebrate the martyrdom – ostensibly to inspire more recruits to the cause. Nobody questions their credibility, not even the police.

But the calls and even the videos themselves have an independent value of their own. They offer a peep into the minds of the militants. And one thing that comes across clearly is that there is no fear of death.

On 17 June, three militants – Junaid Matto, Nasir Wani and Adil Mushtaq Mir – were killed in an encounter at Arwani in Kulgam. But before the encounter, one of them allegedly sent Whatsapp audios to his kin and friends bidding farewell. He talked about the approaching death in the conversation as if it were a matter of no importance.

“Hey, mohtarram (honourable men). Hope you are OK and your health and the family is OK. We are under cordon. Perhaps we won’t be able to make it today. Now pray to God, we should remain steadfast on our cause in our last moments,” the militant says.

“As long there is life we will fight. We are waiting for them (forces) to come near the house. As soon as they will, I will jump out and fire at them. I can’t say what my companions would do. But this is what I have decided”.

Similarly, on 21 June, three militants – Shariq alias Hanzala, Majid Mir alias Abbas and Irshad Ahmad of Awantipora – were tracked down by the forces to a house at village Kakapora. Majid called a fellow militant to bid goodbye.

“We were earlier with Lashkar. Now we are with Musa bhai (Zakir Musa). We want that our bodies should not be draped in Pakistani flags. They should be covered in the flag of Tawheed,” he said while the other encouraged him to fight on.

“We are ready to fight. And God willing we will meet again in Jannah”.

Majid further said that he had the option to escape but he had decided against it as the other two of his colleagues did not have weapons.

The Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad, who was killed in May, had also allegedly made a last call to his home.

“Hope you are alright. I think these are my last moments. Say my Salaam to Aamir Sahab, Peer Sahab and the other kin,” Sabzar said.

“My heart is satisfied. There is no need to mourn or be afraid. I have myself chosen this path.”

The main concerns

In their last calls, few militants talk about the Kashmir movement, New Delhi or Azadi.

Their conversations generally focus on religion, the hereafter and the readiness for death underlining a motivation level hitherto unknown among Kashmiri militants.

“This is largely true. New generation of Kashmiri youth is very motivated. This is why even the frequent killings have so far neither acted as a deterrent to fresh recruitment nor have they forced at least a section of the militants to surrender,” said a police officer.

“But we hope that the continuing successes of the security forces against militancy will slowly create a realisation about the futility of the jihad and change the dynamics in Kashmir.” he added.

'Fan'ning the flames

But if the public response evoked by these last calls are anything to go by, the deaths are only likely to fan the militancy. What is more, they are making death appear routine, a right of passage to an eternal life of bliss in heaven. This resonates powerfully with the youth.

The government, on its part, can do little to stop the circulation of these audio clips. The calls are generally recorded by the family members and put on social media, where they go viral.

However, Dujana's was the first such call where the conversation took place between a militant and an Army officer. The two were facing off each other, not in the captivity, but from their respective turfs. And the exchange soon becomes personal with the Army officer's bid to get Dujana to surrender wandering off to a brief discussion on the state of Kashmir jihad.

“Dujana, when you had left home for jihad that was another time. But you know as well as I do what is it now. All this is a game,” the officer says without elaborating what the game was about.

“What shall I do? Let those playing the game do it. I am concerned with the path I have chosen,” Dujana replied.

In Kashmir, the audio clip has only added to the legend of Dujana and this may well, in turn, persuade more youth to pick up arms.

But the bigger dilemma for the government is that despite the frequent internet shutdowns, there is little it can do to stop the circulation of these video and audio clips of militants extolling jihad.

“This can’t be stopped in this day and age. The only response to these (clips) would be a legitimate and effective counter-narrative which is  non-existent as of now,” said a police officer.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 4 August 2017, 13:49 IST