Matter of ideologies: What an Al-Qaeda unit in Kashmir means for the state & for India
It is official now. For the first time since the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir in 1989, Al-Qaeda has set up its affiliate in Kashmir with former Hizbul Mujahideen Zakir Musa commander as its chief. The affiliate is called Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind.
The announcement was made by Global Islamic Media Front, a media wing of Al-Qaeda.
In a press release issued both in English and Urdu, titled Statement No 1, Al-Qaeda said that “the jihad in Kashmir has entered a stage of awakening”.
“The Muslim nation of Kashmir has committed to carry the flag of jihad to repel the aggression of tyrant Indian invaders and through jihad with the aid of Allah (swt) only, we will liberate our homeland Kashmir. For this goal, a new movement of jihad has been founded by the companions of martyr Burhan Wani (rh) under the leadership of Mujahid 'Zakir Musa' (May Allah Almighty protect him),” the statement reads.
Giving the statement an imprimatur of authenticity, it also carried the logo of the official media Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind titled Al-Hur, Al-Hur.
The affiliate said that it will shortly make “an important and detailed statement about Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind”.
The extreme end of that prism
Though a hardcore extremist turn in the ideological worldview of Kashmir’s militancy was a project in works for some time now, its culmination into an Al-Qaeda outfit has taken the people by surprise.
Earlier, in one of his video messages, Musa had said he had – “nothing to do with Al-Qaeda and the ISIS but he was also not against them”.
But he had made it clear that he won’t budge from his stand that the goal of the Kashmir movement was the creation of an Islamic state and that he would prefer to fight its secularist champions right now rather than after 'Azadi'.
For security experts in Kashmir, the establishment of the unit means little in terms of an operational threat, but it does pose “a larger ideological challenge”.
“Threat is not operational but ideological. It is an attempt to fit the Kashmir struggle into a pan-Islamist frame and widen its horizon to entire India,” said a police officer.
He drew attention to the name of the affiliate – “It is Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind and there is no mention of Kashmir in this,” said the officer referring to the religious meaning of Ghazwat-ul-Hind, which is a prediction, attributed to Prophet Mohammad, of an Islamic war against India leading to a triumph for Muslims.
“It is now more about India than Kashmir with latter as the base for a larger jihad. The attempt is also to reach out to alienated sections of Indian Muslims or draw them to Kashmir,” the officer explained.
In one of his videos, Musa had called Indian Muslims “cowards and shameless” for not rising up against the “oppressors” while citing the alleged rape of a Muslim woman on a train.
Is this all talk?
However, the opponents of the Al-Qaeda's and the ISIS' entry into Kashmir take heart from the fact that the outfits cannot count on a wider public backing nor would they find it easy to get funding and weapons to carry on their activities.
“Kashmir poses structural difficulties for an Al-Qaeda or ISIS like an outfit to operate and survive. No political or militant outfit in Kashmir can hope to exist in Kashmir without either leaning on Islamabad or New Delhi for support. The bottom line is there is no independent political or militant space in Kashmir and you cannot decide to strike on your own and get away with it,” said a political analyst who did not wish to be named.
“Now about Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind. Who will fund it? Who will supply weapons? You cannot take on both India and Pakistan in Kashmir and also the rival militant outfits and then hope to survive. Can you?” the analyst asked.
According to the police estimate, the number of militants with Musa is less than a dozen. This makes Al-Qaeda in Kashmir more 'symbolic' than an 'operational' presence. But of course, it does have an identifiable, vocal and a prominent militant as its head.
However, soon after the Al-Qaeda statement was made public, both the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba rushed to denounce the move as an “Indian ploy” created to tarnish the image of “a just Kashmiri struggle”.
PoK-based Hizb supremo Syed Salahuddin in a hastily issued video statement urged the Kashmiris “not to join global jihadi movement”.
“Some of our friends are playing into the hands of our enemy and trying to create a divide between people and their leadership. Our movement is an indigenous movement,” Salahuddin said.
“The freedom movement of Jammu and Kashmir has no worldwide agenda, no links with organisations like Islamic State or Al-Qaeda. Such organisations have no role in Kashmir,” he added.
Salahuddin also pointed out that the “entire Kashmiri nation and the leadership” was “ideologically aligned” in their struggle against “forcible Indian occupation”.
“There is an attempt to misguide freedom-loving people in the name of Shariah and martyrdom and create confusion in their ranks. This is tantamount to aiding the objectives of our enemy. Be it Al-Qaeda, Daesh or any other outfit with a global agenda, there is no room for their existence in J&K nor a need for them,” he said.
The Hizb chief said that they had “credible information” that Indian agencies had aided the launch of Daesh-like outfits in Kashmir through its “paid agents” to create bloodshed in the state like it was being done in Iraq, Syria and Palestine.
Washing their hands of
Lashkar-e-Taiba also came out with a statement –
“India is trying to label the legitimate freedom struggle of Kashmir as terrorism by implying terror groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS into the Valley. Ajit Doval's doctrine is up to this conspiracy (sic),” a statement issued its chief Mahmood Shah read.
“We would like to inform the masses that the Mujahideen groups, with their mutual understanding and unity, are fighting against Indian forces. On the other hand, groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS are being brought up to label the legitimate freedom struggle as terrorism,” the statement added.
Shah said that Al-Qaeda and ISIS thrive on Takfeer (the practice of one Muslim declaring another Muslim as a non-believer).
“All they (Al Qaeda and ISIS) have done has just greatly affected the Muslims and brought upon them the injustice, brutality and oppression. This Fitna (rebellion) is way more dangerous than that of India's,” Shah added.
In Kashmir, the news has largely been met with a sense of resignation. Even on social media, people have generally restrained from airing their opinion.
A pervading sense of foreboding is reflected by this Facebook post:
“Miss you Burhan Bhai. Burhan Bhai was not only a commander he was a leader, a motivator, a preacher, a legend, a matured personality, a warrior and an undisputed personality. It was Burhan Bhai who gives freedom movement new heights. After his Shahadat unexpected things are happening in the freedom movement. Allah knows better what will happen in coming days to Kashmir and to the freedom movement. Ya Allah protect our sacrifices,” wrote one Abu Zarar.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen