“Death” of a Society – OpEd – Eurasia Review

When addressing the issue of religious radicalization in Kashmir, the common response is that it is pure propaganda because there is nothing like it here. This answer is invariably followed by a long monologue on the inimitable and age-old ‘Sufi [Muslim ascetic] -Reshi’ [Hindu sage] culture that this region boasts of, which, due to its pluralistic and extremely tolerant character, blocks the entry of radical religious ideology into Kashmiri society. However, while Kashmir’s inter-religious bonhomie and secular co-existence were undoubtedly the envy of any cultured society in the past, sadly, the same cannot be said today.

What makes this whole issue all the more tragic is that even though Kashmiris brazenly stoked religious intolerance in the 1990s, members of Kashmir’s civil society and intelligentsia [either unwittingly or intentionally], have failed to raise their voices against this fanatical religious indoctrination that has allowed the self-debilitating scourge of radicalization to spread unchecked. Those who disagree need only reflect on what Kashmir has been through since terrorism broke out here over three decades ago and the truth will automatically come out. So, let’s recap.

When the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front [JKLF] started the so-called “armed struggle” in Kashmir, was not ‘azadis’ [liberation or freedom] its singular purpose? However, as the Pakistani army failed to take control of J&K twice [in 1947 and 1965], even a novice would know that expecting a motley group of youths, hastily trained and armed by the Pakistani army to defeat the Indian army was absolutely misplaced. It is therefore obvious that the Pakistani army’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI]cleverly played the ‘azadis’ card just to entice gullible Kashmiri youths to pick up guns and then use them as proxies to conduct a ‘shadow war’ against India!

In the interest of advancing this discussion, let’s give JKLF the benefit of the doubt and accept for a moment his assertion that the so-called “armed struggle” was considering a ‘independent’ Kashmir” for all its indigenous communities, which would be free from any control or influence from India and Pakistan. However, if this is true, then what explains the factual revelation by Hurriyat leader Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat that “This movement [terrorism in J&K] started with the assassinations of thinkers and people with opinions”? Whether ‘azadis’ was really the popular demand of the masses in Kashmir so where was it necessary for JKLF to kill “the thinkers and the people” who defended this same cause?

The answer is simple – it’s JKLF’s radicalized mindset that has made it imperative to weed out revered influencers with secular backgrounds. Such killings also terrorized others into silence and thus JKLF was able to execute its ruthless pogrom against the minority Kashmiri Pandit. [KP] community and forced them to leave the valley. As no one wanted to speak out against this shameful act of communal violence, the pro-Pakistani lobby denied the forced exodus of KPs and even referred to a strange ‘conspiracy’ theory that this exodus was orchestrated by the authorities.

Once the genius of religious radicalization in Kashmir came out of the bottle, there was no way to push it back and soon the much-vaunted ideals of ‘azadis’ and ‘self-determination’ have been overtaken by fundamentalist religious ideology. Self-taught ‘mujahideen’ forcibly enforced their own version of Islamic principles – women not wearing burkas [a long, loose garment covering the whole body from head to feet, worn by Muslim women in public] risked being shot in the legs or having acid thrown in their faces, while beauty salons were told to shut up shop. Films were considered “un-Islamic” and grenade attacks in cinemas forced them to close, and liquor and cigarette vendors were targeted and their stores vandalized.

It was His Majesty’s renegade terrorist Zakir Musa who, taking the lead of the new Al-Qaeda cell called ‘Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’ in 2017, put Kashmir on the global terrorism map. Musa was a pathetic bundle of contradictions – while on the one hand he said, “We call on the Kashmiri pandits to return home. We take responsibility for their protection,” on the other hand, he said that “I will not fight for Azadi for a secular state”, emphasizing that “I will fight for the azadi for Islam, for the establishment of an Islamic state.” He also lambasted the separatists saying, “I warn all those hypocritical Hurriyat leaders. They must not interfere in our Islamic struggle. If they do, we will cut off their heads and hang them at Lal Chowk. [Emphasis added].

Surprisingly, despite the bashing of the so-called ‘armed struggle’while threatening separatist leaders and mocking traditional Kashmir tradition ‘Sufi-Reshi’ culture, thousands of people turned out to pay their respects after Musa was killed during an encounter with security forces. Top Hurriyat leaders and even His Majesty’s Chief Syed Salahuddin whom Musa has been constantly spitting vitriol against, praised him and prayed for his acceptance into heaven! If this is not a clear sign of widespread radicalization, how else can one explain such extraordinary public obedience to a person who openly threw ‘azadis’ and pledged to work for the conversion of Kashmir – not into a ‘azad’[independent] entity but one “Islamic State”?

Likewise, if this is not a manifestation of radicalization, then how else to interpret the utter disregard shown by the Kashmiri youth for the repeated calls of Hurriyat’s most revered leader, SAS Geelani, not to not show islamic state [IS] flags during demonstrations? What does the desecration of Srinagar’s historic Jamia Masjid mean by a masked youth who climbed its pulpit and unfurled an ISIS flag followed by slogans by his associates? Mirwaiz Umar Farook might try to convince people that this act was perpetrated in “at the request of certain agencies and managers”, but isn’t IS’s footprint here too deep to ignore or cover up?

So, in addition to being highly implausible, this allegation also bears a striking similarity to allegations the Hurriyat has made in the past. For example, this separatist conglomerate claimed that Mirwaiz Maulvi Muhammad Farooq, separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone and JKLF ideologue Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani were killed by security forces or intelligence agencies. However, in 2011, senior Hurriyat official Prof. Abdul Ghani Bhat exposed this decades-old lie by admitting that “Lone sahib, Mirwaiz Farooq and Professor Wani were not killed by the army or the police. They were targeted by our own people. Surprisingly, no shutdown or even a candlelight vigil was held by anyone to show solidarity with these selfless leaders who were murdered by members of their own community!

Can the current killing spree of terrorists targeting members of the KP community, including women, be driven by anything other than evil religious indoctrination that has radicalized minds to such an extent that people are genuinely beginning to perceive that killing innocent, helpless men and women simply because they are not believers would earn their killers a coveted place in heaven! Although the deafening silence of Kashmiris on such killings is not directly related to radicalization, it does indicate that these heinous killings are probably no longer offending public sensibilities, which in itself is dangerous as it creates an environment conducive to radicalization.

Cordier: Those who still insist that the so-called “armed struggle” in Kashmir has no connection with radical religious beliefs have probably not heard the admission even of His Majesty’s leader Syed Salahuddin on this issue. In a 2016 interview with ‘The Telegraph’ he clarified that “The Kashmiri movement has been Islamized from day one.” [ Emphasis added]. His reasoning- “Why do you think an educated young man, who has a good future if not, is ready to die? Is he crazy? ‘Azadi’ is not his goal. What will he do with ‘azadi’s he dies during the fight?

The head of SM then goes on to admit that “We tell him [the terrorist] that he would enter “real life” after this death and obtain peace. Khuda usey raazi hoga [Allah will be happy with him].” Finally, saying that “He [the terrorist] is in militancy because he knows that if he dies for a noble cause, he would become a martyr, according to Islam”, [Emphasis added]Salahauddin himself admits that the ongoing armed struggle in Kashmir is not driven by the desire for ‘azadi’ or self-determination, but is only fueled by a radical religious ideology!

Thus, while development activities, job-generating and people-centered initiatives would certainly improve the quality of life in Kashmir, unless concerted action to effectively address religious radicalization in the Kashmir Valley is assured, peace will continue to elude this region.

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