I hope that by the time this message reaches you, I would be frolicking in god’s paradise,” 20-year-old Adil Dar, seated between a flag of the Jaish-e-Mohammed, and assault rifles and ammunition, is heard saying in a 10- minute video released on February 14, the day his suicide attack claimed the lives of 40 Indian paramilitary personnel in south Kashmir.
Social media had become an important tool for the new wave of young Kashmiri men waging jihad against the State. However, while this has been largely restricted to dissemination of pictures and videos that showed a human side of the jihadists, Dar’s video statement was eerily similar to the previous admission of complicity by the Jaish-e-Mohammed. Dar’s determination and admission was much like that of 16-year-old Fardeen Khanday’s admission of mounting an attack on a paramilitary camp in the same southern region, on December 31, 2017.
"By the time this message reaches you, I will be far away, a guest in god’s paradise,” Khanday had said in his pre-recorded statement before he stormed the camp along with two others.
Dar, however, had upped the ante. In his pre-recorded statement, Dar taunted Indians as “drinkers of cow urine”, a reference commonly used by Jaish chief Masood Azhar in his sermons, and warned of a threat to Islam. “The war that they could not win with weapons and soldiers, now they want to attack your faith, colour you in their culture, and deprive you of the beautiful traditions of Islam,” he says in the video.
Social media war
One of the crucial elements of the radical Islamic content online is naturally the central focus on Islamic values. Jihadists are seen praying in orchards or over snow or merely marching to nasheeds playing in the background. However, where once videos released by them invoked among civilians a sympathy and connect, they are now focused on creating fear and deterrence. The frequency of videos and pictures released on the web has decreased while the content simultaneously has become increasingly explicit about violence.
In August 2018, amid killings of policemen and abduction of their relatives, Hizb Valley chief Riyaz Naikoo had warned in an audio released on social media: “This time we have let your families go unharmed but this will not happen again. Their next time will be as your actions are.” Naikoo’s threat to political workers, particular attacking sarpanches and panches with acid, has also caused widespread fear. This year, at least three executions were filmed and circulated.
Change of tack
On the social media space, both the self-styled Islamic State in Kashmir and the Zakir Musa-led Ansar have repeatedly attacked traditional jihadist outfits over their espousal of nationalism. While neither the Ansar nor IS has a significant cadre, they have till now surpassed their parent organisations in handling the narrative on social networking sites. However, the resurgence of the Jaish might just upset the dynamics. As the shock of the scale of Dar’s actions ebbed in the Valley, the Hizbul Mujahideen stepped in with an audio statement in which Naikoo warned: “That day is close when our 15-year-old kids will strap explosives and target your vehicles. We prefer a dignified death over a life of slavery.” “People have already begin saying that the Jaish does not believe in taking selfies but actually doing action,” said one local. “It might make more potential jihadists in the Kashmiri youth join the Jaish.”