Kashmir unrest: Zakir Musa's Hizbul Mujahideen exit shows 1989 monster is back to haunt its creators

Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Musa, the former engineering student and successor to Burhan Wani, has dissociated himself from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, his parent organisation, over ideological issues, saying if the organisation "does not represent me, I also do not represent Hizb". The war of words erupted after Musa, 34, threatened to behead the Hurriyat leaders for calling Kashmir’s ongoing struggle "political" rather than "Islamic", and vowed to hang those advocating a secular State at Lal Chowk in Srinagar.

The threat was, according to some commentators, aimed at the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference and the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front; both have been maintaining that political aspirations of people have to be respected and distinguished from religion. The truth may be hard to swallow, but Musa is saying exactly what the separatist leaders in Kashmir have been propagating to mobilise their cadre since the beginning of the armed insurgency that broke out in the region in 1989 after decades of political discontent.

At the heart of this 'secular versus Islamic' State debate are the events of 1989 when the majority of militant groups and parties used to mobilise people on the rallying cry of Islamic slogans that were anything but secular in nature.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

"Hum kya chahte? Azaadi (What do we want? Freedom)," the crowds would chant and still do. Then it would be followed quickly by another slogan, "Azadi ka matlab kya? La Ilah Ha Illallah (What is the meaning of Azadi? There is no God but Allah)" and "Yahan kya chalega? Nizame-i-Mustafa. (What will be implemented here? The order of the Prophet Mohammad)".

"The undercurrent, tone and tenure of these slogans, leave aside the movement, was Islamic, but one can’t say with assurance that people, who raised these slogans, had any idea of what they were chanting. But Islam was a rallying cry," said historian Fida Hussain.

However, many disagree, including Shakeel Bakshi, separatist leader and Islamic Students League patron. "Even at that time, people had their own ideology and different view points."

Gowhar Geelani, a political commentator based in Srinagar, says Kashmir’s struggle has drawn strength from multiple identities that include, Kashmiri identity, Muslim identity and religious identity.

"The more there has been religious ascendency in India, whether it's Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister or Yogi Adityanath becoming chief minister — although through a democratic process. There has been counter-radicalisation in the Valley in a certain section of the population. But the majority would like to separate religion from politics," Geelani told Firstpost.

In early nineties, faith was utilized for political mobilization including by groups like Jamaat-e-Islami and many others who sought refuge in religion to address the political problem.

In an audio message, Musa said on Saturday: "Geelani is saying azaadi for Islam and I do not have differences with him. We want imposition of Shariat."

But the militant commander seems to have little idea that the real reason for the friction between Jamaat-e-Islami, a constituent of the erstwhile Hurriyat Conference and later Hurriyat led by Geelani, was that the Jamaat wanted to take religion and politics together but Geelani wanted to focus only on the political part (the Kashmir issue) and overlook religion for the time being.

"The basic problem is that there is no Islamic Shariat being followed and there is no Islamic rule. In a secular State, we can’t implement Islam properly," Muhammad Abdullah Wani, the former chairman of the Jama'at-e-Islami, said in an interview. "Today, Jama'at-e-Islami is not associated with any of the political or religious organisation for the very same reason and we are more into social activities," he added.

Jama'at is known for its role in the separatist movement in the 1990s, when its cadres were part and parcel of almost every activity. "The slogans that reverberated were never like, say, 'What do we want? A secular State'," a senior police officer, who has been at the forefront of fighting insurgency in the Valley, said, "One day, the monster was going to come home to roost."

For example, the Jama'at-e-Islami, the political formation that gave birth to the Hizbul-Mujahideen, used Islam for political mobilisation in the Valley. It bore the brunt of the turmoil. Its cadre was murdered in broad daylight, almost on a daily basis, before it choose another path of organising rallies against moral corruption and western cultural influences.

Jama'at was founded by Pakistan's Abul Ala Mawdudi, a renowned theologian and ideologue of 'Political Islam', way back in 1941. Its basic objective was to promote moral values and Islamic practices. In Jammu and Kashmir, its central concern was freeing Islam of the syncretic folk practices he believed had corrupted the essence of the faith.

The Hizbul Mujahideen, of which Musa was a part until Saturday, was one of the organisations that started the insurgency in the Valley and it was dependent on Jamaat-e-Islami for religious motivation, having grown out of the movement. "Religion has and always will be used to draw inspiration for the affairs of the State but not for running the State," Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the head priest of Kashmir and Hurriyat leader, said, "The State has to have secular credentials where minorities are protected and rights of dispossessed assured."

If one goes by the social media feeds in Kashmir, a majority of the people have disapproved of Musa's statement, but invoking Islam was the foundation on which the political struggle in Kashmir was built. Now, Frankenstein's monster seems to have come back to hunt its creators.

Updated Date: May 15, 2017 08:12 AM

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