Killing of DSP Ayub Pandith shows Islamic radicalisation is now firmly rooted in Kashmir
Is J&K slipping? Definitely not, because the cancer of Islamic radicalisation is presently restricted to 4-5 districts of Kashmir.
Lynching deputy superintendent of police Mohammed Ayub Pandith, close on the heels of the killing of Lt Ummer Fayaz, plus killing of six policemen of Jammu and Kashmir Police — including the SHO of the police station and mutilation of the dead bodies — should leave no doubt that Islamic radicalisation has taken root in Kashmir. Not that the signs are new but they were being brushed under the table for petty vote-bank politicking, and probably will continue to happen without us realising the adverse effect on rest of India. That the lives of security personnel are perhaps cheapest in India matters little to the bureaucratised polity is quite well known.
There is not much of a difference between Pakistan and Islamist terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir aligning with the Islamic State call to undertake more violent acts during the holy month of Ramadan. While there is acknowledgment in some quarters now that Kashmiriyat is dead, political parties have been abetting the same mostly by design while Wahabism took route in the Kashmir Valley. The number of mosques controlled by Wahabis, including the Ahle Hadith, went up over the last decade plus from around 1,000 mosques to around 2,000 with most of the youth opting for them than the traditional Kashmiri Sufi shrines. The influence of the Wahabis has also changed the nature of the insurgency in Kashmir as from seeking freedom for Kashmir, the narrative has changed with terrorists fighting for the cause of Islam.
Neither the Centre nor the Jammu and Kashmir government has any cogent plan to deal with radicalisation beyond blocking the internet, mobiles and the like. Odd government functionaries discuss and air views about perception management albeit a cohesive policy is yet to emerge, leave aside effective execution. But there are two glaring voids in this discussion. The most important is the role of the clergy in the Valley, especially in the mosques controlled by Wahabis including the Ahle Hadith. It is here that the youths are being incited consistently, especially during Friday prayers. That is where you find most violence, waving of Pakistani and IS flags and sloganeering in the name of jihad. This is where a separatist like Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, who delivers sermons during Friday prayers in Jamia mosque, has the opportunity to fan the fires. The likes of Farooq and the clergy need the ‘Mutt and Jeff’ line of treatment.
While five suspects involved in the lynching of DSP Mohammed Ayub Pandith have been arrested, Jammu and Kashmir, Director General of Police SP Vaid, has already stated that Farooq's men were allegedly involved in the killing of the DSP. Interrogation of the killing is very much warranted, crocodile tears being shed by Farooq notwithstanding.
The second issue is that of education. What the Centre is unaware of, and the state government is implicit in, is that schools (not madrassas) in the Valley are teaching children to hate non-Muslims. This needs to be addressed beyond Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who does little beyond trumpeting periodically about the need to resume dialogue. Her condition is not different from Qamar Bajwa, about whom Pakistani scholar Ayesha Siddiqa wrote that he has little space to manoeuvre beyond siding with the terrorists who don't attack Pakistan.
Is Jammu and Kashmir slipping? Definitely not, because the cancer of Islamic radicalisation is presently restricted to four-five districts of the Kashmir Valley, while Jammu and Kashmir is a huge state.
But the issue here is that it can spread in other parts of the state, as well as other parts of India, if there is inaction and we continue to portray the ‘soft image’ of not dealing with Wahabism with a firm hand.
Agha H Amin, defence analyst and former Pakistan Army officer, had stated in 2012 that the "Pakistan-sponsored Taliban regard all Shias, Ismailis, non-Pashtuns, moderate Pashtuns as infidels who deserve to be massacred". That is the extent to which Pakistan has managed to radicalise at least parts of, if not whole of, Kashmir Valley. AQIS (Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent) chief Asim Umar has been giving calls to Muslims in India to undertake ‘lone wolf’ attacks. Then, you have issues like some 4,000 Rohingya Muslims colonising the Jammu region despite Article 370 during the UPA 2 regime on personal behest of the then home minister P Chidambaran under the pretext of UNHCR. But surely, UN did not specify the Jammu region for accommodating these illegal immigrants. Riddled with rampant corruption, the state administration does not function much anyway. You just have to look at the state of the government schools to assess the lack of administration.
Two things can be taken for certain. First off, given the fertile ground of instability, Pakistan will continue to destabilise the Kashmir Valley, fully backed by China. Pakistan Army’s bible is the book The Quranic Concept of War published in 1979, authored by Brigadier SK Malik of Pakistan Army. The preface of the book is written by Allah Bukhsh K Brohi, the former Pakistani ambassador to India, and Zia-ul-Haq, former Pakistan president and chief of army staff, opens the book by focusing on the concept of jihad, justifying terrorism and explaining jihad is not simply the domain of the military but of every Muslim.
Pakistan has managed to export this ideology to the Kashmir Valley with the likes of Umar Farooq, Hurriyat separatists and the clergy. Secondly, the state government has failed to deliver, to reach out to the public and create jobs even as it continues to remain cocooned within its secure confines enjoying the spoils of the enormous funds being released by the Centre. It is now for the Modi government to make the move. A prolonged spell of President's Rule will be good for the state with the radicals and anti-nationals purged. Jammu and Kashmir needs a firm hand and a well-defined policy.
The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army
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