Kashmir terror funding case: Mehbooba's bizarre statements must not be allowed to hold nation hostage

Jammu and Kashmir may have a separate constitution but it is, unquestionably, part of India. Of late, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has been making bizarre statements which indicate some sort of desperation on her part towards the scenario unfolding in the Valley.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) crackdown on the leaders of All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), their arrest, allegations of terrorist links, illegal wealth, inciting youth and instigating violence have shaken the state.

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

File image of Mehbooba Mufti. AFP

In addition to Pakistan, these separatists were also reportedly receiving funds from outfits in London and Dubai. According to media reports, this information has been conveyed by Shahid-ul-Islam, a top aide of Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat, and one of the seven separatists arrested by the NIA. Despite all these facts, Mehbooba has stated that the NIA has no jurisdiction in Jammu and Kashmir.

Which clearly indicates that her sympathies lie with these Hurriyat leaders who are destabilising her state. The links between the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Hizbul Mujahideen seem to be deep rooted indeed. After the previous elections, her father Mufti Mohammad Sayeed  publicly thanked Pakistan in his speech in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

After Modi's visit to America, the United States branded Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). Significantly, the NIA also recovered a detailed ‘protest calendar’ issued and signed by APHC chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani, thus exposing that the separatists had been coordinating with handlers in Pakistan to create instability which led to widespread violence. The documents reportedly listed dates when protests and other activities related to civil unrest were to be carried out in the Valley following the killing of Burhan Wani.

Everyone witnessed the violence, stone-pelting and killings. It was suspected that the protests, intended to fan radicalism, involved local clerics and separatist cadres as well as activists of Opposition parties and were funded by the Hurriyat in concert with Pakistani agencies. Geelani was allegedly the main coordinator. Separatists not only paid stone-pelters, but called for and funded protest assemblies, blocked roads and select government buildings, and radicalised youth in mosques by playing songs that called for 'azaadi' through loudspeakers.

All this happened right under Mehbooba's nose. She was being given intelligence by security agencies. Surely, she knew what was happening. The increase in violence — especially after Friday prayers — were obvious, what with Pakistani and Islamic State flags reportedly being waved and hoisted. Did she ever try and find out where those flags came from?

Given that she did not have access to Geelani’s protest calendar, but the Hurriyat’s radicalisation diktat was being published in regional newspapers even before the killing of Burhan Wani. However, having discovered what Geelani and his ilk have been up to, what does she mean when she says that the NIA has no jurisdiction in Jammu and Kashmir.

At a recent function in New Delhi, Mehbooba made yet another peculiar statement: She said that if Article 35A (which deals with Jammu and Kashmir's special status) was tinkered with, there will be no one left to hold the National Flag, which her party and some other parties were carrying “despite all risks”.

This is a direct threat. But who is she referring to when saying there will be “no one to hold the flag”? Is it the radicalised four or five districts,  a miniscule part of the state,  which both main political parties have — by default or design — permitted to be radicalised? No political leader has ever called upon the clerics to refrain from radicalising youth.

Mehbooba's statement was termed 'shocking' by Union minister, Jitendra Singh who said that the Tricolour  is "sacrosanct". He added, "If at all there is an issue pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir, it is only of how to retrieve the part of the state that remains under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.”

Mehbooba has also asked the Centre not to block trade routes with Pakistan, despite NIA experts pointing out that separatists, and consequently terrorists are the only beneficiaries of trade. The NIA has, over the years, been reporting that goods moving from India into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) were highly overpriced, and that the excess money was being used to fund terrorism, narco-terrorism, weapons and ammunition in Jammu and Kashmir. That the politicians and bureaucrats receive their cut is obvious, aside from Hurriyat separatists using such funds to amass individual wealth and property.

The link between the PDP and the Hizbul Mujahideen makes Mehbooba party to this entire scenario. Although they repeatedly urge the Centre to talk to the Jammu and Kashmir youth, the leaders of the major political parties in the state never do so themselves: Unless it's time to get votes.

The state economy has been going downhill. All the more reason that the youth should have been given a road map, explaining to them that violence and terror hinders development. The leaders should have highlighted the atrocities committed by Pakistani terrorists: Rapes, forced marriages and mutilations. But they haven't done so. Because their coffers were flush with ill-gotten gains and an unending flow of cash through hawala.

Where do we go from here? While the NIA continues to unearth more secrets and pull on threads that will unravel how terror is funded in Jammu and Kashmir, the political leaders must continue to be subject to the same scrutiny. Especially with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations making headway in the state. They may even have links to many politicians, especially those openly calling for 'azaadi' and Sharia law across Kashmir. India's solution lies in looking to how China and Pakistan have responded to such challenges: By changing demographics.

The folly of prolonging Article 370 must be rectified. Put it to a vote. Let the anti-nationals not hoist the flag. We have enough remedies to take care of them. Focus must be on progress. Anti-India politicians, separatists and terrorists must not be allowed to take India hostage. The 'enemy within' must be identified and dealt with harshly.

The author is a retired lieutenant-general of the Indian Army

Updated Date: Aug 07, 2017 06:18 AM

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