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Opinion: Local Recruitment and its impact on militancy

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Opinion: Local Recruitment and its impact on militancy
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Why militants are considered as heroes of the land, why they are given such respect, why thousands and lakhs of people come to attend funeral ceremony of militants?….”

By Major Rajdeep Singh
Reported by Team RK
24 Sep 2020

Insurgency, as it manifested in 1989, was not an isolated political phenomenon but was very much located in the historical context of the conflict situation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the roots of which can be traced to the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. It is a protracted conflict, having acquired complexity not only due to the competitive claims of India and Pakistan, on the one hand, and those of the Kashmiris, on the other, but also due to the interlinking of its external and internal dimensions. While the external dimensions are defined by the continued hostility between India and Pakistan over the question of Kashmir and its internationalization, the internal dimensions are defined by the state of alienation of the Kashmiris vis-a-vis the Indian state.  Though external and internal dimensions became meshed in Kashmir in the post 1989 period, the immediate context of insurgency was provided by the internal context, especially the political events that took place in the state of J&K in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of insurgency. Both the armed militancy and the popular insurgency that shook the Kashmir Valley in 1989 were local responses to the situation.

Three distinct developments during 1989–90 marked the beginning of the present phase of conflict.  First, there was the armed militancy that had started making its impact through selective targeting of security forces, government officials, political activists belonging to mainstream political parties, and others perceived as sympathetic to the Indian state. Second, there was popular upsurge reflected through massive demonstrations on the streets of the valley resounding with slogans of azadi (freedom). Third, there was a collapse of the political order. With people openly defying the state, it was difficult for the government to enforce its writ.  Armed militancy came to capture the political imagination of Kashmiris immediately after the 1987 Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state elections which people perceived as heavily rigged. The election was a contest primarily between an Indian National Congress-National conference (NC) alliance against the Muslim United Front (MUF). The NC had been Kashmir’s most popular party since 1947 and had traditionally operated as J&K’s chief interlocutor with the successive Central governments in New Delhi.  It was led by Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, the charismatic leader of Kashmir, till his son Farooq Abdullah succeeded him as the party president months before the Sheikh’s death in 1982.  The NC lost popularity after Farooq Abdullah entered into an alliance with the Congress party in 1986 and openly acknowledged that his decision was to sustain himself and his party in power.  The Rajiv Gandhi-Farooq Abdullah Accord, as Pakistan had a significant role in sustaining militancy in Kashmir. It got involved in the insurgency from the very beginning and provided direct support both at the political and military level. Portraying the militants as “freedom fighters,” Benazir Bhutto, then prime minister of Pakistan, pledged Pakistan’s full “moral and diplomatic” support to them in 1990. Meanwhile, the ISI got deeply involved in militancy, providing material and financial backing to militants, establishing training camps and even sending the trained militants to Afghanistan to acquire practical training.  “Young Kashmiri began to cross into Pakistan by hundreds in search of weapons and training, the Pakistan military and intelligence services quickly woke up to the opportunities at hand. Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), which has very close ties with the ISI, played an instrumental role in pushing for a policy of direct support for the rebels.  In its efforts to directly control the militancy, it not only strengthened Hizb but also encouraged “zealot Islamic groups based in Pakistan, such as Harkat-ul-Ansar, to enter the Kashmir war”.

Devoid of financial and other kinds of support from Pakistan and facing elimination of its cadre by the HM, JKLF was forced to declare ceasefire in 1994 and, thereafter, operated as a political rather than militant group. By this time, militancy in Kashmir had acquired a more violent and brutal form. In the name of Islamic jihad, outfits manned by mercenaries from Afghanistan, Pakistan and other countries started operating there. The three major organizations operating through foreign jihadi elements were: Harkat-ul Mujahedeen (HuM),  Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).  Apart from these, numerous smaller outfits were also active. Most of these were either associated with the larger outfits or were the front organizations floated in the wake of bans imposed on some of the prominent organizations. Though the years 1990–1995 can be seen as the peak period of the militancy, militants remained active in Kashmir throughout the decade of the nineties and early years of the new millennium.  It was in 2004 that the Ministry of Home Affairs of the government of India recorded “a perceptible decline in the number of (militant) incidents and also, in the number of civilians, security forces personnel and terrorists killed”.  There has been a substantial further decline in militancy since 2004.

The new trend of militancy started with Burhan Wani.  He was the commander of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). He was the first militant who used social media platform to innovate new face of militancy. He joined militancy in Oct 2010, when he was 15 years old. According to his father, he joined militancy after an incident in which he was innocently beaten by security forces along with his brother Khalid. However security forces claimed that they were beaten after their statement that they were trying to cross LOC. Khalid was killed by security forces in April 2015 by Indian Army who claimed that he was underground worker of militants which police failed to prove due to lack of evidence. He was killed by security forces in an encounter in July 2016 which led to mass violent protests in Kashmir resulting in death of more than 96 people and injury of 15000 civilians and 4000 security forces. 

After Burhan another most wanted militant in Kashmir was Zakir Musa. He was appointed as top commander of HM after death of Burhan Wani. Zakir Musa was founder of anti-Militant organization ‘Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’ in 2017 after he left HM. He joined militancy in 2013 and was gunned down by security forces in May 2019. Before joining militancy, Musa was engineering student at a college in Chandigarh and was award winning carom player. Another engineering student Eisa fazili joined militancy in 2017. He was a B.Tech student at Baba Ghulam shah Badshah University and was known by nickname Newton. Eisa was deeply disheartened by enormities and wrong doing on Muslim countries by super power countries. According to one of his class mate he was a brilliant student and blamed Wahhabi preachers and Tehreek i Insaf leader for his decision of joining militancy. Eisa was neutralized by security forces in March 2018 during an encounter at Anantnag in Kashmir. Rafiq bhat who was an assistant professor at University of Kashmir joined militant outfit in May 2018 and was killed just after 40 hour of joining by security forces. Rafiq had completed his PhD from Kashmir University and had also qualified NET twice before joining militancy. Another scholar turned militant was Manan Wani. He was one among the most wanted militants of Kashmir. He joined militancy when he came in touch with students from South Kashmir at Aligarh Muslim University. Before joining militancy, he was PhD scholar at Dept. of Geology in Aligarh Muslim University. Manan was gunned down by security forces in oct-2018. Sabzar sofi, another scholar turned militant joined Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Aug, 2016. Sabzar was NET_JRF qualified and had completed his M-Phil from Jiwaji University Gwalior. Mohammad- Younis Lone joined Hizbul Mujahideen in February 2017. He was killed within a month in an encounter at Yaripora. He had two Masters Degrees (MA sociology, MA Islamic Studies). Azharuddin Khan was another well qualified militant who joined militant outfit in April 2016 and was killed in Feb-2017. Azhar was lecturer at a higher secondary school and had completed PhD in Arabic before joining militancy. According to one of his friend, Azhar joined militant outfit when one of his neighbour was killed by security forces during a protest which affected him deeply. Shamsul Haq, younger brother of IPS officer Inam Ul-Haq joined militancy in July 2010 and was killed in Jan 2019. Junaid Ashray, son of newly elected chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat joined militancy in March 2018. His father blamed that oppressions and injustice of Indian Govt. toward Kashmir made his son to join militant outfit.

This new breed of militants are well qualified, well employed and belong to wealthy families. Like viz. Zakir Musa belonged to a wealthy and educated family. His father is an engineer, his brother is a doctor and his sister is bank officer. So it is not wise to say that poverty and unemployment drags youth of Kashmir towards militancy.  Since the death of Burhan Wani, there has been continuous increase in the number of youths joining militancy.  He was the most successful and most wanted militant. He got attention of people through social media by his videos, pictures and audio messages. Since then social media became one of the main and easiest source by which militants used to communicate their messages to the people of Kashmir. Militants begin to gain popularity across the valley. From last five years Militants are considered as heroes of the Valley. The family of the militants is given high respect in the society.  Thousands of people across travel to attend the funeral ceremonies of militants. There is sympathy for the families whose beloveds were killed as militant.

So, why militants are considered as heroes of the land, why they are given such respect, why thousands and lakhs of people come to attend funeral ceremony of militants? The young generation and illiterate people of Kashmir are misguided by some peoples who are influenced from Pakistan and don’t want peace in Kashmir.  Burhan and Musa effect have also motivated local youth to join militancy in the name of jihad.   Moreover it is obvious to say that Pakistan is fully involved in pushing Kashmiri youth towards militancy. HM and JeM are Pakistan based anti -India militant organization that currently operates in Kashmir and recruit youth.  These organizations provide platform for Locals to join Militancy.  All the funds and weapons for these organizations are coming from Pakistan. Government of India is now trying to save local people from this burden by diverting the interest of youth towards education, sports, art and entertainment etc. Tournaments are being organized to engulf youth towards sports. Various seminars and conferences are being held to encourage people and keep them away from violence. Parents of youth are being convinced by army and police to keep their wards away from protests, anti-India demonstrations etc.  

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