By Mudasir Nazar
Burhan and the martyrdom of Burhan indeed revitalized Kashmiri resistance movement. Once again, like 1990’s militants are received with huge public support and enthusiasm. They are dear, dearer than the lives of their children to Kashmiris. The tremendous popularity of the Hizbul Mujahideen (Hizb henceforth) is a typical feature of the post-Burhan phase of Kashmir militancy. While Lashkar-e-Taiba is also appearing relevant but Hizb’s local nature is a primary factor for its high popularity. However, Hizb seems to have reached at its critical juncture and its future seems uncertain.
Some critical new developments are underway within the organization and some of them might prove significant. Hizb, under the leadership of Zakir Musa has drifted from its old ideological stance. Zakir went against the policies of United Jihad council (UJC), on the one side and confronted political resistance leadership, on the other. Though Zakir disassociated himself from Hizb but many militants have come to support him. It is infact Hizb’s rebellion against UJC and Hurriyat. The disturbing reality is haunting many and people ends up assuming either infiltration of agencies within the organization or loss of control of the top brass of militant leadership across border on the field operatives.
Something was going on within the organization from past several months. On April 27, militant Musaib Wani appeared on the death anniversary of Nasir Ahmad Pandit at Kareem Abad and openly rebuffed Hizb’s old policies. He declared that “we want to implement Islam in Kashmir as well as in Pakistan and we must love Taliban because it wants to implement Islam in Pakistan”. We had risen for Islam and nor for any country (Pakistan). Black flags should be waved and not green flags because there is no Kalima written on the latter”. His statements were immediately disowned by Syed Salauddin. Since Musaib raised slogans “Jeeve Jeeve Taliban”, it became apparent that “Kashmiri Taliban” would soon emerge. But UJC failed to foresee it and stop its development.
Some Hizb militants on the other hand started propagating a type of ideology identical with Islamic state (IS). They and their supporters started attempts on social media to build support for caliphate. They created several Facebook pages to propagate the same. They succeeded to build consensus within organization for caliphate and preferred to wave black flags with a Kalima written on it. They then declared Kashmiri movement as a “small chapter of global caliphate”. Some, on the other hand preferred Pakistan and green flags with a crescent. However, since the top leaders like Zakir Musa himself confirmed to the caliphate ideology, it became difficult for lower rank militants to defend their position on front of more rhetorical narratives of their leaders. With the result, black flag lovers dominated the organization and green ones went to the background.
The ideological crisis became apparent when Zakir Musa started associating Kashmiri militancy with Islam and declared it as a “movement for the establishment of Islamic state”. Sensing political immaturity, Huryat immediately rebuffed. But Zakir didn’t stop and issued statements after statements. While Hurriyat celebrated girls’ protests, Zakir in another video message advised girls to abandon stone pelting and protests. He asked them to stay back at homes, because in his view, “it is un-Islamic”. He said, “Whatever, you are doing, is against sharia. In Islam, there are no such protests and that is why Allah is punishing us with occupation”. He accused girls for “hurting Islamic movement of Kashmir”. Hizb’s priorities have changed from past several months and its drastic ideological transformation has brought it in conflict with political leadership. Its leaders now openly threaten Hurriyat leaders to chop off their heads and hang them in Lal chock.
Burhan represented public aspirations and chose course of action for Hizb suitable to Kashmiri mentality. Burhan unlike other Jihadis, himself appeared to be a normal Kashmiri. He preferred to wear t-shirts, have trimmed beard and remained an admirer of Hurriyat. He used social media to reach youth and fired their imagination. He tried to represent spirit of Kashmiris which made him dear to everyone. At the same time, he appeared politically mature. His videos on social media were often addressing issues of injustice and Indian oppression in Kashmir. He too like other militants called for jihad but “jihad against oppression and injustice”. Jihad for him meant “freedom for his homeland” and used vocabulary like Dushman (enemies) for Indian state rather than Kuffar (Infidels). His vision popularized him as well as his organization. It is the same popularity on which his adventurous successor started riding.
Burhan was initially succeeded by Sabzar Bhat. However, it remained unclear how he all of a sudden went to the background and Zakir dominated the show. He reduced Kashmir issue to the religious issue. However, he seems to have fell prey to the ideological rhetoric of international Jihadis. Being an engineering student, he remained more receptive to extremist ideological influences as is often the case elsewhere with engineering background students. He has confirmed to the ideology of caliphate propounded by IS and Al-Qaeda. He wants to establish Islamic caliphate in Kashmir. He along with his followers are influenced by the heroism of IS and wants to operate and adopt their ruthless style.
The movement in Kashmir seems to have reached at its critical juncture. While some support TTP, Some ISIS and raise black flags, others support Pakistan and wave green flags. Some want to put women behind four walls, others celebrates their protests. Some wants to establish Islamic state, others aspire for freedom. Questions like whether police and Indian supporters should be killed or not is also heavily contested. In fact, the movement consists of groups with multiple ideological orientations. They are moving in different directions.
The people too, are divided, on the ground. While some oppose Zakir, large chunk of people support him. Similarly some support Hurriyat, while others feel disgusted by it. Some support Geelani but at the same time are unable to rebuff Zakir’s position. The divisions are becoming apparent and the confusions more entrenching. The divisions would soon intensify and will have severe consequences. Zakir would soon appear by declaring establishment of new outfit. Then the disputes would aggravate between green flag lovers and black flag lovers. Chances of inter and intra militant fights would increase. People would be killed by labeling each other Kafir and agents. Beheading might appear as a normal course. The end result would be favorable to no one.
—The author is a Research scholar at South Asian Studies, School of international Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org