A watershed in the raging anti-India revolt was the phenomenon of Ikhwan, a militia comprising an assortment of informers, closet criminals, smugglers, extortionists, rapists and hired murderers, which was unleashed on Kashmiris after being conceived and nourished in army camps in the mid 1990s. Its name, which in Arabic means ‘brothers’, embodies the inherently cruel nature of the tactics employed by the state to crush dissent. When a ‘brother’ kills a Kashmiri, the state nearly gets away with half the enormity of the savage crimes committed by this group. Ikhwanis operated nihilistically in an atmosphere secured by more than half a million soldiers and policemen.
Even the hardcore statist and status-quoist PDP and National Conference do everything to dissociate themselves from these mercenaries. ‘Nabid’ and ‘Ikhwani’ might be the most despicable words in the Kashmiri lexicon but by and large the state managed to shield them. Kukka Parray became an MLA and Javed Shah an MLC. Scores of them are now salaried soldiers in the Indian army. The phenomenon of Ikhwan, despite its unique nature of birth and matchless barbarity, was, however, only a virulent form of the collaboration that has been the bane of all mass movements in Kashmir.
Though Ikhwan is etched on our memories as some lurking horror, it can always be easily dismissed as a nightmare. Even its creators will feel queasy about owning it. But what about an official, or a minister, who offers prayers five times a day, can make nuanced intellectual interventions, has separate fan pages on Facebook, but looks the other way when the Indian army ‘requisitions’ school girls for ‘national integration tours’? If such tours are so innocuous as to warrant an unquestioned nod by the director school education or the minister for education, what prevents them from sending their own kin once in a while to set an example? Who is responsible for any flare up that might occur if any of these girls develop feelings for soldiers? Many years ago, a girl who had developed relations with a soldier at a knitting centre set up by the army in Safapora had gone to meet the soldier at a building in Kangan town. The irate people surrounded the building, about 200 metres from the nearest army camp. The beleaguered soldier fired at the people while fleeing, killing a middle-aged father of three, and then shot himself dead. Some seemingly un-Ikhwan activities have Ikhwan-like consequences. Worse, in fact, because they hit at the core of Kashmiri society.