Moazum Mohammad/ Raashid Hassan
Srinagar: When Hizbul Mujahideen took the decision of a three-month unilateral ceasefire in June 2000, after battling government forces in Kashmir for over a decade, Al Badr was among the key militant outfits that objected to it. After the ceasefire didn’t last for more than a fortnight, the then prime minister AB Vajpayee announced suspension of anti-militancy operations in a ‘Ramazan ceasefire’ that began November 26. Al Badr took a stand against that, too, and mounted attacks on forces under an operation named as Gazwa-e-Badr or Battle of Badr. The battle is an important milestone in the establishment of Islam: in it, the Prophet Mohammad (SAW) himself fought along with his 313 companions.
After staying dormant for almost half a decade, Al Badr has resurrected in the Valley during another ‘Ramazan ceasefire’ announced by the Government of India. It has released a video, announcing an offensive against forces, pro-India political workers.
In the more than four-minute video, a young man covering his face with a keffiyeh, with the Al Badr flag and two masked men holding rifles behind him, announces himself as Hamzah Burhan, the divisional commander for south Kashmir.
The video is the outfit’s maiden attempt to enter social media, which has enabled militant outfits to strike a chord with people and boosted recruitment in their ranks. So far, the outfit has released photos of four new recruits – all holding AK-47 rifles and all from south Kashmir – on social media. Hamzah claimed in the video, which could not be independently verified, that their cadre is 100 and will touch 200 in the next few days.
“Those who are religious will be given preference,” Hamzah Burhan said.
The security agencies term the mass recruitment claim as mere “propaganda”. Apart from south Kashmir, the outfit has “no” presence of its foot soldiers in Kashmir, leave aside Jammu where it had presence in the first decade of 2000, a senior police officer said.
Kashmir Inspector General of Police SP Pani said that police were ascertaining the joining of a local youth with Al Badr. “These photographs had come on social media and we are ascertaining them,” he told Kashmir Reader.
The timing of the revival of the inactive outfit is tricky for the security establishment, as they see it as an attempt to stall negotiations, if any. The assumption is based on the positive feelers from Hurriyat and the United Jehad Council, a group of armed militants that hasn’t closed the window of engagement yet. The Joint Resistance Leadership of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik has asked the government to clear the terms of the dialogue it is offering, while the UJC led by Hizbul chief Syed Salahudin has not rejected the offer outright like its counterpart, Lashkar-e-Toiba.
“The outfit was dormant for years and suddenly it sprang up from nowhere. The outfit is critical of the ceasefire and that indicates the motive of its emergence at this time,” the police officer said.
Hizb and Al Badr are ideologically identical, as both draw inspiration from the Jamaat-e-Islami. Al Badr is, in fact, the offshoot of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan. It came into being during the anti-Soviet Union jihad in Afghanistan. The outfit merged into Hizb when it was established but later its relations soured. Al Badr began to operate independently to “liberate Kashmir” in 1998. Its chief, said to be the over 60-year-old Bakht Zaman, is a guerilla leader who fought in the Afghan war. A year after coming into being, the outfit sent its cadre to participate in the Kargil war. The ideological pact with the Hizb gives it the benefit of utilising Hizb’s logistics in the Valley.
“The outfit would send foreign militants to the Valley because Hizb tried to be seen as a local outfit. There is no difference between them except that Al Badr is more lethal as it has well-trained foreign militants,” a former militant said.
The relatively peaceful years after the 2003 ceasefire agreement between India and Pakistan, left Al Badr fighting an onslaught in which it lost its human resource as well as striking capability. It had to fall back on an ousted Lashkar-e-Toiba commander, Muzaffar Iqbal Naikoo alias Muza Molvi, to ensure it was still in the game. Because his credibility was dented after the Lashkar accused him of extortion, the once most-wanted militant Muzaffar, killed in 2017 on Srinagar outskirts, couldn’t revive Al Badr.
“Since then, they had nobody here,” a police officer said, adding that the outfit tried to recruit youth but they were arrested instantly. Al Badr also used to keep anti-Pakistan forces in check, such as IS or Ansar Gazwat-ul-Hind are now, but the outfit has no more than a scanty presence on ground, the officer said.