The growth of ISIS-like ideology in Kashmir is fruit of what the Jama’at and its affiliates sowed in the ‘90s
By Inam ul Rehman
“Why do you want to put the burden of Khilafat on the weak shoulders of the Kashmiris?” thundered Bashir Ahmad Lone, a member and preacher of the Jama’at-i-Islami, from a pulpit in March 2018. Immediately, he contradicted his statement retorting, “We have taught Khilafat to the people. Are these kids going to teach us what Khilafat is?” This came in response to the increasing support to two global outfits, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State, shown in Srinagar at the funeral of alleged ISIS member Eesa Fazili on 12 March 2018, where flags of ISIS were waved.
Whether the two global outfits have officially declared their presence in Kashmir is debatable, but their ideology, it seems, has taken root in the Muslim majority region. It was not the first time that ISIS flags were displayed, or the bodies of militants were draped in it. Four months earlier, Mugees Ahmad Mir of Parimpora was killed in an encounter with the JK police. At his funeral, there was no Pakistani flag, people shouted slogans against the Hurriyat Conference, and chanted, “Neither Hurriyat’s Shariat, nor Hurriyat’s Azadi, Kashmir will become dar-ul-Islam”
It was not one of any instance. Waving of flags other than Pakistan’s became a norm in 2014. In 2017, a family of downtown Srinagar threw away the flag of Pakistan on the body of their militant son Sajad Gilkar.
But, Eesa Fazili came from the Jama’at family background. Once he took arms, Fazili was mostly cited in pictures shared on social media with the logo of the ISIS, bearing flags of Tawheed. In his videos he was advocating their cause. Fazili was killed on 11 March along with his two companions; one of them belonged to south Indian state of Telangana. At Fazili’s funeral, the Pakistani flags were invisible in presence of the flags of al-Qaeda, ISIS, and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
Jama’at and its armed wing
The seeds of Khilafat and Shariat were sowed by the Jama’at and its armed wing Hizbul Mujahideen in the ‘90s. In the beginning of the movement against Indian rule in Kashmir in July 1988, when the fighters of JKLF raised the slogan of “azadi”, it got massive support in Srinagar and many other towns. Its slogan ‘Hum kya chahtay? Azadi’ became a rallying cry for Kashmiris. It asked for the implementation of the UN resolutions on plebiscite. The JKLF was seen as the movement of the people. In fact, the JKLF’s call for plebiscite resonated with almost all sections of society. In one march toward the UN Military Observers Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) in Srinagar, thousands of people that included scholars, doctors, bureaucrats, officials, handed memorandums to the UN Observers in February 1990 to demand implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir.
Pakistan was, meanwhile, busy pushing the entry of the Hizbul Mujahideen in the Kashmir conflict. The Hizb from the beginning based its fight on the basis of religion. Hizb’s ideology was seen by many Kashmiris as detrimental to the Kashmir cause. Soon, however, the Jama’at jumped into the movement and declared Hizb its armed wing, giving it a stream of human resource and credibility as well. But, in popularity and appeal, the Hizb was no match to the JKLF.
To its credit, the Hizb made no bones about its position on Kashmir. On 30 January 1990, in front of a massive gathering that included militants from other organisations, the Hizb leaders declared at Dargah, Hazratbal, that its fight is for the implementation of Khilafat in the whole world, and it does not recognise boundaries. “Unity,” said the Hizb commander, “can be forged only on the basis of Tawheed. We have come to Kashmir to propagate the mission of the Prophet (SAW)” (Srinagar Times, 31 January 1990). Does it sound eerie familiar with what al-Qaeda and the ISIS are shouting today?
In that era when the Hizb said that it is fighting for the establishment of Khilafat, the slogan was unbeknown to most Kashmiris. The people in Kashmir were catholic in faith. The sanctimonious position that the Hizb took with regard to Khilafat and implementation of Shariat was seen as a major diversion from what the people were demanding. But it was not a blip.
On 21 February 1990, a Hizb statement appeared in the vernacular newspapers. It read: “Hizb along with other Islamist parties, Hizbullah, Hizb-i-Islam, Allah Tigers, and al-Umar Mujahideen, appeal business community not to observe hartal.” Then it asks people to fight unitedly for the jihad. “We have decided,” the statement read, “that there will be no agreement, or negotiations with any ‘laa-din’ party (un-Islamic), whether they belong to socialist, communist, or secularist ideology.” At that time, most people and intellectuals were alarmed that such statements would stop world community from lending support to the Kashmir cause. But the Jama’at and the Hizb didn’t relent.
In March 1990, suspected militants killed former MLA, Mir Mustafa. In a statement that appeared in Srinagar Times on 1 April 1990, the Hizb while claiming responsibility for killing Mir, said: “Our motto is dominance of Islam in every walk of life. Whoever creates hurdles in the implementation of Shariat will be annihilated, even if he is our brother. Mustafa Mir was a traitor of Islam and imaan.” Remember, these things were said in Kashmir when Osama bin Laden was yet to come in the limelight, the Taliban was still five years away, and the ISIS nowhere. The Hizb’s announcement of “killing its own brothers if they create hurdles in the implementation of Shariat” pales the two global outfits.
True to its word, the Hizb went hammer and tongs after nationalist JKLF. For the latter, it was the beginning of its end. Pakistan stopped its support to it. After his release from jail in 1994, JKLF chairman Yasin Malik was attacked many times. There was a saying during those days about JKLF: “If the Indian army can’t get you, the Hizb will.” In desperation, the JKLF kidnapped/held talks with Syed Ali Geelani in the SKIMS. In a ludicrous handout the Hizb accused the JKLF of kidnapping not only Geelani but also a son of its Supreme Commander Syed Salahuddin. It accused the JKLF of handing over the son of Salahuddin to the Indian army! This branding of anyone who did not subscribe to its ideology as “Indian agent” became its modus operandi, and will be used generously for those who dissented with their ideology or methodology.
On 29 January 1993, in Dargah Hazratbal in presence of the JKLF, al-Umar, People’s League, and Hizbullah militant organisations, the Hizb reiterated, once again, like al-Qaeda and ISIS say today, that unity with other militant organisations is possible only on the basis of tawheed. “Our struggle is for establishing Khilifat in the world,” said the Hizb. This was said in the background of fratricidal killings when the Hizb was gunning down not only militants associated with the JKLF but its sympathisers, like intellectuals, lawyers, and doctors, as well. Some people tried to pacify both organisations, and formed coordination committees. But the Hizb refused to mend fences with the JKLF whom it viewed as a nationalist party. It said, like the two global outfits are saying today, that it does not believe in geographical borders. “We are ready to face stones from our friends for the establishment of Khilafat,” one of its statements read.
This three-pronged attack on the JKLF was among the main reasons, according to its leaders, which forced it to finally give up arms in 1994. With the surrender of the JKLF, its ideology of an independent Kashmir went into doldrums. It didn’t matter for the Hizb what people said. It successfully shifted the narrative of liberating Kashmir from India to Islamisation. The Hizb wanted the dominance of Islam over everything.
With the decimation of the JKLF the ground was clear for it. This ramming of religious indoctrination in a society that was catholic in worship made people to dig in and find out what Islam is. This slowly give rise to a generation that will lead by example and work for “implementing Shariat” on self before propagating it to others.
But Hizb’s repression of other militant organisations was duly exploited by the State. The State combined many militants, who were smarting from their defeat and repression at the hands of the Hizb, and formed renegade groups collectively known as Ikhwanis. This renegade group supported by the Indian army and the State machinery unleashed a ferocious assault initially on the Jama’at members and the Hizb, and later on anyone who came in their way. Unable to sustain the assault, the Hizb declared in 1997 that it had no affiliation with the Jama’at. In the same year, the head of the Jama’at publicly renounced gun and decided to fight what it called peaceful political struggle.
Not learning any lesson
But if you think the Jama’at members have learnt any lessons you are wrong. Salahuddin, head of the United Jihad Council, an amalgam of many militant organisations, repeatedly echoes what the Jama’at is now trying to disassociate from. When the flags of al-Qaeda, and ISIS became a common sight in 2014, he tried to appropriate it. He implored the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and any other organisation, or country if they “extend a helping hand to the oppressed Kashmiris, we will welcome it”. Inside Kashmir, his, allies, Hurriyat, didn’t rebuke him. No one called Salahududin an agent or a deviate.
In 2016 in an interview with the Telegraph during the earlier days of the agitation, Salahuddin reiterated: “The Kashmiri movement was Islamised from day one. Why do you think an educated young man, who has a bright future otherwise, is willing to die? Is he mad? Azadi is not his objective. What will he do with azadi if he dies during the struggle?” Exactly on the same lines these global outfits want to fight India. But then why is not the Hurriyat and its intellectuals condemning him? No Hurriyat member, its intellectuals tell him that he is furthering Indian agenda in Kashmir with these statements.
Two years later, stunned what the Jama’at saw at the funeral of Fazili, it tried to bury its Khilafat slogan. As the Jama’at preacher condescendingly asked, “Why do you want to put the burden of Khilafat on the weak shoulders of the Kashmiris?” is a question that was put to the same organisation 28 years ago also, but then the Jama’at had the backing of gun to silence anyone. But, o! the time, it is a great leveller. Yesterday’s callers of Khilafat in Kashmir are today seen as mendicants and its opponents!
Today, what the Jamaat, Hizb preached in the ’90s is now coming to hunt them for what they haunted others with.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author)