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June 3, 2017

A dirty war


June 3, 2017

The freedom movement in Indian-Occupied Kashmir has taken a new turn during the last few months and even the advent of Ramazan has not seen any let up. On May 27, Sabzar Bhat – a friend of Burhan Wani – became a target of the Indian forces.

As per some news reports, he was a commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), a militant organisation that is fighting for independence. In the Tral area of southern Kashmir, there was a major clash between the militants and the Indian forces, resulting in multiple casualties on both sides.

The HuM was formed around three decades ago by a group of Kashmiris led by M Ahsan Dar. Dar was initially associated with the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and later formed his own militant group. The JKLF was led by Amanullah Khan and Maqbool Bhat. Bhat was captured by the Indian forces and executed in Delhi’s Tihar Jail in 1984. Amanullah Khan died last year. For the past 20 years or so, Yasin Malik has been playing an important role in his own faction of the JKLF, which had dissociated itself from Amanullah Khan.

Yasin Malik is a relatively moderate leader and – unlike the HuM – does not believe in achieving independence through violence. In addition, there is another group called the Ikhwan (Brotherhood) that cooperates with the Indian government against the militants. The Ikhwan is reported to have those members who were initially fighting for freedom but were later attracted by lucrative offers from India. They changed sides and turned their guns against their former comrades.

In addition to the two factions of Hurriyat Conference – led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Geelani – another major player in this struggle has been Salahuddin, a 70-year-old leader who is also leading the United Jihad Council.

During the past few months, the HuM has been resuscitated by the murder of Burhan Wani in July 2016. Thousands of Kashmiris attended his funeral procession, including those who were not supporters of the HuM. Following Wani’s murder, Sabzar Bhat was considered to be his replacement and played an active role in attacks against the Indian forces. Since July 2016, hundreds of Kashmiris have been killed and thousands have been wounded, making the valley a prison and a death trap for the people who live there. A major change that is reported to have occurred is the increasing sympathy among the people for the HuM.

Even those who were earlier opposed to any violent struggle and considered the group to be a terrorist organisation, are now attending funeral prayers of the HuM fighters. The Kashmiri youth have started idealising fighters such as Wani and Bhat and the barbarity displayed by the Indian forces is pushing the peaceful youth towards violence. Meanwhile, the Modi government has been cornering the Muslims of India. The Indian Army has started behaving in a ruthless manner.

During the past few months, many areas have remained under curfew and the authorities have repeatedly blocked internet and cell phone services. When Ramazan started, people were expecting some relief. But reports suggest the opposite. In a disgusting recent event, an Indian Army major tied a Kashmiri youth in front of the army jeep and used him as a human shield. Later, he unabashedly claimed that he was simply trying to save his own life as well as the lives of his colleagues by preventing a possible attack on the jeep. Human rights organisations have been protesting and demanding his court martial.

The worst was still to come when the Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat awarded a military medal to the culprit major and defended his actions. This has emboldened the officers even more. If you listen to what General Rawat had to say, you won’t believe that he is a highly-qualified officer. He completed his MPhil at Madras University and a PhD in defence affairs from Charan Singh University in Meerut. But all these universities appear to have failed in inculcating any sense of decency in him.

General Rawat has repeatedly said that his army is fighting a “dirty war” that justifies unconventional methods to counter insurgency. Such justifications are not new and many army officers in other countries use the same line of argument as well. Wherever such reasoning is used, a simple question should be raised with the learned officers as to who led the country to that “dirty war”.

Every “dirty war” involves decades of mismanagement, human rights violations and the undermining of democratic principles. In most cases, people are pushed to the wall where they are left with no other option but to fight back. The state, in turn, retaliates with even more force, making it a “dirty war”.


The writer holds a PhD from the University of Birmingham, UK and works in Islamabad. Email: [email protected]


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