Islamic militant threatens Kashmir's secular separatists

They warned them not to interfere in 'Islamic struggle' or they will have their heads cut off
Islamic militant threatens Kashmir's secular separatists

Protesters opposing Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir wave flags of the so-called Islamic State outside Kashmir's Grand Mosque in Srinagar. Leaders are worried as reports say more young people are becoming radicalized and want to establish Islamic rule in the area. (Photo by Umer Asif) 

An Islamic militant leader has threatened leaders from secular separatist movements in India's Jammu and Kashmir with death because they stand in the way of establishing a state based on Shariah.

Zakir Musa, a commander from militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, said on May 12 that separatist factions must not interfere in his group's efforts to turn Kashmir into an Islamic state. "I am warning all those hypocrite Hurriyat leaders," said Musa in an audio tape. "They must not interfere in our Islamic struggle. If they do, we will cut their heads and hang them in Lal Chowk (city center)," he said.

Hurriyat is short for the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an alliance of 26 political and socio-cultural organizations formed in 1993 to fight for Kashmiri self-determination. Jammu and Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority state.

Musa, however, said the APHC have it all wrong. The struggle is "to impose Shariah in Kashmir." Leaders should not see it as a political struggle to establish a free secular state, he said.

Musa's statement came after several separatist leaders distanced themselves from the ideology of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the Taliban, in a May 9 statement. The separatist leaders said IS and Taliban have nothing to do with Kashmir's "indigenous" struggle.


Confusion and in-fighting

Separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin said in an APHC statement that Indian agencies are trying to give the separatist struggle in Kashmir "a bad name."

India wants to turn the international community against the movement and that is why they will not support the movement for Shariah in Kashmir, said the statement.

Three days after the APHC statement, Musa released his audio tapes, reiterating that Muslims "are fighting for Islam."

"If the Hurriyat leaders think it is not so, then why have we been hearing pro-Islamic slogans at their rallies, why have they been using mosques for their politics?" Musa said.

Two other militant groups: Harkat-ul-Mujhadeen and Kashmir Taliban, are supporting Musa's stance. "Zakir Musa has spoken the truth. We stand by him... He has spoken against those who work in connivance with India," both groups said in a joint statement.

However, local reports said Musa's own organization has distanced itself from their commander's statement. "It is his personal opinion" and the organization will support the APHC's struggle, they said.

But Musa has remained unrepentant. "From now on I will have nothing to do with [Hizb-ul-Mujahideen]. I am on the right path and I am not associated with anybody and we will see who stands with me," he said.


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Islamic State influence

The growing influence of IS in Kashmir is emerging as a major worry for security agencies as the region's militants have been drifting from the idea of political independence to the establishment of Islamic rule. 

Last month, militants at a rally in Pulwama in south Kashmir told people to follow the rules laid down by the Taliban and IS and not support or raise slogans in favor of merging with Pakistan.

Kashmir is witnessing a surge of people waving IS flags during protests and graffiti hailing IS has also appeared in the last 12 months.

On May 7, the Press Trust of India news agency carried a story about how internet chats between Kashmir youths and those in Iraq and Syria are on the rise. It spoke of young people in Kashmir trying to get in touch with handlers in Syria and Iraq.

Professor Abid Simnani, who teaches politics at Kashmir University, told that the prevailing situation in Kashmir is proving worrisome.

"Talk and engage with the separatists. This is the only remedy to the growing threat of radicalization among the youth," said Simnani. "If the deadlock continues, the youth will be coerced to tread a violent path," he said.

Waheed Sufi, a senior journalist working for an Iran-based TV channel, blames the tough attitude of the Indian government for the growing radicalization of the youth.

"Instead of taking them in confidence and listening to their woes, the government labels protesting youth as Pakistani agents and terrorists. This makes them angrier and the chances of pacifying them turns bleak," Sufi said.

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