Radicalisation and Terrorism in Kashmir

Whenever the issue of radicalisation in Kashmir has been discussed, many voices have emerged from the background that this is a false allegation. And they argue that the spirit of Kashmir lies in Kashmiryat, which is a composite and plural concept based on Sufi-Rishi culture, and people boast of this cultural heritage. In this religious order, virtuous beliefs of love and harmony, peace and reverence, benevolence and universality were built. While Kashmir’s inter-faith affability and secular harmony were unquestionably the envy of any cultured society in the past, regrettably, the same cannot be said for today. Sadly, these traditions were not used to bridge the gap between people. Had they been transformed, revitalised and re-explained to address social and political challenges, the Kashmiri society could have significantly benefited.

Indeed, something has gone wrong. But what makes the situation serious is that when a few disgruntled Kashmiris advocated religious intolerance openly in the 1990s then, the members of the civil society and a few members of the intelligentsia chose to remain mute spectators. This set the pace of religious radicalisation in fast mode and remained unchecked.

Poisonous seeds were persistently planted in the Kashmiri psyche. And these were liberally watered and fertilised by the forces who were responsible for stopping it. It is alleged that the Kashmiri political leadership was communalist in Kashmir, communist in Jammu and nationalist in Delhi. Sheikh Abdullah was among the first to politicise religion for his political gains. It led to fundamentalism, and non-Muslims in Kashmir were branded as infidels. It is believed that in the 1977 and 1983 elections, certain political workers moved with religious books in their hands during election campaigns.

To mark the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on 02 Oct 1988, his statue was to be installed in the High Court complex at Srinagar. This was to be inaugurated by then Chief Justice of India, R.S. Pathak. Everything was planned, but a few Muslim lawyers objected and threatened to cause a disturbance thus, the chief minister cancelled the function. It had significant implications for the secular charter of Kashmir, which is an inseparable part of secular India. (Jagmohan, My Frozen Turbulence in Kashmir). This happened during National Conference (F) and Congress (I).

Jama’at-i-Islami, a bedrock of radicalisation in Kashmir, helped the political forces work over the years, with the intent that widening the political parties’ approach by using religion could eventually help in fundamentalizing the Kashmiri conception of Islam. Therefore, it could acquire a stronger foothold in the political landscape of Jammu and Kashmir. It diverted social and political beliefs towards radicalism and extremism. It restructured Kashmiri society and government machinery. It spread pro-Pakistan propaganda among the Kashmiris. Jama’at-i-Islami of J&K was established in 1942 at Shopian and is on the same lines as Jama’at-i-Islami of Pakistan, discarding the basic concept of secularism & socialism and believing in Islam-inspired political establishment. They deemed J&K’s accession to India as disputed. Various other political organisations and splinter groups found it beneficial to use religious fundamentalism to survive and thrive in the political arena in Kashmir. They all tried to uproot the healthy roots of Kashmiri society and sowed the seeds of radicalisation.

After facing humiliating defeats in wars with India in 1947-48, 1965 and 1971, Pakistan decided to manoeuvre the discontentment among Kashmiris in 1989. Pakistan had profitably aided and abetted the Jihad against the USSR’s presence in Afghanistan by arming and training the Afghan mujahideen. As per the reports, Pakistan opened about 39 training camps on the same model for disillusioned elements who were eager to take up arms against India in J&K. The ISI initially used the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) for this task. The JKLF, which was set up in 1965, was originally a Pakistan-based militant outfit committed to confronting India’s control over J&K. This terrorist organisation was used to bring the youth of J&K, train them, and send them back to agitate against the government and spread terrorism.

JKLF was the first militant group to advocate the secession of J&K from India. From its inception till 1988, the JKLF focussed on propagating its secessionist cause and building its militant base through indoctrination and arms training. A co-founder of the JKLF, Maqbool Butt, was arrested and sentenced to death for the murder of an Indian intelligence operative. Attempting to secure his release, JKLF activists, in early 1984, kidnapped an Indian diplomat posted in London, Ravindra Mahtre. Mahtre was executed when the release demand was not met. Maqbool Butt was hanged in February 1984.

Forty-four different terrorist organisations initiated terrorism in Kashmir Valley in 1989. In addition to JKLF, other prominent terrorist organisations were Hizb-ul-Majaedheen, the Student Liberation Front, People’s League, etc. They sought fundamental guidance and direction were sought from Pakistan. All these people primarily acted surreptitiously.

These terrorist organisations organised colossal propaganda. In addition to securing wide publicity from the local press, these subversive elements brought enormous literature and propaganda machinery to spread hate against India in the shape of songs, tapes, radios, periodicals, etc. The aim was to advocate Jihad to secure freedom for Kashmiris.

Our adversary aims to ensure that the Indian Security Forces remain progressively more involved in counterinsurgency/internal security operations in J&K, the north-eastern and LWE-affected states, to degrade India’s superiority in conventional combat through strategic exhaustion. Ensuring that violence in the ongoing Low-Intensity Conflict (LIC) is maintained at a low level so that it does not lead to a conventional war.

Whilst negotiating with the politically motivated Islam, the Kashmiri version of Islam, which had its roots to Sufism and Rishism, has been lost somewhere. Moreover, the separatist theme picked up by JKLF, which lead to the terrorism in J&K, was soon engulfed by the radicalised forces. Thereafter Islam and Azadi began to be used interchangeably. As Islamised version of Kashmiryat was illicitly used to justify the violence in Kashmir. Thereafter the so-called struggle for Azadi no longer remained indigenous.

Terrorist organisations require recruits, funds, supporters, weapons, and other kinds of logistic and material assistance to reach to the vulnerable targets, organise and execute a terrorist attack. An efficient counter-terrorism policy requires to be multidimensional incorporating wide-ranging policies and actions. Therefore, this multi-faceted counterterrorism must include counter-radicalisation and De-radicalisation in the overall strategical framework. A radicalised terrorist accepts the legitimacy of ‘violence’ to achieve the desired ends.

About the Author
Colonel Balwan Nagial retired from the Indian Army in 2019 after serving for thirty years. Managed administration, security, project mgt throughout his service. He loves writing and contributing in newspapers and magazines in India. He loves Israeli culture.
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