The ‘Unknown Gunmen’ of Sopore

THE MYSTERY regarding the antecedents of Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) which has terrorised the people of Sopore town of North Kashmir by going on a killing spree is only deepening with every passing day. The police claim that this group’s cadres are most certainly Hizbul Mujahideen militants who having become disenchanted with their leader Syed Sallahudin have decided to abandon him and float their own outfit naming it LeI.  However, United Jihad Council (UJC) chairman and Hizb supremo Syed Sallahudin as well as the separatists have asserted that LeI is the creation of Indian secret agencies.  And so, at a time when the separatists should be taking concrete action to expose New Delhi’s malevolent plot and thus ensure that such killings stop immediately, they are busy playing politics by issuing statements and calling for hartals to protest these wanton acts of senseless violence.

Let us examine this whole issue once again. The police claim that it has identified the LeI cadres responsible for the Sopore killings and sources have even claimed that Sopore resident and HM commander Abdul Qayoom Najar is heading the newly created LeI. However, the UJC spokesperson Syed Sadakat Hussain has asserted that “Lashkar-e-Islam has nothing to do with the freedom struggle going on in Kashmir... The activities of this group are the result of popularity of Mujahideen in Kashmir. India created this group out of frustration.” The Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani is more precise and claims that “A plot was formulated some months back by Union Home Ministry for running this operation. We have evidence that the terror organisation (LeI) is the brainchild of Indian secret agencies. Its purpose is to harm and defame the freedom struggle and to disturb the social setup and economy of the State.” 

Regarding these killings, SAS Geelani has said that “we are right in understanding that the Indian secret agencies are directly or indirectly involved in all these matters as they want to punish the people of Sopore for their deep affiliation with the freedom struggle of Kashmir.” He has also stated that since “Sopore area has always been a cause of concern for the policy-makers of India; so this time they have hatched a deep conspiracy against this region and they want to terrify the people with the fake organisations and want to spread anarchy here.” He has justified his opinion by saying that “According to government figures, there are few militants in J&K and they too are very cautious due to the strong spy network (of security agencies). Since the surfacing of the Lashkar-e-Islam, it seems there are militants everywhere who kill in broad daylight and threaten people, and army and police are totally unaware about this. This kind of bravery is only done by those persons who are either sponsored by the government or have any type of links with the secret agencies.” 

Mahaz-e-Azadi patron and former “operation Balakot” commander Azam Inquillabi too has endorsed the Hurriyat (G) chairman and UJC chief’s claim regarding the LeI being the creation of Indian secret agencies. However, while doing so he has also made some very accurate observations based on his practical experience as an erstwhile high ranking militant commander. Speaking about the Hurriyat (G) chairman, Inquilabi says, “Geelani sahib is at a position where all sensitive sections of nation (Kashmir) remain in touch with him; share latest information with him.”  Commenting on UJC chief and HM supremo Syed Sallahudin, Inquilabi says “He is a literate and a responsible man… his eyes are on the situation. He knows everything and holds secret information on every issue.”  Thus, in light of Inquilabi’s observations on the Hurriyat (G) chairman and UJC chief and what they have stated has created some doubts as well as raised many questions such as:

• Why is the UJC silent regarding the present status of its field commander Qayuum Nazarwala? 

• What kind of “evidence” does Geelani sahib have to substantiate his allegations?

• If the Hurriyat (G) chairman does have “evidence,” why is he not exposing the dirty game he claims New Delhi is playing in Sopore?

• Geelani sahib has reiterated that the people of Sopore have "deep affiliation with the freedom struggle of Kashmir.” So, how is it that the Indian secret agencies have been able to make such phenomenal inroads into this impregnable bastion of the ‘freedom movement’?

• Why is the HM not dealing with the LeI in the same manner it had done with the Ikhwanis? 

However, the main question that demands an early answer is the wisdom of separatists in responding to the Sopore killings by calling for hartals. If the claims made by them that LeI is the creation of Indian intelligence agencies are true, then what purpose will hartals serve? If New Delhi is really waging a terror campaign in Sopore, then how is the Hurriyat expecting it to call off the same simply because of public protests? And it is here that both the separatists and the UJC chief need to take more practical steps by instituting measures to unmask New Delhi’s game plan rather than calling for hartals. The LeI has denied being a proxy of India and its murderous attacks are embarrassing both the BJP led NDA government at the center as well as the State where BJP is in coalition with the PDP. Therefore, the allegation of New Delhi propping up a militant group is not very convincing as doing so is akin to giving the opposition a handy stick to beat the government with!  

Thus, both the separatists and UJC need to exercise extreme caution while leveling charges by reconfirming once again whether LeI is actually the creation of Indian secret agencies. It should not so happen that after making these accusations, the LeI eventually turns out to be an outfit of renegade militants. The separatists and UJC have made many such mistakes in the past, and two examples of this are the assassinations of separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone and that of Jamait Ahle Hadees chief Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah. In both these cases, the separatists and the UJC promptly accused Indian secret agencies for the murders. However, while separatist leader Abdul Gani Bhat revealed that the former was “killed by our own people (militants)” the Lashkar-e-Taiba admitted that the latter was assassinated by Tehreek-ul-Mujhadeen militants! 

As for its statement that “UJC wants to make it clear that it will give a befitting reply to all those elements hell-bent to defame the Kashmir freedom struggle,” one can only request the UJC to slow down on rhetoric and go fast on action. UJC spokesperson Syed Sadakat Hussain has given us hope that “leaders and people of Kashmir are well aware about the shoddy character of Indian agencies and they will also help UJC to deal with this Indian sponsored group.” Unfortunately, even though more than three weeks have elapsed since the LeI commenced its killing spree in Sopore, leave alone give a “befitting reply,” the UJC has not even been able to take advantage of what it says is the “shoddy character of Indian agencies” and is still clueless about the identity of the militants of “this Indian sponsored group.” And this inexplicable delay on the part of UJC is worrying as it raises suspicion that there may be much more to this than what meets the eye!                                                                

The views expressed are authors own. She can be reached at: <[email protected]

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