Last year when US State Department designated Hizbul Mujahideen supreme commander Syed Salahuddin a global terrorist and followed this up by declaring Hizb a foreign terrorist organisation (FTO), Islamabad, Hurriyat and the Hizb supremo himself lashed out at Washington. Without mentioning any names but in an obvious reference to the HM chief, Islamabad had said The designation of individuals supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified and added that it was disappointed by this decision. The joint resistance leadership (JRL) of Hurriyat called Washingtons move highly unjustifiable and regrettable, and Syed Salahuddin who was at the center of this controversy chose to outrightly dismiss this decision terming it idiotic!
While reacting to the US decision of declaring Hizb a FTO, the Salahudin went on to say We are justified to say that the ongoing armed struggle is legitimate it is a morally justified struggle. Every freedom fighter is a legitimate freedom fighter and not a terrorist. To reinforce his point Salahuddin threw an open challenge that, You cannot quote a single example, which can be defined as an act of terrorism which I have myself committed or ordered to be committed during the last 27 years of the uprising. And his brimming confidence was absolutely conspicuous when he repeated not once but three times that, This is a challenge from Syed Salahuddin!
However, all this happened a year ago and since then there have been sea changes in the strategy the armed struggle has adopted. Thus, one wonders if the Hizb supremo (who is also the chief of the United Jihad Council or UJC) still stands by his open challenge for anyone to quote a single example, which can be defined as an act of terrorism that he has either committed or ordered to be committed. Since Salahuddin has been heading the HM almost ever since it was created and was never involved in any military action, he is right in saying that no one can point a finger at him for having committed any act of terrorism. However, the same cannot be said about certain incidents of violence involving militant groups that are either part of UJC or maintain a close working relation with it.
I am specifically referring to the current trend of militants barging into the houses of civilians and either killing them on the spot or doing so after abducting them. News reports of such incidents indicate that family members, relatives, friends and acquaintances of the victims have openly started expressing resentment on such rampant killings.
On the night of May 25, five gunmen barged into the house of 38 year old Mohammad Yaqub Wagay in Gund Preng village of Hajin in north Kashmirs Bandipora district. After having gagged Wagays wife Shuneefa, two of the intruders pinned him down and slit his throat. Residents of Gund Preng were so agitated by Wagays gruesome killing that they observed a complete shutdown two days after his killing and Imams even asked the Lashkar-e-Taiba to come out clean on this incident. Lashkar out rightly denied having any involvement and blamed government agencies for the same.
In Kashmir locals dont accuse militants of any wrong doing unless they have very good reasons to do so. Readers would recall that the last time such a thing happened was in 2011 when Jamiat-e-Ahle-Hadees (JeAH) head Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah was killed in an improvised explosive device attack. Even then the people had suspected involvement of a militant group in this murder but militant group denied the same and instead blamed government agencies. However, when JeAH formed an All Parties Investigation Team to probe this killing, the militant group admitted that its cadres had committed this murder and that Showkats predecessor Professor Muhammad Ramzan had also been killed by militants!
On August 7, Arif Sofi belonging to Hawura village in Kulgam district was abducted by unknown gunmen and the next day his bullet riddled body bearing torture marks was recovered. Speaking at Sofis funeral his distraught father said, My son has always been a freedom lover and was an ardent supporter of militants and the ongoing movement. He went on to say, Our family has always stood by the movement and being a Jamaat-e-Islami member I have sacrificed everything for it. My appeal to you people (mourners) is to ask militants to come up with proof. They should clarify on what basis they killed my son. And by adding that I will not regret his killing if this thing is proved by them, Sofis father indirectly declared his sons innocence. Here again we see militants being openly accused of murdering an innocent person and since they havent provided any evidence of Sofi being an army informer, this allegation as only gained more strength.
Ten days later, gunmen barged into the house of Shamima Bano in Drabgam village of Pulwama District and shot her dead. A few days later, in an audio message HM commander Riyaz Naikoo accused her of getting HM commander Sameer Tiger killed by disclosing his whereabouts to the army and he boasted of how she was killed despite the fact that forces would lay ambush outside her house so that militants should not kill her. Some may say that since its an audio tape it may be difficult to ascertain its authenticity but since Naikoo or the HM hasnt disowned the same there are no reasons to doubt its genuineness.
Shamimas son Musaib Ahmad Bhat has put militants in a tight spot. After his mothers funeral, he asked militants several embarrassing but valid questions. He said, If my mother was an informer like the other informers, why didnt militants shoot a video of her, like they have done naming the names? We have seen videos in other cases. Why did they not talk to her? Why did they directly pump bullets into her body? And with Maqbool Ahmad Bhat, the father of Sameer (who was supposedly killed based on information provided to the army by Shamima) saying People say she was responsible for the killing of my son but I dont know. There is no reason why she would be killed.”
Even though more than two dozen suspected mukhbirs have been killed by militants in the recent past, the security forces still seem to be getting very precise information regarding the location of militants. And this indicates that either the fear of being killed is not deterring mukhbirs or that the militants are killing the wrong people!
The HM may not be involved in all the incidents of civilian killings but irrespective of the militant groups responsible for these murders, the moral responsibility for the same still falls on Syed Salahuddin since he is heading the UJC. And Naikoos admission of Hizbs direct involvement in the killing of a lady is something that HM supremo will find very difficult to justify.
Tailpiece: Without meaning to show any disrespect to Salahuddin sahib I would just like to mention that while the militants abduction and murder strategy against suspected mukhbirs (informers) will achieve nothing, it would have very serious negative implications on the armed struggle.
The UJC chief is lucky that New Delhi doesnt know how to seize the opportunity to effectively tarnish the image of the armed struggle in Kashmir by internationally publicising the killing of civilians by militant groups. However, where New Delhi has failed, Washington has succeeded and targeting civilians has only helped in convincing the international community that Uncle Sams decision of declaring Kashmirs only indigenous militant group a FTO was absolutely right!