ISIS Is Not The Issue

The question of ISIS (Daesh) presence has once again become a subject of public discourse in Kashmir and in the country. The discourse began after some masked youth hoisted its flag on the pulpit of Srinagar’s Grand Mosque. The incident has been widely condemned by the pro-Azadi and mainstream political groups. Hurriyat Conference has blamed the agencies for the incident and termed it as an attempt to tarnish the image of the freedom struggle. 

The reaction across India has been the exact opposite. The media and the civil society groups have played up the incident as one more proof of the pan-Islamist nature of the Kashmiri struggle, something that its proponents including the major militant groups strongly deny. 

However, the union government has always denied the existence of ISIS in Kashmir.  No wonder then that the security agencies have played down the threat. In a press conference on Wednesday, the Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh denied that the global jihadi outfit had a large presence in the state. He, however, termed the recent desecration of Jamia Masjid pulpit by a group of youth as an “effort from ISIS elements to try and show their presence.” He also affirmed that the ISIS ideology was followed by a negligible section of the youth in the state. 

Far from lending any clarity to the state of affairs, it only wound up confounding it further. The real issue in Kashmir, as always, is not the existence or absence of the ISIS, it is the lingering turmoil in the state. It is the increasing violence, killings, and their humanitarian fallout. It is the progressive deterioration in the situation and the urgent need to address it.

But far from revising its so-called muscular policy and choosing engagement and dialogue to address the lingering issues in the state, centre has chosen to do nothing.  And this attitude has pervaded the country’s institutions, including the media. Some television channels go into hysterics over the occasional waving of ISIS flags in Srinagar. Many channels run the stories and the debates over the intermittent incidents.

If anything, it only serves the purpose of distracting them from the real issues in the state and which probably it seems geared to do. Kashmir situation is largely not seen for what it is but sought to be confounded and distorted. 

Over the years, this approach has further alienated Kashmiris, thereby creating a vicious circle. Both New Delhi and Kashmir Valley now deal with the stereotypes of each other than the complex realities as they exist on the ground. But this needs to change. And it is incumbent on the media to present a correct picture of Kashmir as for the union government to get serious about the situation in the state.



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