Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the recently concluded Kargil Diwas, Lt Gen DS Hooda, GOC of the Udhampur based Northern Command made a mention that, “We are hearing statements from Taliban side saying Kashmir is the next battle ground. Terms like Ghazve Hind are being used. It has not yet manifested itself, but these are things that you have to look at and be prepared.” Yet, while the army is certainly concerned on this account, it appears that the Hurriyat leadership doesn’t seem worried about this at all as they have not even considered pondering over this issue! However, this is not at all surprising as the Hurriyat leadership, which somehow manages to smell conspiracy and intrigue in even the most innocuous happenings, has a long history of failing to see the obvious threats which could have disastrous effects on the ongoing movement for the ‘right to self determination.’
It is not that Lt Gen Hooda is the first person to have broached this subject and readers would recall that on return from his Pakistan visit in January 2013, the Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farook too had expressed similar apprehensions. In the same month, in a rare video appearance, top Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Wali- ur- Rehman, had also announced his firm commitment of sending TTP fighters to Kashmir for waging a struggle to establish Sharia rule here. More recently, while addressing a public gathering to mark ‘Martyrs’ Day’ on July 13 at Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan administered Kashmir, the United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Sallaudin too has echoed the same sentiments by declaring, “If Al-Qaida, Taliban or any other organisation or country extends a helping hand to the oppressed Kashmiris, we will welcome it.”
Is it that even after all these developments, the Hurriyat leadership has actually not been able to grasp the high probability of the Taliban entering Kashmir and the serious consequences of the same? Or is it just that the Hurriyat finds it more convenient to adopt its traditional stance of the proverbial ‘ostrich burying its head in sand’ whenever it has no answer to a problem? One must appreciate the unbounded optimism of the Hurriyat (G) chairman, that even after the TTP itself has pledged to make Kashmir their next ‘battleground’, he still perceives this as a mere “Hypothesis.” What is even more admirable (or surprising) is that though the TTP leader Wali- ur- Rehman has unambiguously expressed his intentions to “get Kashmir liberated,” stating that ” the mujahedeen of TTP will arrive in Kashmir and as per the Islamic Sharia will help the Kashmiris get their rights, ” the venerable Hurriyat (G) chairman still sees no scope or role for Al Qaida or the Taliban in Kashmir!
On the contrary, Geelani saheb is of the firm opinion that “Ours is a local and indigenous struggle; the government (of India) wants to kill our youth and defame our sacred struggle in the name of Al-Qaida; that is why they are creating the fears of Al-Qaida in the Kashmir.” Though the Hurriyat (G) chairman is entitled to his ‘conspiracy theory’ on this subject, let us also have the sagacity to accept facts- if the Taliban does decide to enter Kashmir, the Hurriyat knows very well that it has no influence or power to stop them from doing so. Readers would recall that in the nineties, when foreign militants or ‘mehman mujahideen’ (guest- fighters), as they were euphemistically referred to, first made their way into J&K, they did not seek prior permission of the Hurriyat. Nor did they in anyway subordinate themselves to the indigenous militant groups but carried out their own ‘private war’ against the security forces.
So why is the Hurriyat not the least perturbed about this eventuality? The answer for the same is not too hard to find. Right from the time ‘armed struggle’ started in Kashmir, several prominent leaders who opposed violence as a means to achieve the ‘right to self determination’ have been systematically put to death by ‘unknown gunmen’. Even though the militant outfits and separatists tried their best to blame security forces and intelligence agencies for these assassinations, the true identity and affiliations of those who were responsible for these gruesome murders soon became public knowledge. Readers would recall that in April 2002, senior separatist leader Abdul Gani Lone made a daring announcement that the struggle in Kashmir had nothing to do with ‘global jihad’ and that foreign militants were no longer welcome here. This reproof upset the ‘guest-fighters’ so much that the very next month, Lone fell to bullets of ‘unidentified’ gunmen, exposing the grim reality that in Kashmir, antagonising ‘gunmen’ in any way can prove to be fatal!
The UJC chief and Hizb supremo Syed Sallaudin never approved of the Taliban fighting in Kashmir and as late as November last year, while talking to KNS, he had made it amply clear that “We don’t want Taliban to come to Kashmir.” However, Sallaudin has now suddenly found it necessary to publically ‘welcome’ the “helping hand” of the Talban in Kashmir. What is the reason for his sudden volte face? Does the UJC chief and Hizb supremo not know that for the TTP, the Kashmir problem is not an ideological issue of ‘self determination’, but a communal one and its avowed aim is to free Kashmir from ‘Hindu rule” simply to create a theocratic Islamic state. So, if the Taliban is anxious to come to Kashmir, it is not for the sake of emancipating its people, but merely fulfilling its ‘religious duty’ of establishing its own regressive interpretation of Islam here! And the TTP leader’s statement that “The practical struggle for a Sharia system that we are carrying out in Pakistan, the same way we will continue it in Kashmir,” explicitly reveals the TTP’s real motivation for coming to Kashmir. So, is Syed Sallaudin simply naïve, or does he have a premonition of the TTP’s Kashmir ambition and his sudden ‘welcome’ extended to the Taliban is just attempt at ‘face-saving, since he too is helpless in preventing them from doing so?
The Hurriyat cannot summarily dismiss the likelihood of the Taliban coming into Kashmir on the mere assumption that it is a mere “hypothesis” or simply part of a propaganda plan to malign the struggle in Kashmir. Nor can Sallaudin afford to extend open invitations to the Taliban or the Al Qaida to give a “helping hand to the oppressed Kashmiris.” Presence of Taliban here bodes ill for Kashmiris as it would create irreparable sectarian fissures within our closely knit and harmonious society as well as completely destroy our unique cultural identity. Surprisingly, while the Hurriyat leadership and intelligentsia continue to beat about the bush on this issue, it is the mercurial Dukhtaran-e-Millat head Ms Asiya Andrabi who has raised some very pertinent points. During an interview given to Kashmir Dispatch, she has accurately discerned the obvious dangers of such a move and rightly demanded that “When Afghan Taliban or Al Qaida comes to Kashmir, we should keep in mind that road-map or agenda should be ours.” She has also correctly suggested that, “We have to think that our brothers are coming to help us to liberate us from India, but we shouldn’t surrender everything to them. Before they enter here, there should be debate with them and we must clear ourselves to them that there should be Islam in Kashmir not to propagate any ideology.” Good advice- but who will dare talk tough with the Taliban by dictating terms and conditions to them. And even if someone does so, will the Taliban listen?
Those who dismiss the eventuality of the Taliban coming to Kashmir, do so because they believe that being the ‘true friend’ of the Kashmiris, Pakistan, would never permit this to happen as it would completely destroy the ‘Kashmir cause’. However, before placing complete faith on Islamabad, one may consider contemplating upon TTP leader Wali- ur- Rehman’s incisive observation that, “Insofar as Pakistan’s dirty policy is concerned, as per which Kashmiris have been ruined and destroyed under the pretext of Kashmir policy, everything of theirs has been destroyed.” So, even though the Hurriyat may try to dismiss the thought of the Taliban coming into Kashmir as the over-exaggerated product of wild imagination or a propaganda ploy, which Islamabad will never allow, there are no convincing reasons to believe that this would not happen.
Despite displaying unbounded bonhomie and declaring their firm commitment towards making peace, both New Delhi and Islamabad have given no indication that they are prepared to revisit their respective Kashmir policy. While New Delhi insists on maintaining its traditional viewpoint of Kashmir being an ‘integral’ part of India, Islamabad continues to provide covert support to militant groups in Kashmir. Therefore, is it not a distinct possibility that the Pakistan army, which is bearing the brunt of the TTP, may actually encourage this outfit to shift its ‘battleground’ from Pakistan to Kashmir? Of course, doing so will certainly ruin Kashmir and for Pakistan this may well mean cutting off its nose just to spite its face. Yet, isn’t this exactly what has been happening all along? Isn’t there some truth in TTP leader Wali- ur- Rehman observation that, “Kashmiris have been ruined and destroyed under the pretext of (Pakistan’s) Kashmir policy?”
Tailpiece: The fact of the matter is that, while establishing Sharia rule in Kashmir is a ‘sacred mission’ for the Taliban that has to be undertaken at all costs, for the Pakistan army, it is a God-sent opportunity to settle scores with its Indian counterpart by diverting the destructive energies of the TTP from its own soil by making them wage war with the Indian army in Kashmir. Thus, even though the Pakistan army and the TTP may not see eye to eye, having found a common ‘enemy’ in India, they can certainly become ‘friends’ and through a ‘marriage of convenience’, come together to help each other in achieving their respective objectives. And when both the ‘flesh’ and the ‘spirit’ are willing, the union of hearts and minds is but inevitable!