The public spat between Zakir Musa and the Hurriyat was followed by the ‘revelation’ that Al-Qaeda has set up its cell in Kashmir under the former Hizb commander. Will the arrival of the pan-Islamist group change the historical narrative on Kashmir’s resistance movement?    


By Rayees Masroor

Al Qaeda flags in Kashmir

The recent announcement by Al-Qaeda on having established a Kashmir-based unit of the terror outfit named Ansar Ghazwat ul Hind has sparked anguish across the state with a majority of the people deriding the move of the group which has no footprint in Kashmir’s three decades of political turmoil.


The announcement was made by the Global Islamic Media Front, an online propaganda distribution arm of Al-Qaeda and it claimed that the affiliate will be led by Zakir Musa who broke away from the Hizbul Mujahideen after a bitter and public spat with the Hurriyat as well as the Hizb leadership. Interestingly, Musa has not made any comments regarding this announcement.


Many people raised doubts about the credibility of the claim but Zakir’s silence has only added weight to it. The present situation and the conflict in Kashmir is tied to the dispute between India and Pakistan with the majority of the Kashmiris demanding the right to self-determination in accordance with the UN resolutions.


The demand for the right to self-determination and the support for the local militancy has shown a surge since 2010 with young educated and tech-savvy youth, often belonging to well-off families, joining militant ranks. After many years, local militants have outnumbered those coming from other countries to fight in Kashmir.


The narrative on the ground in Kashmir is that the armed struggle is not any solution; rather it is a means to bring New Delhi to the dialogue table. The majority of the people actually support the unconditional tripartite dialogue between India, Pakistan and Kashmiris.


An opinion poll conducted by the think-tank, Chatham House, found that in Indian held Kashmir, especially in Muslim dominated districts at the center of insurgency the support for independence varies between 74% to 95% and the support for remaining with India remains high in Hindu dominated Jammu.


This poll clearly defeats Zakir Musa’s pan-Islamic narrative and the role of Al-Qaeda in Kashmir where the armed rebellion is attributed to the attitude of New Delhi as the non-violent means for expressing discontent was limited in Kashmir post 1988 which also shot up  dramatically the local support for insurgents advocating violent secession from India.


There are many dimensions that need to be grasped to understand and analyse the whole situation. Al-Qaeda is an armed international militant organization with a global agenda and there is a genuine disbelief and skepticism on ground regarding their role in the valley.How can any militant organization sustain in Kashmir without any support on the ground or any support from across the border. Even the militant groups like LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen have categorically rejected any role for the Al-Qaeda in Kashmir.


The Question is: Who will support Al-Qaeda to run its organization and how come will they manage recruitment and material support. For any group to carry out its activities in Kashmir, the support has to come either from Pakistan or India. Kashmir issue is absolutely different from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.If Al-Qaeda is so particular about its mission and ideology, how come they have got affiliated localized groups like LeT and Jaish-e-Muhammad and even the Afghan Taliban who were actually created and sustained by US to liberate Afghanistan from then USSR.


Similarly,  why did Zakir Musa suddenly change his mind after being affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen for so long? The sense on the ground is that people like JKLF ideologue Maqbool Bhat and Hizb’s Burhan Wani laid their lives for the agenda and aspirations of the people, not for any imported agenda. The joint resistance movement also have time and again rejected any role or involvement of global terror groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda in Kashmir.


It was only due to the indigenous nature of the resistance movement that former Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif raised the killing of Burhan Wani at a forum like the UNGA. This is exactly why many in the valley believe that the situation is going to change if Musa, indeed, happens to be affiliated with Al-Qaeda. It is quite possible that the policy of India will turn more aggressive towards Kashmiris after the Al-Qaeda announcement.


The ghost of Al-Qaeda hovers over Kashmir at a time when the central government has gone all out against the leaders of joint resistance movement through NIA raids. In this situation, while many in the valley have been taken aback, others are worrying about its impact on the ongoing struggle.


It is also true that Zakir Musa is hailed by some as an Islamist who support his imported narrative. But the majority of the masses believe that the goal of any resistance movement in Kashmir has to be realistic one, which is the resolution of the dispute. The resistance in the valley got intensified not by any foreign terror group but by those well read and tech savvy youth who either became armed rebels or took to streets with stones in their hands.


Thousands of youth have lost their lives while countless others were injured and even blinded, not because of Al-Qaeda, but for the resolution of Kashmir dispute.  Invoking religion to decide who’s a genuine martyr and who’s not, is not for the Al-Qaeda to decide. Does a person qualify to enter Jannah with his or her mere affiliation with AlQaeda? The answer is no. After all it has to be decided on the basis of one’s deeds and the intention behind them.


As such there is hardly any scope for global terror groups to operate in Kashmir, no matter how beautiful a headline it makes. India’s flourishing and fledgling television news networks are now warning us that Kashmiri struggle is no longer indigenous and genuine, thus exposing their previously held false narrative that the resistance is being fuelled and perpetuated by foreign hand. People are only waiting for Zakir Musa to clear his stand. Time to wait and see which way the wind blows.


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