As security forces continue their brutal crackdown on terrorist infesting the Kashmir valley and adjoining areas, there have been notable success this year. Already over 200 terrorists have been eliminated this year, with over a month to go, and the number of stone pelting incidents have been brought down by 90%. The losses amongst Jihadi terrorists have primarily come from the more active groups in the region, namely Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, but even as the traditional groups have been hammered down, there is re-emergence of yet another group on the scene.
This is the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen. It is a shadowy group, one of the oldest in the business, which has roots going back to 1990s, but different from others since the very beginning.
While the roots of Kashmir separatism were always Islamist, based on the premise of the fundamental unwillingness of an overwhelming Muslim population to live with people of other faiths. At least at the beginning, a few couched the Kafir hating propaganda in terms of “Kashmiri” ethnicity, as seen by groups like Jammu and Kashmir Liberation front. As Pakistan borrowed the wildly successful template of Mujahedeen from Afghanistan, it tried the same formula of virulent Islamist terror masquerading as ethnic separatism to bring down India, in the way the Soviet forces were brought down. After all, if the great armies of the communist empire could be brought down, what was a third world country to stand against the might of sword of Islam supported by American Eagle ?
However even JKLF, Islamist enough as it was, was insufficiently radical for Pakistan and unsuccessful against the accursed Hindu bania. It therefore created Hizb-ul-Mujahideen through Jamaat-e-Islami Kashmir to have a terror group with greater control and stronger allegiance to Islamism rather the unsuccessful struggle under the veneer of Kashmiryat . Of course over the years, the niquab of Kashmiriyat has been gradually dropped, with the real nature of beast revealing itself.
While JKLF was being wiped out by the Indian security establishment, Pakistan moved its focus and efforts towards HuM, and in fact allowed HuM to run down JKLF as well in the quest for prominence. Over the years, HuM was steered to a more pro-Pakistan and openly Jihadi ideology and alongside with these developments LeT moved in its tanzeems from Afghanistan to Kashmir. In the course of time, even these two groups proved insufficient, and Jaish-e-Mohammed was birthed, which was openly Jihadist and did not hide its motivations of joining Kashmir with Pakistan on the basis of religious identity as the basis for its fight against India. This journey of unveiling the real hand behind the war of a thousand cuts on India spanned over a decade from 1990 to 2000.
Interestingly, while the Pakistani duplicity was being exposed to the level where even the meanest intelligence could hardly deny it, Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen has been one group which had never shied away from being upfront about their motivations and methods from the very start, making it significantly different from the other terror houses. Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen, or activity of the ones engaged in jihad for the faith, was markedly different from the other initial terrorist groups bred by Pakistan in that it was clear that its aims were Jihad fi sabilillah and it maintained that Kashmir belonged to Pakistan. Even though the group was born in Kashmir, in the Badgam-Srinagar core of the valley, it had a pan-Islamism and merger of Muslim Kashmir with Islamic Pakistan as its avowed aim. In being openly pan-Islamic, it harked back many centuries and foreshadowed the formation of pan-national terrorist states like IS at the same time. It spanned that continuity because it was born as the sword arm of Ahl-e-hadith, a school rooted in purist Wahhabi doctrine of going back to the hadiths as the one and only true way for a Muslim to follow the tenets of the faith. Given its moorings in the uncompromising ideology at the very core of Islam, it is not surprising that the group dispensed with the trappings of dog and pony “freedom” show maintained by the other mainstream Jihadi groups. It was also one of the first groups to draw in Mujahedeen of non-Kashmiri ethnicity into a jihad whose foot-soldiers were till then Kashmiris.
[202 terrorists killed in Kashmir in 2017] http://indiatoday.intoday.in/…/security-forc…/1/1094647.html
[Handbook Of Terrorism In The Asia-pacific] https://books.google.co.in/books…
Unfortunately for the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen, the zeal of its ideas were not matched by its performance on the ground. Its founder, Yunus Khan, was killed in an encounter in 1991 and the group never really recovered from the early blow. They again lost their then commander Abu Waseem Salafi in 1999 in an encounter. The group had another setback in 2002 when the Border Security Force arrested Abdul Gani Dhar alias Gazalli, the supreme commander of the group. Through the years, although its name keeps showing up once in a while, it never managed to be an organized force. Through the years, their cadre drifted to other likeminded groups, notably the Lashkar, with which it shared the pro-Pakistan pan-Islamist world view, LeT being also born of the ahl-e-hadees tradition. Nevertheless, the outfit remained important, and as one of the fifteen members of the united jihad council had a presence and identity in the Jihadi fraternity. However over last few years, and specifically this year, this organization is now back in the news. In 2011-12, this group was responsible for sectarian killings within the Valley, such as burning of Sufi Dastageer Sahib shrine, and the killing of the head of Ahl-e-hadees itself in an episode of internecine strife. In 2015, the group claimed responsibility for a grenade attack. In 2016, at the height of the stone-pelting incidents, there were reports of TuM fishing in the troubled waters once more. The outreach program for the group was extended and there was news of the group trying to activate 300 youths in Kashmir valley. However one of recent developments in Kashmir has brought back TuM into the spotlight. Last week in a Zakura, Srinagar, the security forces had launched and cordon and search operation on receiving news of terrorist presence in the area. In the ensuing action an sub-inspector was martyred while one terrorist was captured. One of the Jihadi’s Mugees Ahmed Mir, managed to escape, but was fatally wounded and died shortly thereafter. The slain terrorist was supposedly a part of Ansar Ghazwat ul Hind a breakaway faction of HuM led by Zakir Musa and an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, but very interestingly, not only was the incident claimed by one, but two terror groups. Even as Amaq the online magazine backed by the Islamic State had taken responsibility for the Zakura attack, TuM had jumped into the fray with their spokesman saying that the slain militant belonged to his group and was “a district commander”. He further said Mir was “in no way affiliated to Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind and al-Qaeda links are being claimed to malign the Kashmir struggle”. This would then be one of the rare cases where the same person and the same incident was being claimed by multiple groups almost immediately after it happened.
The reemergence of Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen in this incident goes to show some of the emerging contours of the Jihad in Kashmir.
There are a few noticeable trends, one is that as Indian armed forces beat the major groups down, focusing their energies in particular on eliminating their leadership, these larger groups are in disarray. Since Burhan Wani, HuM top commanders have been killed almost as soon as they have been appointed, and it has led to a void at the top as well as a break of HuM with Musa walking out. There is a pressing need for Pakistan to give breathing space to their battered non-state actors. This breathing space comes from reactivating some of the smaller groups which don’t yet have the same level of international focus on them and can provide plausible deniability and non-frozen bank accounts and other assets to the jihadi groups under scrutiny. It also allows the cadres of the embattled groups to work through groups where the leadership has not been decimated. In Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen ‘s case this is the reverse situation from the 90s when it was losing its people to other jihadi organizations, it is now Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen ‘s turn to shelter those for LeT, HuM and Jaish-e-Mohammed. We have seen another instance of this game playing out, when Muttahida Jihad Council took the ownership for Pathankot attack, shielding the Jaish which was believed by the actual specific perpetrator, diverting attention from Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar, already a most wanted criminal by India.
The other aspect of the above incident is symptom of a long term change being seen in Kashmiri Jihad. As we talked about before, the roots of violence were always based in Islamist theology, but they revealed themselves only gradually. With the continuing lack of success of the “separatist” and “independence” cards, and the complete marginalization of Hurriyat in the political space by BJP controlled central and state governments, the remaining Jihadis are drawing ever closer to their core beliefs and Pakistan is being forced to fan the flames of fanaticism to its highest possible point in order to keep them motivated. Irrespective of whether the Zakura incident involved Al-Qaeda, TuM or IS, the key point to note is that they are all severely pan-Islamic hardline movements. It is not surprising, after all, TuM born of Ahl-e-Hadith was funded by the same Saudi money through the al-Haramain Foundation which funded Al-Qaeda. What we are seeing now is a competitive fundamentalism by different groups, where the more brutal and more fanatical one gets the loyalty and control of the war. Funnily enough a pro-Pakistan hardline TuM, which was considered too austere at the start of the mayhem, is acting as the moderate “freedom fighter” to Islamic State operations. It is also blurring the ideological lines between different groups as each of them draw closer to the Salafi philosophy and the foot-soldiers freely rotate between them. There were Islamic State flags at the funeral of the terrorist, and whether or not he was directly controlled by them, those around him saw nothing wrong in having the association made.
These developments are not born of Indian pressure alone. Since the 1990, there has been an influx of money into Kashmir. Money targeted towards creation of brand new Mosques and proselytization activities, almost all Salafi or Wahabbi. Ahl-e-Hadith itself, has grown from being a non-descript sidelined puritanical organization to one where it has over 15 lakh followers, over 16% of Kashmir’s Muslims. The number of mosques and madrassas controlled by it have gone up from somewhere around 200 in the 1990s to almost 2000 now. Overall around 7000 mosques in Kashmir valley are preaching Wahhabi Islam where women are seen in burqas instead of phirans and men dress in pajamas above ankles in the cold Kashmiri weather. It is this ideological infrastructure which prepares the stone pelters and the local support base of the imported mujahedeen. The growing radicalization of Kashmir is taking it from the Sufi culture to the Salafi, and in turn creating the support base for reemergence of TuM, and the coming of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic state.
[Top Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen militant killed: 2002]https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/…/articles…/11759223.cms
[Moulana Showkat Ahmed Shah killed] http://www.dnaindia.com/…/report-let-admits-killing-separat…
[Tehreek-Ul-Mujahideen claimed responsibility of Srinagar Grenade Attack 5 Nov 2015] https://twitter.com/the_global_kmr/status/662296925564092417
[Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen to activate 300 Kashmiri youth, Aug 2016]https://u4uvoice.com/tehreekmujahideen-to-activate-300…/
[Probe on into IS claim on Srinagar attack] http://www.thehindu.com/…/islamic-state…/article20555507.ece
[Radicalization in Kashmir] http://www.risingkashmir.com/…/myth-of-radicalization-in-ka…
[Kashmir: From Sufi to Salafi, 2012] http://fountainink.in/?p=2912&all=1
[The Wahhabi Invasion, 2012] http://indiatoday.intoday.in/…/saudi-charitie…/1/165660.html
[Kashmir: Wahabi-controlled mosques on the rise, 2017]http://indiatoday.intoday.in/…/jammu-and-kash…/1/968883.html
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