Anger in Kashmir as US threatens Afghanistan
19 September 2001
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Anti-US feelings are bubbling to the surface in Kashmir with religious groups accusing Washington of crimes against Islam. Others expressed concern about the plight of ordinary people in Afghanistan, whose Taliban rulers are sheltering Saudi-born dissident Osama bin Laden, chief suspect in last week''s attacks in New York and Washington. One Kashmiri religious organisation on Wednesday urged Muslim clerics across Kashmir to educate people about the ''crimes of America against the Islamic community around the world''. The group, the Muslim Deeni Mahaz (Muslim Religious Front), also said in a statement in a mass circulation newspaper it was time to repay the debt owed to Afghanistan''s mujahideen, or Islamic warriors. ''If we cannot give our lives to the proud and miserable Afghans, at least we can pray for the safety of orphans, widows and victims,'' the group said. The deputy chairwoman of the People''s Democratic Party, the main opposition party in Jammu and Kashmir state, said most Kashmiris felt the United States had been unfair in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan and had brought the attacks upon itself. ''America has had a role in the creation of terrorism worldwide,'' Mehbooba Mufti told Reuters. She also said it would be unfair if the United States attacked Afghanistan in its hunt for bin Laden. ''How can you be ready to wipe out a whole nation for one man, are America''s hands clean?'' she asked. Pakistan, under pressure from the United States, is trying to persuade the Taliban to hand over bin Laden. CRITICAL OF INDIAN SUPPORT Kashmiri militants have not yet spelled out their stand on last week''s attacks in the United States but some Kashmiris have criticised New Delhi for offering support to Washington in any possible strikes against bin Laden. A cartoon in a local newspaper showed Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah wiping away America''s tears while stabbing Kashmiris in the back. Indian security officials are wondering what the impact of any US military operation in Afghanistan might be in Kashmir. One said there was speculation more militants could infiltrate into the Kashmir Valley from Pakistan as they came under pressure there. But there was also speculation some militants might leave Kashmir to fight alongside their comrades in Afghanistan. But one official said intercepts of messages between rebels in Kashmir suggested they were preparing to dig in as winter approached the Himalayan region. The army said earlier this week that it had stepped up its vigil on the border after reports that Pakistan had closed militant training camps prompted concern that there could be a flood of guerrillas into Kashmir.