June 2002 News

Schism between jihadis dangerously real

3 June 2002
The Pioneer
ML Kotru

New Delhi: In an attempt to retrieve lost ground, the jihadis turned the funeral procession of Abdul Ghani Lone into an anti-India frenzy. However, the cat was out of the bag with the denunciation by Lone''s son of the Pakistan Army and ISI for the murder of his father. The other sign of murderous intents was Pakistan-based Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin''s description of Abdul Majid Dar, the commander of the Hizb in the Valley till recently, as ''traitor''. For how many Mujahideens have Dar''s courage to tell the so-called leadership, sitting in Pakistan, that it does not understand the ground realities in Jammu and Kashmir? Dar and four of his senior activists, who have since been expelled from the Hizb by Salahuddin, have, unlike the so-called commander-in-chief, battled in the Valley; they have faced the Indian security forces, and experienced first- hand the hardship and misery which militancy has brought to the people of the State. Dar served a warning two years ago when he declared a unilateral ceasefire which even led to a brief, inconclusive meeting in Srinagar between Hizb commanders in the Valley and New Delhi''s representatives. Dar was eventually replaced by a handpicked nominee of Pakistan, Saif-ul Islam, as the Hizb commander in Kashmir Valley, but Dar had made his point. Similarly, when an Abdul Ghani Lone said - not in Srinagar, New Delhi or Dubai but in Islamabad - that foreigners should keep out of the militancy in Kashmir, he was only giving expression to apprehensions the Kashmiri Muslims share about the presence in the Valley of Afghan, Pakistani, and Sudanese terrorists, supposedly fighting on behalf of the Kashmiris. The presence of mercenaries in the countryside is the source of much harassment to ordinary people. If given the choice, they would see the Indian security forces as the lesser of two evils. Mercenaries are known to have indulged in extortion, rape and worse. And unlike the security forces, the foreign jihadis don''t fear accountability. Any member of the security forces found guilty of misbehaviour is liable to face severe punishment and loss of job. That perhaps was what prompted a man like Lone, no admirer of India and its handling of the Kashmir issue, to say he doesn''t want foreigners among the ''jihadis''. If Mirwaiz Maulvi Farouq too seems to share some of Lone''s apprehensions, it''s natural that the Hurriyat leadership should start worrying. For the two of them do command the loyalty of sizeable sections of population - the Maulvi in downtown Srinagar and Lone in the Kupwara-Handwara belt. In fairness to both Umer Farooq and Lone, they had not issued any statement lately in support of their standpoint. But that did not prevent Hurriyat chief Abdul Ghani Bhat from pressing the panic button. He sees these men and others like Dar as traitors to the cause. And the cause, according to him and his rabid colleague, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is Kashmir''s accession to Pakistan. Incidentally, both Lone and Geelani had several bones to pick with New Delhi; both were members of the Kashmir Legislative Assembly for several terms, Lone having served as a Minister as well. But the difference between Lone''s and Geelani''s stands is one between rationality and irrationality. Lone was conscious of the suffering imposed on Kashmiris during the past decade and more; Geelani, speaking from the comfort of his palatial house, believes that the Kashmiris must continue to be sacrificed if the larger goal of Kashmir''s accession to Pakistan is to be achieved. That''s why anyone opposing Geelani''s strident calls for jihad in Kashmir is a ''traitor''. Geelani''s nervousness is the greater because of the strong belief that some of dissenters may join the poll process. The hardliners will make things difficult for the moderates and one can be sure that if it comes to the crunch, they will surely call for boycott of elections. Men like Maulvi Umer Farooq, however, as stated before, have safe constituencies of their own, where it is their word that will prevail. Should some of the separatists participate in the elections, it would present a major challenge to Omar Abdullah and the National Conference. It will also impose on the Centre the gravest responsibility of playing the balancing role. NC may be NDA''s partner but the BJP, which heads the NDA, and the NC, are at daggers drawn in the State. The J&K BJP would not like to have anything to do with the ''discredited'' Farooq regime. The BJP''s own record in the State is not particularly inspiring. In the circumstances, the Centre has no option but to stand by Mr Vajpayee''s categorical assurance that the elections in the State will be free and fair. In such a situation, it may not be a bad idea to invite some respected, non-controversial senior citizens - including some retired judges of the Supreme Court or even former election commissioners - to act as observers during the elections. (ADNI)


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