Who Are The Kashmir Militants?
9 February 2007
London: Since it began in the late 1980s, armed militancy has increased significantly in strength. Despite a large number of casualties, the militants are still believed to number thousands rather than hundreds. Several new militant groups, mostly having radical Islamic views, have also emerged. Many have carried out audacious attacks on Indian military installations. Ideological emphasis They are suspected of being behind the recent attack on a building holding passengers for the cross-Kashmir bus service in April 2005. The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says that most militant groups are based in Pakistan or Pakistani-administered Kashmir. In fact, in the last few years they seem to have taken the lead, shifting the ideological emphasis of the movement from a nationalistic and secularist one to an Islamic one. Pro-Pakistan Kashmiri militants India accuses Pakistan of fomenting militancy in Kashmir As a result, some of the groups that were in the forefront of the armed insurgency in 1989 - particularly the pro-independence Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) - have receded into the background. More recently other militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e- Mohammad, no longer operate under these names after they were banned by the Indian government. India says that over the last two years, Lashkar-e-Toiba has split into two factions, al-Mansurin and al- Nasirin. Pro-Pakistani Another new militant group reported to have emerged is the Save Kashmir Movement (SKM). Of the larger militant groups, only the Hizbul Mujahideen - which is indigenous to Indian- administered Kashmir - has kept its name. Other less well known groups are the Freedom Force and Farzandan-e-Milat. A smaller militant group, al-Badr, has been active in Kashmir for many years and is still believed to be functioning. Masood Azhar India wants more militants behind bars At present, the prevailing political tendency among the militants in Kashmir is pro-Pakistani, with a heavy emphasis on religion. However, this may not be entirely true for the separatist political movement represented by the All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), as many of its constituent groups have kept their options open. At times, such ideological differences also result in friction between the factions of the separatist movement. The APHC is itself split between a faction which supports negotiations with the Indian government and a faction which is opposed to such dialogue. There are a number of factors that have largely contributed to this change in the ideological base of the armed Kashmiri movement. These include the alleged high-handedness of the Indian security forces and encouragement given to pro- Pakistan groups by Islamabad. Gun battle But as the peace process between Pakistan and India has developed, there is evidence now that President Musharraf's support for these groups has become markedly more lukewarm over the last few years. Not much is known about collaboration between the various militant groups, but most say they are members of an alliance known as the United Jihad Council (UJC). Indian security forces in Kashmir Skirmishes with militants are frequent The two groups which India says were behind the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in Delhi - known then as Jaish- e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba - were both believed to be members. India says it was Jaish-e-Mohammad which attacked the state assembly in Indian-administered Kashmir in October 2002. In the ensuing gun battle nearly 40 people were killed. Correspondents say that the one armed separatist outfit which has had a real impact on the militant movement in recent years is arguably the group formerly known as Lashkar-e-Toiba. 'Waging Jihad' Lashkar emerged as one of the most prominent groups involved in militant activities in Kashmir. It is alleged to have gained more support because of its role in the 1999 Kargil conflict with India and later on by sending its members on suicide missions to blow up military cantonments in different parts of Indian-administered Kashmir. Lashkar's professed ideology went beyond merely challenging Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir. In a pamphlet entitled 'Why Are We Waging Jihad?' the group defined its agenda as the restoration of Islamic rule over all parts of India. In 2000 its activists carried out controversial armed attacks inside the Red Fort in Delhi - one of the most audacious attacks carried out by militants. Lashkar-e-Toiba may not exist anymore, but there has been no shortage of groups to replace it.