November 2017 News

Kashmir Valley Abuzz With Debate On Possible IS Footprint

26 November 2017
The Asian Age
Yusuf Jameel

Srinagar: Has the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) succeeded in making inroads into Jammu and Kashmir? The authorities here say a categorical 'no' when asked. 'I don't think the IS has any footprint here,' said Jammu and Kashmir's DGP Shesh Paul Vaid. The Centre is also downplaying IS's claim that it was involved in an attack in which a police officer and a militant were killed in Srinagar on November. 18. A senior MHA official said, 'There is no authoritative information about the presence of IS in J&K.' Union home minister Rajnath Singh, too, dismissed reports about the presence of the IS in J&K, let alone a base in India. The statements came in the wake of Amaq, which is the official news agency of the IS, claiming the responsibility for the shootout in which police Sub-Inspector Imran Tak was also killed. Speaking to reporters at Varanasi, Mr Singh rejected a possibility about the outcome of an inquiry launched into the November 18 display of IS flag at militant Mughees Ahmed Mir's funeral. 'Any Indian Muslim who believes in Islam would never allow such outfits to have a base in the country,' he said. On that day, three men in a car had reportedly opened fire on a police party at Srinagar's Gulab Bagh area. The police retaliated, but the car sped away through a makeshift check-point laid by it following specific information about the movement of militants in the area. The police wasn't sure if had hit any militant but a couple of hours after the incident militant Mir's bullet-riddled body was brought to his home in Parimpora locality. He was one of the three people in the car. Reports stated Mir was an associate of Zakir Musa, the commander who revolted against J&K's frontline outfit Hizbul Mujahedeen early this year and was subsequently appointed as the head of Al Qaeda's cell in J&K - Ansar Ghazwat-Ul-Hind by Al Qaeda. But Tehrik-ul-Mujahedin, another J&K outfit formed during the heydays of militancy was quick to claim Mir alias Umar Bin-e-Khatab was its district commander for Pulwama and was replaced by Adil Ahmed after his 'martyrdom'. Terming it ridiculous, its spokesperson Dr Abdul Haq, doubting the intention behind wrapping the IS flag on Mir's body, suspected that 'our enemies want to give our just struggle for freedom a bad name'. The photographs of Mir's body, wrapped in the IS flag, went viral on social media. Apparently, this prompted the IS to claim responsibility for the Gulab Bagh attack. In July, the IS flag was draped over the casket of a Hizbul Mujahedin militant Sajjad Ahmed Gilkar in Srinagar's Malaratta-Nowhatta area, raising eyebrows in the separatist camp. It also set alarming bells ringing among the security forces, which are combating a 28-year-old insurgency in J&K. The draping of Mir's corpse with the IS flag and the terror group's claiming responsibility for his involvement in the act, have revived the debate around the crucial question 'has IS succeeded in making inroads into J&K'? Reacting to the IS claim, Muhammad Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin, the chief of United Jihad Council, an amalgam of militant outfits, including Tehrik-ul-Mujahedin, said that the 'freedom movement' is indigenous and has no 'global agenda'. Mr Salahuddin, who is also the 'supreme commander' of Hizbul Mujahideen was in June declared a 'specially designated global terrorist' by the US State Department, the tagging which had led to shutdowns and protests in J&K. The ISIS also known as IS and by its Arabic language acronym, Daesh, gained prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive. It has since been designated as a terrorist organisation by the United Nations and other member countries. The flags of the IS and Al Qaeda had first appeared in J&K during protests and stone-pelting incidents in Srinagar outside Grand Mosque in 2014. Masked youth held these flags in the full glare of cameras and were surrounded by locals, mainly youth, to ensure no harm came to them. During one such assembly, security personnel swung into action and gave chase to the masked youth, but no serious attempt was made to capture those carrying the IS flag. Then CM Omar Abdullah had shrugged these incidents off saying it was being done by some 'stupid' youth and that IS or Al Qaeda as such has no presence in J&K. Though waving of green Islamic and Pakistan's national flag is somewhat inseparable with street protests in Kashmir, these being replaced by IS flags at places continued for some time despite appeals from Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the octogenarian separatist leader, that such a pastime may only blemish 'our just and indigenous struggle for freedom'. A police inquiry revealed that a local 'small-time' cleric was involved in encouraging the IS flag waving at the protests, particularly outside the Grand Mosque. A reporter with a TV news channel also came under the police scanner. 'We've reports that he knows beforehand where such flags will go up,' a police officer told this newspaper.