ISIS and Kashmir

Islamic State (ISIS) flags have again been spotted in Kashmir. The trademark black ISIS flags were reportedly waved in Anantnag district. The ISIS flags had been waved on some earlier occasions as well. The men, who had covered their faces with masks, were seen publicly brandishing the flag of the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Syria) (ISIS). The ‘Islamic’ militia group has occupied a huge area in Iraq and Syria and declared Islamic rule in the area under its control. Police and intelligence agencies are yet to establish the identity of the ‘ISIS’ men. Officially no statement has been issued by any security agency regarding the incident but the government is reported to be very perturbed by growing incidents of flag-waving. Earlier in June, last year, a video from the al-Qaida emerged on social networking websites asking Muslims in Kashmir to emulate "brothers" in Syria and Iraq and wage a violent jihad against India.

The video, which included a statement, read by Maulana Asim Umar, a senior leader of al-Qaida’s Pakistan cell promised a "caravan of jihadists coming from Afghanistan to liberate Kashmir". The video, titled, "The War Continues: A Statement on Kashmir’s Muslims," featured an audio sermon by Umar. The call for ‘Jihad’ in Kashmir has come in the backdrop of major victory by a Jihadi group—Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS)—in Iraq against American-backed government forces. This might have certainly generated interest among the believers of Jihadi way of getting things done, and fear among those against whom Jihad is being waged.

But the Kashmir’s case seems altogether different. Despite being in the thick of armed trouble for more than two decades, Kashmir has generally kept a distance from the international ‘Islamic Jihad’. This notwithstanding the fact that the emergence of Islamic Jihad began almost the same time in Afghanistan when Kashmiris rose in arms against Indian rule in the state. There is no denying the fact that most of the Kashmiri minds, who took to arms, were influenced by the international armed struggle sponsored by America against then USSR in Afghanistan, and many a senior commanders associated with different militant groups of Kashmir physically took part in attacks on Russian soldiers alongside Afghan fighters. But to be fair, most of them did it as a part of their training and preparations for what they were going to do in their home land. In the initial days of militancy, more than hundred outfits emerged on Kashmir scene to fight Indian forces. None of these armed groups has ever been found having international links. Hizbul Mujahideen, Al Jihad, Jamiatul Mujahideen and many other outfits, which claimed to base their struggle in the name of Islam, did never shun their local identity. 

Many of these groups had even foreign militants in the ranks. Shamsheer Khan (Pakistan), Akbar Bhai (Afghanistan), Engineer Masood (Sudan) and Abdur Rahman (Bahreen) were big names in Hizbul Mujahideen but they never acted independently. All the foreign militants including those from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Arab and African countries, who had crossed over to this side of the line of control, would operate under local commander of respective militant groups. JKLF, another fierce militant group, was secular in all its aim and actions. These groups never trod beyond their pronounced position of ‘fighting for right of self determination’—the right acknowledged and accepted by the United States. It is perhaps against this backdrop that the United States could not impose ban on any militant group operating in Kashmir. Lashkar-e-Toiba is the only group which is reeling under ban from America.

Butit is more for actions the group allegedly carried out outside Jammu and Kashmir—the Mumbai attack of 2008 in particular.
The latest call for international Jihad reported in media would in no way go to the liking of Kashmiri mindset. Kashmir is internationally accepted political problem which is on the United Nations agenda. The issue has all the more international support with America and all western countries supporting the right of self determination of Kashmiri people. Over the past some years, people of Kashmir are fighting the issue politically. The mass agitation in 2008, 2009 and 2010 are glaring instances in this regard. Linking it to any international Jihadi movement would only but damage Kashmir cause.

-Editorial-Kashmir Monitor-June 23, 2015-