On Syed Salahuddin’s Challenge

Nilesh Kunwar
July 13, 2017 OPINION 239 Views
On Syed Salahuddin’s Challenge

Till recently things were going very well for Muttahida Jihad Council (MJC) chief and supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) Syed Salahuddin and he had all the reasons to be buoyant. Firstly, by calling Hizb commander Burhan Wani a “Kashmiri leader,” Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif officially elevated the status of the HM from a militant group to that of a ‘stake holder’. Secondly, by saying “India is mistaken if it considers that a freedom fight can be equated with terrorism,” Sharif made it absolutely clear that Islamabad was no longer shy of publically acknowledging that it wholeheartedly supports what Salahuddin’s boys are doing in Kashmir.
Expression of support for Salahuddin wasn’t restricted to the other side of the border as he also had plenty of admirers here. The MJC chief must have been exhilarated when in his inaugural speech after taking over as Chief Minister of J&K, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed thanked militant outfits for allowing the peaceful conduct of elections. But senior Congress leader and former Union minister Mani Shankar Aiyar’s demand that New Delhi should talk to militants because otherwise “guns would talk” is what must have given Salahuddin’s ego the most invigorating massage of his life! After all, it is seldom that militants are able scare the life out of a seasoned politician who belongs to a party that that isn’t even in power!
But the US State Department suddenly jumped in from nowhere and by declaring Salahuddin “Specially Designated Global Terrorist,” spoiled his party! Forced on the back-foot by this unexpected move, the chief of MJC and HM hit back by calling Washington’s decision “idiotic” and openly challenged Washington to cite a single incident of his direct or indirect complicity in any terrorism related incident. As always, Islamabad as well as the separatist leadership have come out fiercely in his support and strongly condemned Uncle Sam and their underlying argument is that the MJC affiliates (which include the HM) are waging a ‘legitimate freedom struggle’ and not indulging in terrorism in Kashmir.
Salahuddin has displayed tremendous confidence by throwing an open challenge to Washington to quote a single example to prove that he or his cadres have in any way been involved in any act of terrorism. It is obvious that his confidence stems from the fact that public memory is short and the pro-Pakistan camp in on both sides of the Line of Control portrays the HM as a group of peace loving and selfless nationalist Kashmiris forced to pick up the gun in order to protect their ‘oppressed’ people from state sponsored atrocities. But no amount of glorification can erase the atrocities that Kashmiris have been subjected to by the HM, which has far too many skeletons in its cupboard!
When the Pakistan army and ISI created a militant group out of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) activists, it had appreciated that this new underground group would work as its proxy and fight for merger of Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) with Pakistan. But despite inducements and even threats, the JKLF remained steadfast in its vision of seeking an ‘independent Kashmir’ and this is why the HM was created. The fact that after the HM wrested control of militancy in Kashmir from the JKLF the historical demand of azadi (freedom) suddenly changed to ‘Kashmir banega Pakistan’ (Kashmir will become Pakistan) proves beyond any doubts that the HM was created to further Islamabad’s Kashmir agenda .
The HM lived upto its masters’ expectation and succeeded in forcibly taking over the reins of militancy from the JKLF. In his extremely well researched book “Shadow War: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir,” US based Pakistani journalist Arif Jamal has narrated the brutal manner in which the HM achieved this. Jamal writes, “Hizbul Mujahideen operatives harassed, beat and murdered potential rivals, and the scale of the violence was enormous. According to a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, the organisation eliminated some 7,000 political rivals. From the beginning of their campaign, Hizbul Mujahideen focused on disarming and kidnapping JKLF members, and many were brutalised in custody and beaten to death.”
The HM denies its involvement in killing of JKLF activists and present JKLF chairman Yasin Malik chooses to maintain a stoic silence on this issue. But JKLF co-founder Amanullah Khan has gone on record to reveal that “Hizbul Mujahideen eliminated more JKLF officials than Indian military agents had.” But the list of HM atrocities doesn’t end here. Though it denies any involvement, but it’s an open secret that HM militants killed prominent leaders like Dr Ahad Guru, Prof Abdul Ahad Wailoo, Mirwaiz Farooq, Qazi Nissar, Ghulam Qadir Wani, Abdul Gani Lone and many others. The tragedy is that none of these victims were quislings; au contraire, each one of them was totally committed and actively working for the Kashmir cause. Yet they were assassinated for the simple reason that they didn’t appreciate the idea of Pakistan controlling the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir through the HM!
Isn’t all this bloodshed proof enough of the HM’s involvement in terrorism?
One may maintain that judging Salahuddin on the basis of what he and his outfit did in the late eighties and early nineties is unfair because at that point of time the HM chief was still struggling to establish himself as a ‘freedom fighter’ and hence was in no position to refuse doing what the Pakistan army and ISI demanded. Let’s for the sake of discussion give him the benefit of doubt and talk about the HM in the present day context focusing on the “global terrorist” issue.
Salahuddin has rejected the “Global terrorist” tag that the US State Department has put on him by raising the following counterpoints:
“The ongoing ‘armed struggle’ (in Kashmir) is as per UN rules, so we are not terrorists.”
The HM is engaged in an indigenous struggle with the sole aim of ‘liberating’ Kashmir from ‘Indian occupational forces’.
Even fifth grade student will tell you that the UN charter mandates resolution of conflicts through peaceful means and so on what basis has Salahuddin concluded that the ‘armed struggle’ in Kashmir is “as per UN resolutions” is beyond comprehension. If his next point about the ‘armed struggle’ being an ‘indigenous struggle solely for liberation of Kashmir’ is true then how does Salahuddin explain the “We are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir” statement that he made during an interview given to Arab News channel in 2012?
Now to Salahuddin’s open challenge of someone quoting a single incident to prove that he or his boys were involved in terrorism. Just two months ago (May 1 to be precise), the HM accepted responsibility for an attack on the cash van of a bank in which all occupants (five policemen and two bank employees) were killed near Kulgam. In his statement, HM spokesman Burhanuddin made an rather unusual claim that while the policemen were killed by HM militants, the bank employees were killed by CRPF and incredible though it may sound, let’s for a moment accept it for argument’s sake. All the victims were travelling together in the same van, so does the HM spokesperson wants is to believe that the attackers were so proficient in use of their weapons that they were able to gun down only the policemen and leave the bank employees unscathed despite the van being in motion? This version is more than unlikely- it’s practically impossible!
So if the HM militants didn’t kill the bank employees then this could have only been possible if they intercepted the van and after segregating the bank employees shot the accompanying policemen dead. But isn’t doing this also an act of terrorism? Hence, even if we accept the version of the HM spokesperson, then if killing policemen who are not involved in anti militancy operations but performing cash van escort duty isn’t terrorism, then what exactly is?
Will Salahuddin care to explain?
Email : nileshkunwar.56@gmail.com

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