By Deepika Bhan
The Monster is very much here now. A video from Kashmir has gone viral showing a youth hoisting IS flag from the pulpit of Jamia Masjid. The pulpit is the place where Mirwaiz of the Masjid sits to offer prayers and give sermons. The youth is accompanied by five to ten men who are also carrying the IS flags and mouthing pro IS slogans.
Jamia masjid, located in downtown Srinagar is one of the oldest and the most famous mosques in the valley. The head priest of the mosque Maulvi Omar Farooq is also the chairman of the separatist conglomerate, All Parties Hurriyat Conference. Every Friday, Maulvi Omar Farooq sits in the pulpit of the mosque and gives sermons. On 28th December, the Friday, soon after Maulvi Omar Farooq left, the IS inspired youth entered the hall and started waving IS flags. One of the youths occupies the pulpit. With the IS flag in hand, the masked youth was aggressively raising slogans.
The youths were soon chased away by the Maulvi supporters but they did what they wanted to. By choosing to occupy the throne of Mirwaiz of Jamia Masjid, which is the most important religious seat and position for Muslims in the valley, IS inspired youth perhaps wanted to give a warning to the Hurriyat leaders as well.
Maulvi Omar sure must have got the fright as the serpent is now biting the hand that is feeding them. Hurriyat has been denying any influence of IS in the valley. They, instead, accuse the Indian Intelligence agencies of planting the IS thought in the valley. But their denial is much akin the proverbial Ostrich like syndrome. The fact is that often in the downtown Srinagar city area after Friday prayers IS flags are waved while the stone pelting mobs attack the security forces. Earlier the IS flags appeared outside the mosques, now they are cropping inside.
The downtown area has a considerable traditional following of Mirwaiz Omar Farooq but now it is seeing a gradual emergence of pro IS and pro Zakir Musa groups. Musa is the head of Ansar Ghazwat ul Hind, an Al-Qaeda inspired outfit. It got a serious blow on 22 December,2018 when its six members were killed in an encounter with security forces.
Mirwaiz Omar Frooq and the rest of Hurriyat denounce IS ideology. They have even termed its activities as ‘terrorism’. But the truth is that Hurriyat has been spearheading the separatist movement in the valley. Their support to Pakistan supported terrorism has dealt a big blow to the secular fabric and has plunged the valley in strife. The minority Kashmir Hindus were persecuted and forced out of valley. Thousands of civilians have been killed in terror attacks in these three decades.
Since 1993 when Hurriyat was formed, it is at the forefront of leading the separatist movement in the valley. Its leaders have been hobnobbing with the Pakistani leadership, and the terror heads like Hafiz Saeed. Hurriyat is accused of shielding the terror network in the valley and help fund activities like stone pelting against the security forces. It is regarded as the political face of the terror groups who are being aided and abetted by Pakistan. And Maulvi Omar Farooq belongs to this very core team of Hurriyat team. Their terming IS as the terrorist organization can be dismissed as a good joke because Hurriyat has created an atmosphere in the valley that is now providing ground to the IS or the Al Qaeda.
The central security agencies have time and again denied the presence of IS in India. But the fact is that IS inspired youth often appear in the valley waving flags and shouting slogans. In November, 2018, three terrorists belonging to the Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK), an outfit influenced by ISIS ideology, were arrested in Delhi. Over the years, the radicalization of the youth in the valley has seen an unprecedented growth, thereby making an attractive ground for IS type ideologies. In the valley, the major terror groups are Lashkar, JeM, Hizbul Mujahidden which receive blatant support from Pakistan. These groups are opposed to IS as IS terms them un-Islamic groups.
This IS vs. other terror groups in the valley is resulting in turf wars between them. And what was witnessed in Jamia Masjid is being seen as the fallout of this war. Maulvi Omar Farooq and other Hurriyat leaders are alarmed at the turn of events. The Miwaiz seat is of utmost importance to the Muslims in the valley and the growing radicalisation is sure to raise insecurity of the Hurriyat leaders. It was this very Jamia Masjid where Jammu and Kashmir police official was brutally lynched and killed even as Maulvi Omar Farooq was giving sermons while sitting in this very throne on July 22, 2017.
The security forces are doing their best to annihilate the terrorists. But growing radicalisation is mounting the problems for the state and the forces. The times ahead certainly don’t indicate much for peace in the valley.
The author is a senior TV journalist based in Delhi