It had become increasingly apparent in recent years but is now as clear as daylight – the so-called Kashmir aazadi struggle is now for the establishment of an Islamic state.
Leading this charge is Zakir Musa, the former commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest Kashmir-based terror group.
Born Zakir Rashid Bhat, Musa succeeded Burhan Wani as the young commander of the Syed Salahuddin-led Hizbul Mujahideen. He has now openly aligned himself with the al-Qaeda and expressed his goal to establish an Islamic state in Kashmir.
Reports say that Musa has left Hizbul Mujahideen. Whether he will form his own terror group or join al-Qaeda is not yet known.
On May 12, Musa had posted an audio message in which he threatened to behead the Kashmiri Separatists at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk. The Separatists, who are increasingly losing control over the youth of the Valley, are unable to do anything about it except showing up a united front.
In one of the messages, he is heard saying:
“We are fighting for ‘Azadi baraye Islam (Freedom for the sake of Islam)’, I am fighting for freedom for the sake of Islam. My blood will spill for Islam and not for a secular state.”
Hizbul Mujahideen, on the other hand, condemned Musa’s message. Reports say that on May 15, Musa posted another audio message denouncing Hizbul and praising al-Qaeda.
What is particularly worrying is that Musa has more followers than Hizbul expected him to have. The youth of the Valley are more in support of his jihadist ideology than the ideology of the Separatists.
This is not the first time that Musa spoke about establishment of an Islamic state in Kashmir. He said the same in 2016 after he succeeded Wani and as recently as in March this year.
While Hizbul Mujahideen claims to have disassociated with Musa’s ideology, it should be noted that the group’s founder Syed Salahuddin himself had in 2016 admitted that the Kashmir fight was not about freedom but about Islamic rule.
What does this mean for Indian security forces?
In a way Musa’s admission that the entire Kashmir conflict is about establishment of Islamic line of thinking in the state is a good thing for Indian government. It is believed that the local population of Kashmir will not support a pure Islamist terrorist group such as al-Qaeda or its allies.
Musa has also openly challenged Pakistan – a favorite of the Separatists and the financial, moral and political backers of many terror groups that operate against India. This means that both Pakistan and Separatists are now in a catch-22 situation – they must themselves prevent the rise of Musa and his supporters or risk being called global terrorists themselves.
But the worry for the Indian government could be the youth of Kashmir, who, following a free-hand given to them by the Separatists, might feel emboldened to support terrorist groups and Musa.
The Guardian reported that a student called Yawir told the daily that “everyone” is with Musa. He is “out there for martyrdom, he’s out there for a sacred cause, how can I oppose him?” asked another student.
Moreover, Hizbul Mujahideen is nothing more than a terrorist organization which is fast losing their nefarious war against the Indian armed forces. So a losing terrorist organization can be expected to align with whosoever can give it a boost in their dirty war against India. And since Salahuddin had himself said what Musa has been saying, one must not take Hizbul’s condemnation at face value.
The third problem that India faces is from its own elite intellectuals from the Left and a section of the media which side with Kashmiri Separatists. They have been openly siding with the terrorists in the name of rights and continue to question Indian army’s actions in the Valley.