By Brig Anil Gupta (retd)*
Ever since Amit Shah has occupied the Union Home Minister’s office, the ministry has got a new fillip. During his recent maiden visit to Jammu & Kashmir, he minced no words in reiterating his government’s zero tolerance policy towards terror and terrorists. In the three-pronged strategy he enunciated to the security forces, strict action against terror funding and security forces to ensure that law of the land prevails were the other two prongs.
A recent Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) report revealing that hard line separatist leaders received funds from abroad and utilised them for personal gains- from amassing properties to paying for foreign education of their kin- has received widespread attention and raised a public outcry against those leaders.
Tightening its noose around those who were involved in terror funding, terror financing, money laundering and hawala operations, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested many separatist leaders, businessmen, hawala operators and relatives of the Hurriyat leadership and put them through sustained interrogation to track the sources and origin of terror funding in Kashmir. NIA was successful in not only tracking the trail of terror funding but also revealing the beneficiaries and how terror was being sustained in the Valley.
Regional parties who headed previous governments in Kashmir turned a blind eye to these notorious malpractices because of their vested interest in continuation of terrorism in the state. Cases of money laundering and hawala operations have lingered for decades despite cases being registered. This has been the misfortune of Kashmir, because the regional mainstream parties owe their political survival to separatist and extremist forces operating in the Valley.
During interrogation, separatist leaders confessed that Pakistan was the main source of terror funding, specifically to fuel separatist sentiments among the Kashmiris. Cross-LOC trade was one major source of hawala operations and terror financing. Asiya Andrabi of the Dukhtaran-e-Millat admitted that she had been receiving funds and donations from Pakistan and elsewhere to organize protests by Muslim girls and women in the valley. She has used part of this money to finance her son’s education in Malaysia, while the major expenses are borne by Zahoor Watali a businessman arrested for terror funding.
Watali is a main hawala conduit who received funds from Pakistan, ISI, UAE and had floated various shell companies to disguise foreign remittances for transfer to separatist leaders and stone pelters in the Valley. Masarat Alam, the master-mind of stone-pelters, has confessed that funds were being distributed among various Hurriyat leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Gilani.
Shabbir Shah confessed that his hotel in Pahalgam and other businesses are financed through funds received from Pakistan. Yasin Malik, who brought together various factions of the Hurriyat under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), notorious for issuing “bandh rosters” in Kashmir, affecting the lives of common Kashmiris, confessed before the agencies that funds were received from big business houses in Kashmir and other “sources” to sustain bandh calls, disrupting economic activities in Kashmir and affecting the trading community of Jammu.
These funds were used to fuel unrest and organise violent agitations and anti-India activities, resulting in large scale violence leading to numerous injuries and deaths of innocent civilians and security forces personnel. The funds were also used to pay stone pelters, Friday protestors, those tasked with torching schools and government buildings, particularly Panchayat Ghar, and other ground workers.
Pakistan has also entrusted the Hurriyat the responsibility of financing “home-grown” terror groups from funds they received. Thus, apart from promoting and sustaining terror in Kashmir, these leaders were also involved in the killings of Kashmiris, closure of educational institutions and encouraging local youth to join terror ranks. Alongside this, they also led luxurious lives and financed the foreign education of their wards.
According to the list released by the MHA, 210 relatives of Kashmiri separatist leaders currently live abroad. The documents also mention that 112 children of separatists, of which 21 belong to 14 well-known separatists, study in foreign lands.
The MHA document reveals how they spread hate and violence in Kashmir to further the Pakistani agenda of keeping Kashmir in perpetual turmoil. While they deny Kashmiris the right to live peacefully and decide their futures, they themselves lead lavish lifestyles. While separatists encourage the Valley’s youth to pick up stones and arms against security forces and join militancy, they have no qualms in shielding their own family from the strife, by settling them in other states and countries.
This is the story of the great betrayal of Kashmir. These people need to be exposed so that the false image they have built in the hearts of poor Kashmiris is shattered.
Sensing defeat in its design of annexing Kashmir through “religious militancy”, radicalisation and jihadi terror, Pakistan has now resorted to destroy future generations of Kashmiris by making them drug addicts. The frequent seizure of drug consignments in the recent past must have rung the alarm bells among the concerned authorities by now. The drug menace is not confined to the Valley but has also engulfed border districts of Jammu and is slowly penetrating other areas. The example of post-militancy Punjab is worth noting. Radicalisation and drug-addiction are the two major challenges facing the administration.
The betrayal of Kashmiris for money at the behest of an enemy nation needs to be exposed to the Kashmiris. Every Kashmiri young or old needs to know the true face of Hurriyat leaders who have been pushing them into hell for personal gains. There is a need to launch “Back to Village 2.0” in the state.
While “Back to Village 1.0,” a massive outreach programme, was aimed at taking the administration to the doorstep of the villagers, its 2.0 version should aim at launching an effective information campaign. Apart from exposing the betrayers, it should also launch massive anti-drugs and anti-radicalisation campaigns. Apart from extensive use of the vernacular press, the campaign should also aim to educate people and make them aware through audio-visual tools. Like when the teams of field publicity division of the Government of India used to visit villages with 16 mm projectors and screen documentary films.
With improved technology, government should consider taking the services of professionals. The films/songs should be in the local dialects to widen their reach. Use should also be made of the local “bhands”, which will help promote local folk art. “Nukkad Nataks” (Street plays) can also be staged by professional groups who excel in the field.
If terror has to end and lasting peace ensured in Kashmir, the terror support network, both local and Pakistan-sponsored, has to be completely eliminated. Social awareness will ensure that such elements are exposed and are unable to mislead the simple Kashmiris with anti-India propaganda and exploiting the Kashmiri youth.
*About the author: The author is a Jammu-based security and strategic analyst. He can be contacted at [email protected]
Source: This article was published by South Asia Monitor