On Kashmir’s Terrorism ‘Industry’ – OpEd


From their response, it appears that political parties and separatists are either completely baffled or fixated by the recent spate of murderous attacks targeting members of minority communities and migrant workers in J&K.

For example, National Conference [NC] MP Hasnain Masoodi seems to be unable to fathom as to “why do you have three to four incidents within such a short span of time? [And] who is doing this?” Senior Communist Party of India [Marxist] leader M Y Tarigami wants to know “For how long will this bloodshed continue? Why are innocents being targeted?”

Peoples’ Democratic Party [PDP] chief Mehbooba Mufti however believes that such killings are due to the administration’s apathy and “speak[s] volumes about GOI’s policy, which has been a monumental failure in J&K.” By stating that the “State policy of extreme repression and unilateral interventions countered by equally extreme and viscous vengeance is a vortex we have got caught into, leading to extreme suffering of Kashmiris of all hues,” [Emphasis added], it’s apparent that Hurriyat too seems to share the PDP chief’s view.

The very fact that none of the political parties or members of the separatist conglomerate have dared to make even an oblique reference to Pakistan’s involvement in orchestrating such acts as part of its ongoing proxy war in J&K is intriguing. Since Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism in J&K is a well-known and established fact, this omission indicates that their pretence of ignorance is presumably an attempt to hide some uncomfortable truths.

Readers may recall that Pakistan’s former President and ex-army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf had himself admitted that “Kashmiris who came to Pakistan received a hero reception here. We used to train them and support them. We considered them as Mujahideen who will fight with the Indian Army. Then, various terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba rose in this period. They were our heroes.” [Emphasis added].Similarly, Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] supremo and chief of United Jihad Council [a coalition of various terrorist groups fighting in J&K] Syed Salahuddin has also accepted that terrorist groups are actually “fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.” 

 Even Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] co-founder and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed has stated that “… what our army will do to secure the rights of the Kashmiris is jihad….We extend help to Kashmiris alongside the Pakistani government….we call this jihad.” [Emphasis added]. So, when the main architects of terrorism in J&K have themselves spilled the beans voluntarily, how is it possible that J&K’s political parties and Hurriyat are unaware of this reality?

Despite trying every trick in the book, Islamabad’s attempts to repackage terrorism in J&K as a morally justified “armed struggle” against oppression have failed miserably. While the Kalashnikov has brought about widespread death and destruction, some unscrupulous people have, by selling their conscience, converted terrorism into a flourishing industry and thereby merrily making a fortune for themselves as well as enjoying several other associated benefits.

While it may shock the unversed, the undeniable fact is that terrorism has spawned a new breed of rich and influential people in Kashmir Valley. Majority of people harbor a quixotic impression about terrorism based on fictionalised on-screen presentations and perceive this extremely complex undertaking simply as an ongoing cycle of gunfights between the security forces and terrorists. The reality is that since terrorism is an act of waging war against the state, it requires an elaborate and effective ecosystem to flourish.

What type of ecosystem does terrorism require? Well, the answer is simple- a terrorist requires external support right from the day he decides to pick up the gun till the time he goes to his grave, and this costs money. Terrorist groups need to pay ‘spotters’ to scout the countryside for identifying and indoctrinating potential recruits. Guides who will take the recruits to training camps across the Line of Control [LoC] and subsequently help them infiltrate back into J&K are also required to be paid for their services.

There’s also the requirement for terrorist handlers to pay the owners of ‘safe houses’ enroute where terrorists can be accommodated and fed, both during exfiltration and infiltration. Once terrorists re-enter J&K, they require a string of hideouts, local guides, informers as well as finances for their sustenance and personal expenses. In addition to ‘buying’ necessary facilities for the administrative and operational requirements of the terrorists, influencers and activists also to be paid for projecting a positive image of terrorists and demonising security forces. These terrorist facilitators are commonly referred to as ‘over ground workers’ and this work attracts many as it pays well and isn’t very risky.  

Inducing reputed writers into authoring articles eulogising slain terrorists, cultivating renowned activists who are willing to take up human rights issues selectively and use their communication skills to present a completely distorted view of the ground realities may be difficult, but is certainly not impossible. The existence of an imposing cabal of activists who have no qualms whatsoever about justifying violence perpetrated by terrorist in J&K while denigrating the establishment, security forces and law enforcement agencies validates Filipino business magnate Lucio Tan’s observation that “Everything is for sale if the price is right”!

The levels to which the entire system in J&K was compromised by terrorist proxies can be gauged from a February 2006 confidential cable sent by the US embassy in New Delhi which was released by Wikileaks. It reads, “… Money from Pakistani and Indian intelligence agencies and from Saudi and other foreign extremists has further distorted Kashmiri politics, incentivised leaders to perpetuate the conflict, and perverted state and Central government institutions.” [Emphasis added].

NC and PDP will most certainly reject the Wikileaks revelations. However, isn’t it a fact that in 2016, NC President Farooq Abdullah reached out to Hurriyat which unashamedly propagates secessionist ideology by saying, “I ask these Hurriyat leaders to unite. We are standing by your side at this hour. Don’t think of us as your adversaries. We are not your adversaries.” [Emphasis added]. He then even conveyed the cryptic message to his own party workers telling them, “Don’t stay behind in this struggle of Kashmir.” [Emphasis added].

Similarly, can PDP deny that immediately after taking oath of allegiance to the Indian constitution on becoming Chief Minister of J&K in 2015, the then PDP President Late Mufti Mohammad Sayeed flagrantly tried to appease the pro-Pakistan lobby by telling the media that “I want to say this on record and I have told this to the Prime Minister that we must credit the Hurriyat, militant outfits for the conduct of Assembly elections in the state”[Emphasis added].

The Hurriyat leadership has also benefited a lot from terrorism. In fact, this separatist conglomerate was created by the Pakistan army’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] in 1993, as a united political front to internationalise the cause of Kashmiri separatism and mobilise public opinion against Indian security forces. That humble abodes of many Hurriyat leaders soon became mansions while their personal assets and wealth multiplied manifold says it all.

The very fact that Syed Ali Shah Geelani who spearheaded the secessionist movement in J&K ultimately quit Hurriyat in protest against rampant financial irregularities by its leaders reveals that the real driving force behind the secessionist movement in Kashmir is the money it brings in and the vociferous hullabaloo about ‘self-determination’ is just mere rhetoric. A classified US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks quotes senior Hurriyat leader and JKLF chief Mohammad Yasin Malik admitting that “Kashmiri politics is no longer about ideology; it’s all a money game.” [Emphasis added] and this aptly sums up the happenings in J&K!

Besides striking gold, those who became part of the secessionist ecosystem in J&K got several other benefits. For example, despite his pedestrian curriculum vitae, Hurriyat leader Geelani’s grandson still managed to secure the highly sought after post of a research officer in the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre in 2016. Similarly, two of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin’s sons got government jobs-one as a pharmacist at the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences, the other in J&K agriculture department.

Pakistan’s largesse has also helped separatists to splurge on their family members. A 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs report revealed that 112 children of separatist leaders were studying/had studied in foreign countries and this list included details of 21 children of 14 prominent secessionists. As far as politicians are concerned, the February 2006 US diplomatic cable released by Wikileaks, reveals that “Corruption cuts across party lines andmost Kashmiris take it as an article of faith that politically-connected Kashmiris take money from both India and Pakistan.”

Would it therefore still be too farfetched to infer that both politicians and separatists are feigning ignorance regarding the ongoing violence in J&K just to protect their own vested interests?

The most appropriate answer to the concerns of politicians as to why are killing of innocents taking place in J&K can be found in another US diplomatic cable that states, While this river of dirty money [being used to finance terrorism] has led to a boom in Kashmiri household income and real estate prices,it also calls into question whether the Kashmiri elite truly want a settlement to their problems. The minute a deal is struck some must surely worry that the funds will dry up.” [Emphasis added].

Since terrorism in J&K has turned out to be the proverbial golden egg laying goose for many in positions of power, which beneficiary in his/her senses would like to upset the apple cart by wanting it to end?  

Nilesh Kunwar

Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army Officer who has served in Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland and Manipur. He is a ‘Kashmir-Watcher,’ and now after retirement is pursuing his favorite hobby of writing for newspapers, journals and think tanks.

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