In Kashmir, It’s The ‘Sword’ Versus The ‘Pen’ – OpEd


Being fraught with danger, reporting from terrorism afflicted areas has always been a very challenging job as journalists often incur the wrath of either the establishment or terrorists. While the threat from the former is usually restricted to censorship and other legal restrictions that can be remedied by the court of law, terrorists on the other hand have no qualms in acting as judge and jury and summarily dispatching those whose reports they aren’t comfortable with! So, when a blog site going by the name of ‘’ published names of 21 Kashmiris connected with the media in Kashmir [including owners of some newspapers, editors and reporters] and accusing them of being “stooges” and “traitors” threatened to target them, it created panic within Kashmir’s media community.

The pandemonium over a post on social media may appear to be an unwarranted overreaction to the uninitiated, especially when no terrorist organisation has been named as the originator of this threat, but those aware of the prevailing ground situation in Kashmir, know better. Hence, it’s not at all surprising that at least five Kashmiri media persons whose names have appeared in the list published on this blog site have since resigned, while the others remain on the edge. This is because it’s no secret that Pakistan sponsored terrorists in J&K are only interested in furthering Islamabad’s vested interests by masquerading as “freedom fighters,” and even Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] chief Syed Salahuddin who also heads the United Jihad Council [a conglomerate of Pakistan based terrorist groups created by ISI to coordinate terror activities in J&K] has accepted this by admitting that, “We are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.” [Emphasis added]. 

Salahuddin’s admission isn’t an aberration. Former Pakistani President and ex-army chief Gen Pervez Musharraf’s revelations also endorse the UJC chief’s admission. In an undated video, Gen Musharraf can be heard proudly acknowledging that “Kashmiris who came to Pakistan received a hero’s reception here. We used to train them and support them. We considered them as ‘Mujahideens’ who will fight with the Indian Army. Then, various organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba [LeT] rose in this period. They were our heroes.” [Emphasis added].

Right from its inception, it was evident that the so called ‘armed struggle’ in J&K being eulogised by Islamabad and pro-Pakistan lobby was just a humongous sham and suffered from serious credibility issues. As such, intimidating those who were discerning and could influence public opinion became the cornerstone of terrorist strategy in Kashmir Valley. This is not a mere allegation but a fact accepted by none other than senior Hurriyat leader Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat who admitted that “This movement [terrorism in J&K] started with the assassinations of thinkers and the people who held an opinion.” [Emphasis added]. 

More than three decades of targeted killings by terrorists in Kashmir have left no doubt in any body’s mind that the so called ‘freedom struggle’ is nothing but an extremely poor attempt by Pakistan to camouflage its proxy war. However, since terrorist groups in Kashmir have no hesitation whatsoever when it comes to issuing threats and public and even while dispensing retribution, the hapless public has been terrorised into silence.

Readers would recall that HM poster boy Burhan Wani had openly warned policemen not to perform their law enforcement duties and threatened those who disobeyed with dire consequences. Top HM commander Riyaz Naikoo went a step further by first releasing a gruesome ‘execution’ video of a teenager accused of being an informer, and then issuing an audio tape to endorse this cold-blooded murder. Apologists may contend that a mere threat on a blogsite which has no mention of being associated with any terrorist group doesn’t make any sense for journalists to resign. 

Others may ask that if a terrorist group really wanted to threaten certain media persons, why didn’t it do so through its official spokesperson? The answers aren’t very difficult to find. While the blog site that carried the threat may not be officially owned by or linked to any terrorist group, Kashmiri journalists strongly believe that it is based in Pakistan and the anonymous threat is most certainly from a new terrorist group known as ‘The Resistance Front’ [TRF].

A word about TRF. Abrogation of Article 370 effectively demolished Pakistan’s feeble Kashmir narrative and out of sheer frustration, ISI retaliated by escalating violence levels and creating mayhem in Kashmir by directing its most trusted proxy [LeT] to specifically target innocent men and women belonging to minority communities and migrant workers. Since these senseless acts of violence could well enrage the international community, ISI couldn’t afford to take the risk of these acts being traced back to LeT, as this in turn would expose Rawalpindi’s complicity.  

So, a non-existence group with the name of TRF was formed, and while its LeT that’s responsible for targeted killings of civilians in Kashmir Valley, with TRF promptly taking responsibility for these acts, LeT can always deny its involvement. However, this puerile ploy has fooled no one and displaying exemplary professional ethics, many committed journalists have questioned the rationale behind the targeted killings of civilians as the same is alienating Kashmiris and serious doubts regarding the TRF and its motivation to kill innocents. Perhaps this is what has rattled LeT and compelled it to threaten media persons without disclosing its identity.

In the past, targeted killing of Kashmiri service personnel and policemen who had come home on leave hasn’t resulted in mass resignations as terrorist handlers had expected. Nor has indiscriminately murdering civilians suspected of being informers and posting gory videos of their ‘execution’ on social media, discouraged locals from voluntarily revealing the whereabouts of terrorists to security forces. Similarly, while reprisals by terrorists may have made the media in Kashmir a bit wary while reporting, but as they are no pushovers, Kashmiri journalists can’t be subdued.  

So, rather than celebrating the resignation of five media persons in Kashmir, Islamabad and its proxies need to worry more about the fact that the number of media persons who have chosen to disregard the threat from terrorists is more than three times the number of those who have resigned!

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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