Challenge of New Fundamentalist Intifada
by Ajay Chrungoo on 23 Jul 2009 6 Comments

Separatists go for the Overkill
The headlines of local newspapers in the Kashmir Valley have been blaring with relentless intensity… July 09 - Woman’s rape, murder rocks Kupwara; July 08 - Asrar’s killing sparks massive protests in Srinagar. July 07 - Bomb hurled at Baramulla police station, 3 grenade explosions in 2 days; July 06 - explosions rock Srinagar, Sopore; July 05 - Army had abducted Basharat: Family; July 04 - Larkipora teenager released, Protests in Islamabad; July 02 - Protests in curfewed Varmul; youth succumbs, Varmul toll 4; July 01 - Police fire smoke shells at mourners, thousand attend funeral of 19 year old Amir.

Public mobilization campaigns and demonstrations reflecting seditious and secessionist intensity more than anti-government sentiment have been going on in Kashmir Valley since the police recovered the bodies of two ladies, Niloufer and Aisya, at Shopian in Pulwama district, on 30 May. The separatist mobilizations have reflected strange eagerness which needs to be understood and placed in a proper perspective.

The spate of hartals and orchestrated violence on the streets left a large section of people bewildered, contrary to propaganda by the local media. This bewilderment of the general public with the methodology adopted by the separatist leadership and the response of the government is not a fiction as many Kashmir experts sitting in Delhi would like us to believe. It involves a significant section of population in the Valley, and occasionally their voices find expression in the columns of an otherwise partisan local media.

Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, columnist, Rising Kashmir, provides a glimpse: “Is Kashmir really fragile or has it been made to behave like that? Does this question boggle the mind of those who cover, analyze and interpret the political perceptions! This week’s incidents in  Baramulla have shown that no one controls Kashmir, but only those who want to keep the pot boiling… in Baramulla where the police was handling a simple case of kidnapping of a 15 year old girl from Binner. The accused in the case was identified and one of the accomplices was rounded up. His wife went to the police station to seek his release but was not obliged. She came out and alleged that the police passed indecent remarks at her. This worked like jungle fire and the whole town was up in flames… it needs an explanation as to why the young Kashmiris should fall prey to such a situation in which four young boys give their blood for something which is not part of the struggle.” The culprit and this lady had known links with a local political party.

The over-eagerness of separatist formations to go for overkill was manifest from the day of the recovery of the dead bodies of Niloufer and Asiya in Shopian and the initial bungling of government response. In Shopian, local discourse reflected that people never believed the role of CRPF or Army in the killings. People asked why the bodies of the ladies were left just outside the CRPF camp if CRPF personnel had committed the crime. People suspected the moral integrity of the husband of Niloufer. Her own relatives were less enthusiastic about the public exposure of the affair. Justice Jan Commission brought this facet into the open. The report has undermined separatist mobilization more than anything else in Shopian, because it has found resonance with the common perception of the people.

The Justice Jan Commission recorded the rift between the two families from Tukru and Bongam in Shopian district. In April-May 2007, Niloufer eloped with Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar against the wishes of her family. The Commission noted, “It will be in place to mention here that Niloufer Jan belongs to a “Peer” family which is treated in the society with the degree of respect and honour for their upper class status, where as Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar belongs to “Khaar” family which is included in the other backward classes of the society. This marriage had given birth to a serious hatred of Peer family towards Ahangar family. It is reliably learnt that Zeerak Shah (brother of Niloufer), along with his friends, had even threatened the Ahangar family of dire consequences if Niloufer is not handed over to her family.”

The Commission recorded that after the burial of Niloufer and Asiya, Zeerak Shah pitched a tent at Tukroo and gathered his friends, relatives, and other villagers, blocked the road at Tukroo, smashed window panes of civil and government vehicles, and raised anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. The commission took note of the fact that Shakeel was known for his immoral activities and had amassed assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.

“Shakeel Ahmad Ahangar was working with his brothers at welding workshop at Shopian. He eloped with Niloufer Jan in 2007 and went outside Shopian. After this return he started his own business by opening a shop of readymade furniture items near police station Shopian… in October 2008, Shakeel purchased an orchard (1 kanal 16 marla) in Nagbal-Dehgam for about 5.30 lakhs. He also owns a Maruti car and maintains a good living standard. Further it is learnt that he does not carry a good reputation among the society and is being known for his immoral activities.”

It can be safely presumed that these facts would have been known to separatists’ think tanks. They latched upon the twin murders to unleash frenzy, caring nothing for loss of face and credibility in case the facts about the gruesome incidents proved wrong. The cracking of Asrar’s murder case, which was nothing more than the outcome of jealousy in a love triangle, exposed separatist indulgence in matters which shamed one and all.  

A strange hope seems to pervade the thinking of separatist echelons that if they build public pressure, something dramatic may happen. The Hurriyat leader and main force behind the public upsurge betrayed his feelings when he said, “People should make a difference between right and wrong and follow the right path. New dawn is awaiting us and it is the crucial juncture that demands patience and consistency.”

Another Hurriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, described confusion among people as ‘anarchy’, ‘we should not look like a divided house, separatist organizations should not be in a rat race to issue strike calls… we need to think of creating alternative ways of protest. We have to carry on the movement and lives of the people as well.”

The roots of this hope lay in certain recent developments involving the region as well as the experience of last year’s agitation against land transfer to Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.

India Ragdo-II and the Catalysts

The agitation on Amarnath land exposed cleavages in Indian polity. A section of the high profile liberal elite in India came out brazenly supporting separation of Kashmir from India one way or other. The likes of Arundhati Roy, Shabana Azmi, Vir Sanghvi, Prem Shankar Jha, and AG Noorani, through spoken or written words created an impression amongst the separatist rank and file that ‘Azadi’ was round the corner. ‘Ek Dakka Aur Do’, (just one push more) was the common refrain of separatist campaigners then.

The public mobilization had less to do with the actual land row and more with wrecking Indian sovereignty over Kashmir. The campaign was not called India Ragda/Ragdo-I for only sloganeering. It reflected the underlying motivation. Carrying the experience forward this year’s campaigners unleashed, after the recovery of the dead bodies of two ladies in Shopian, India Ragda/Ragdo-II.

Dr Sheikh Showkat Hussain, Department of Law, Kashmir University, called the recent unrest in the Valley the ‘resistance beyond the armed struggle;’ and the spirit underlying India Ragdo-II as, “Indian state needs to realize that it is confronting a highly informed and educated young generation of Kashmiris, they know the direction in which right of self determination is evolving and has evolved. It has definitely evolved in a direction which is advantageous to Kashmir, not against it. East Timor and Eritrea availed it despite being non- colonial possessions. Montenegro enjoyed the right of self-determination in spite of having forty five percent opponents to independence.”

The separatist mind articulates its position vehemently. It describes expressions of separatism as the expression of a ‘Resistant Kashmir’, and demeans political engagement and democratic process in the state as ‘collaborating Kashmir’. The manifest disenchantment of the common man with the separatist leadership and his confusion is trivialized as ‘vacillating Kashmir’.

The India Ragdo-II intifada in Kashmir is being guided by such a mindset. This mindset would have taken note of the admission in early May, towards the fag end of parliamentary elections, by none other than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, “…I have always believed a strong peaceful moderate Pakistan in India’s interests. We worked very hard on that and in fact I and General Musharraf had reached nearly an agreement, a non territorial solution to all problems, but then General Musharraf got into many difficulties with the Chief Justice and other fronts and therefore the whole process came to a halt.”

Separatist think tanks in Kashmir have been relentlessly searching a way to circumvent the predicament in which Pakistan is caught up and chart out a course to bring a halt to the ‘halt’.

Columnist Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, in Rising Kashmir, commented, “…Pakistan Government is grappling with the worst ever crisis, the Kashmiri leadership should stop looking towards Islamabad and think independently to charter their own course.”

India Ragdo-II is the course separatists have embarked upon. Their hope lies more on the support which they generate amongst a section of entrenched liberal elite, be it Arundhati Roy or Prem Shankar Jha, people who advocate a concession on sovereignty not to bail out India from international pressure but out of an ideological outlook which recognizes Muslim communalism as a progressive secular imperative for India to reconcile with.

Separatist rank and file see some space in the new American foreign policy. The new US ambassador to India, Timothy Roemer, statement that Kashmir “has been an extremely sensitive hotspot for the world and for the region where we have almost experienced thermonuclear war on several occasions,” has been music to the separatist rank and file. So have previous statements by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns or Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Separatists have not missed the success of the Pakistani government in toning down India’s assertions on the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The release of Hafeez Syed is seen as a gradually stiffening stance of Pakistan on Kashmir. Keeping the pot boiling in Kashmir through a non-violent intifada serves Pakistan preserve its Kashmir Policy with reinforced moral legitimacy.

Last but not the least, the Indian Ragdo-II intifada as per separatist thinking delegitimises the democratic process in the state. Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib brings out this aspect brazenly: “It should now be clear to India’s political and media establishment that high voter turnout in Assembly elections does not mean an end of Kashmiri Movement for self determination. Kashmir needs a real political settlement which goes beyond the pre-1989 military status quo”.

The Paradox

The Central government if it has any inclination to diffuse the situation on the ground has to resolve a paradox. The National Conference which leads the ruling alliance in J&K shares and identifies with the common minimum agenda of campaigners in the Valley streets. In a full page advertisement, the state government declared its three main and primary achievements since assuming power: i). Bold decision taken after 20 years to replace CRPF by locals police; ii) First CM to plead eloquently for withdrawal of AFSPA, Union Government flags the issue; iii) Presence of Magistrates with police/security forces made mandatory while dealing with law and order problems and iv) Bomai (Army) camp re-located within a month.

The main opposition PDP, both factions of Hurriyat and the local Bar Council all have revocation of AFPSA and demilitarization as their main demands. We have a piquant situation where the opposition, mainstream as well as separatist, and the state government are politically on the same side.

The situation becomes bizarre when a section of the Government of India identifies with this consensus. The incidental or accidental remarks of Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, while referring to the PM’s Working Group on Confidence Building Measures of which he was then Chairman, justified the key demand of separatists during the current unrest. The Vice President observed that implementation of its recommendations was considered by the Prime Minister as the key to retaining people’s confidence. In his own report then as chairman of the Working Group, ignoring the dissent within, Ansari recommended revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The entire report did not address anti- terrorism measures as a vital component of confidence building in the state.

Even though in all incidents which lead to protests in recent times, the suspected culprits were locals working in local police or territorial army or government officials, the foremost demand of everybody of consequence was removal of paramilitary forces and army from the state.

India Ragdo-Intifada has nothing to do with the incidents which caused public resentment. It essentially uses the incidents to lacerate symbols of Indian sovereignty. It seeks to project an extremely permissive, conniving and inactive state as a demonic police state. The Government, unwilling to defend its security establishment, takes a totally defensive position and allows public mobilizations by the most regressive and fundamentalist regimes operating on the ground. It declares lack of intention to act publicly by either withdrawing its security forces or ordering them not to intervene, whatever the provocation.

The ruling National Conference has an ideological resonance with the common minimum programme of agitationists to force demilitarization, but an existential need to preserve the military presence. The central government knows that any laxity in security operations in the state may lead to catastrophic results, given the situation in Pakistan. Yet it seeks to maintain the stance of a neutral player while its security forces are described and lampooned as an occupation force in the valley. Civilians in the valley know well that the very survival of civil society depends upon the security forces, yet they demonize them. The paradox is deep and powerful. 

Inside The Present Turmoil

Most events which lead to public resentment invariably have a sexual angle. Separatists are instigating the public that organs of the Indian state are not only indulging in extra-constitutional violence, but are perpetuating moral debasement of Kashmir society. The mobilization by Dukhtaran-e-Millat had the same purpose, when sexual scandals involving government officials and politicians came to the fore. We are witnessing in the Valley glaring signs of social disorganization caused by militarization of the social milieu. Local papers have time and again highlighted the proliferation of sexual cartels and the flesh trade. Ahmad Ali Fayaz, special correspondent, Daily Excelsior, brought out the magnitude of increase in the number of brothels in Srinagar city a few years ago. A well known ideologue and lobbyist of separatists also referred to ‘prostitution cartels’ in the valley in his columns in the local media.

Most alarming is the penetration of flesh trade in the government and security establishment, rather than government promoting moral debasement in society. The concerns of a significant section of common Kashmiris are still unheard.

Jihadi militarization brought along with it the evil of temporary marriage – Mutah – which soon became a social sanction for debauchery. The dreaded terrorist Akbar Bhai is reported to have married 83 local girls. One Shakeela Bano was abducted from her houseboat by terrorists and subjected to mass rape before being burnt to death. Al Umar terrorists did this to Shakeela because she refused to marry a terrorist for two years of her captivity, during which she was raped regularly. After running away from her captors, she escaped to Jammu where an NGO looked after her. But when she ventured back home, she was again abducted and burnt to death.

Security forces then destroyed the prostitution cartels of the terrorists of Al Umar and rescued 150 women in captivity. Around the same time, security forces succeeded in freeing 10 women held captive by terrorists in Dacchan Marwa region of Kishtwar in Jammu.

Numerous such incidents can be quoted. The introduction of promiscuity by terrorists has taken a toll on society. Militarization of the social milieu in the Valley has played havoc with age old traditions and values. Government establishment and security forces are face to face with this menace, but are yet to devise a counter response to prevent penetration of the flesh trade in their rank and file.

The situation becomes alarming when we factor in reports that Kashmir tops the world in the list of opium abusers, as per research of ‘Community Drug Abuse Study Survey Kashmir,’ by well known psychiatrist Dr. Mushtaq Margoob. His evaluation has produced astounding statistics. 47.77 percent of population in Kashmir consumes some type of drug, including tobacco and its allied products.

There are 24.32 lakh substance abuses (including tobacco abuse) in Kashmir, which includes 2.11 lakh opioid, 1.37 lakhs cannabis and around 38,000 alcohol abuses. The number of female drug addicts is alarming. The NGO, Hindustan National Social Security (HNSS), conducted a de-addiction programme in 2008-2009 amongst females. The female drug addicts were literates in the age group of 18-33, from urban as well as village backgrounds.

Around the time the Shopian agitation was going, a national electronic channel showed how the army was involved in destroying poppy fields around Shopian. Police also reported recovering quintals of Bhukki - the locally produced poppy husk sold in north India.


Through the current Intifada, separatists seek moral legitimacy. They seek to accord respectability to a regressive anti-freedom movement. They are calibrating its interventions to remain relevant even if Pakistan continues to vacillate, or even collapses. The intifada is targeting the weakness of Indian policy to fight militarized pan-Islamic fundamentalism.

The moral of the story is to de-legitimise this Intifada by educating the public about the impact of militarization of society. Another imperative is to stop fiddling with dangerous ideas of self-rule or the Musharraf Plan. These plans undermine the ideological foundations of India. Government legitimacy to these plans keeps the pot boiling in Kashmir. We have to realize that ideological compromise eventually leads to crippling territorial consequences.

Dr. Ajay Chrungoo is chairman, Panun Kashmir

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