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The return of Islamic terrorism in Kashmir

Mohammed Ayub Pandith, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) posted in the Security Wing of the Jammu & Kashmir Police, was lynched by a mob outside Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on 23 June. The officer was checking the access control outside the Jamia Masjid.

On 16 June, six policemen – including Station House Officer (SHO) Feroz Ahmad Dar – were killed by terrorists while the police party was travelling in a jeep on Anantnag-Achabal road. On 9 May, Lt Ummer Fayaz, a young officer of the Indian Army, was abducted from his relative’s house in South Kashmir’s Shopian district. Hours later his bullet riddled body was found in Harmain area in Shopian.

Those in the know of how militancy raised its head in Kashmir can recall that the first major terror attack in Srinagar took place on 18 September, 1988 when DIG AM Watali was gunned down by terrorists. Few months later, a SHO was killed by militants. Later Lassi Koul, the then station director of public broadcaster Doordarshan in Kashmir, was killed by terrorists.

Mohammed Shaban Vakil, Editor of the Urdu daily Al-Safa, was brutally lynched for his fearless writings against terrorists. Sarla Ganju, a lady teacher, was brutally raped and cut into two in a saw mill. These killings were followed by desecration of many Hindu temples and forcing out Kashmiri Pandits of the Valley. Perhaps now, with the brutal killing of DSP Mohammed Ayub Pandith, militancy in Kashmir has come full circle.

This is not to dispute that the terrorists operating in Kashmir are aligned to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Further, they work in tandem with Kashmiri separatists and the stone pelters. They all are stake holders in the violence in Kashmir. They want to bleed the beautiful Kashmir Valley through thousand cuts.

There are also other stake holders in the violence in Kashmiri that the mainstream media does not pronounce. In the last one decade, Wahabism has taken its routes in the Kashmir Valley. Wahhabism is a steadfastly fundamentalist interpretation of Islam founded by Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. Reports suggest that the number of mosques controlled by Wahabis has increased up to 2,000.

Struggle for Kashmir was always Islamic, but now it has taken shades of international Wahhabism, where groups like ISIS selling dreams of an Islamic caliphate become inspiration. No wonder we have seen ISIS flags in Kashmir too.

So far terrorism in the Valley has been largely confined to South Kashmir, only with around 100 terrorists operating in the area. Now, terrorism in Kashmir is taking a strategic shift. The terrorists are turning their attention to Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir. The city has relatively-quieter from other parts of the Kashmir Valley in the last three decades.

According to reports, a district-wise mapping of terrorists, prepared by the Jammu & Kashmir Police, has revealed that now Srinagar district is home to more than two dozen terrorists. Intelligence inputs suggest that at least five “resident terrorist” who were previously operating out of South Kashmir have shifted their base to Srinagar.

“This is clearly an attempt to put Srinagar at par with other areas of Kashmir, which have seen a spike in militant activities,” a senior police official was quoted as saying.

“There are constant inputs about presence of militants in Srinagar,” said a security official.

Last Saturday, terrorists in Police uniform fired a volley of bullets at a CRPF patrol vehicle near the Delhi Public School (DPS) – on the outskirts of Srinagar –killing a CRPF officer. The terrorists later took refuse in the DPS. Two terrorists were killed during a 17-hour-long encounter.

Two incidents in quick succession – the brutal killing of DSP Mohammed Ayub Pandith outside Jamia Masjid and attack on CRPF patrol vehicle – in the heart of Srinagar certainly indicate worrying signals. The situation needs to tackled with an iron fist before it is too late.

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Saswat Panigrahi
Political writer, policy observer.

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