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The New Face of Terror in Kashmir: Circa 2018

Published Jan 02, 2018
Updated Mar 26, 2020

The New Face of Terror in Kashmir: Circa 2018

Terrorism resting on a credible ideology and public support tends to survive for decades particularly when backed by external actors. Insurgency in Northern Ireland for instance bore the scars of many years of violence, Kashmir seems to be following a similar pathway with many peaks and troughs in bloodshed sustained by the creed of separatism. This trajectory is non linear hence insurgency tends to go through many phases.

July 2016 was the start of a new trend in Kashmir with the killing of Burhan Wani catching public imagination leading to widespread unrest in the Valley. This has been largely controlled due to a number of factors including restoration of the writ of the State by strong arm security action to reasonably credible political actors in the form of an elected government led by Mehbooba Mufti. Restoration of reasonable order has followed the well worn pathway of countering militancy ranging from use of a strong security grid to cordon and search operations or CASO and mantra of development led by the State government. The changes in terrorism however have gone largely unnoticed but may be the defining trend in the coming years and thus need emphasis.

First is the shift to a younger generation of terrorists such as Burhan Wani and the latest poster boy Fardeen Ahmad Khanday. Wani was 22 years old when he was killed, Khanday but only 17. This trend may gather much traction given that a large number of senior leaders in the Valley have been killed in Operation All Out in 2016 and replacements are likely to be much younger. Involvement of school children in unrest in 2016 is likely to influence more to join the folds of terror.

Secondly the span within which a terrorist can become operationally effective after indoctrination to induction has greatly reduced to months from years. Khanday the son of a J & K police officer is said to have gone missing in March 2017, on 31 December he was part of a group that carried out a major suicide attack on a CRPF training camp in Pulwama in South Kashmir. Earlier it took years for the process of a terrorist to transit from indoctrination to conduct of a lethal suicide attack.

Thirdly there is a change in ideology from separatism to radical religious extremism. A video purportedly recorded by Fardeen Ahmad Khanday days before he was killed in an encounter in Kashmir talks of Jihad and paradise much in the same tone as propaganda by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Al Shams (ISIS). “The rise in jihad has nothing to do with unemployment, as claimed by India; it is a reaction to Kashmir’s occupation by India. The kaffirs have occupied our land, the modesty of our women is at stake, so jihad becomes our duty … therefore, it becomes your duty to fight for azadi,” Khanday says in the eight minute video.  The vocabulary of Kafirism and language Urdu is an indication of change in the narrative.

Fourthly along with the ideology is the entry of global terrorist groups as the al Qaeda and ISIS in the Kashmiri space which has to be watched with concern in the coming year. The ISIS claimed the first attack in Kashmir in November 2017, killing of Sub-Inspector Imran Tak. Zakir Musa the 23 year old ex commander of Hizbul Mujahideen is head of the al Qaeda cell in Kashmir – Ansar Ghawzat-Ul-Hind.

Fifthly use of modern tools of communication and social media has also assumed a new dimension. Burhan Wani became popular through notoriety on Face Book, Khanday’s video on the other hand circulated within hours of his killing on 31st December 2017. Increasingly this will be the main medium for spread of terrorist propaganda and influence.

Two factors have however not changed. Public support to terrorists if not terrorism is evident through the eulogies to the youth killed in combating security forces. The other is the hot spots – Tral, Sopore, Bandipore, Hajin, Handwara, Palhalan are familiar names for old hands in the Valley. Read On!