How to exploit Hurriyat and Hizbul Mujahideen's power struggle in Kashmir
The rift needs to be blown up, adding confusion even in the minds of the youth.
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A joint statement issued by the pro-freedom struggle Hurriyat leaders, Syed Geelani, Mirwaiz Farooq and Yasin Malik, a few days ago, mentioned that their struggle is indigenous and has nothing to do with groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. They blamed Delhi for launching a psychological war against the struggle by associating these groups with it.
In contrast, the local Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) leader, Zakir Musa, in an audio message yesterday, warned the Hurriyat leaders that their heads would be chopped off and hung at Lal Chowk of Srinagar if they interfered in the militant group's "struggle for Islam". The Hurriyat till now has not made any statement contrary to this - after all, it could make them the next targets.
This power struggle is not something which has suddenly come to the fore. It has been fought silently since the uprising of last year, when the HM has attempted to sideline the Hurriyat. The present announcements create an interesting scenario for the Kashmir valley, which the government and security agencies must take complete advantage of.
The two contrasting messages indicate that an open rift has now begun to engulf the Valley. While the Hurriyat as an organisation is defunct, however, it is funded by Pakistan's ISI, and thus has the money to purchase the only running industry in the Valley – stone-throwing and violence. It does this through its local level cadres.
The HM on the other hand seeks to obtain support on the basis of religion, without the means to fund the violence. The two parties need to be handled separately and in turn. The first target being the Hurriyat, which is possibly easier.
For any compromise to be reached, the Hurriyat would be compelled to reach out to the HM, which may not be easy, considering that they are under constant surveillance. Neither would Zakir Musa venture to meet the Hurriyat leadership. Hence, all attempts must be made to expand the rift.
This should be done by releasing statements, whether made or not, as attributable to the Hurriyat. The statements should be critical of the HM, compelling the local leadership to take note. Led by young brash leaders, eager to prove their point, they would seek to eliminate one or more of the Hurriyat leaders to prove their point.
This is the most opportune moment to withdraw the security of Hurriyat leaders. Photo: India Today
This is also the most opportune moment to withdraw the security of the Hurriyat, claiming its anti-India stance, leaving them vulnerable and insecure. An open threat on its face, without a security cordon would anyway compel it to stay away from the limelight and maintain silence, since they are not there for personal sacrifice, but to sacrifice the lives of innocents who take them at their face value.
Since the warning by the HM is also against their using the minbars of mosques to further their agitation, they would remain away from public places. Alternatively, they could be threatened with withdrawal of security unless they seek to cooperate and reduce their banter and funding. In either case, the nation would stand to gain.
Operations against the HM's top leadership should go slow, till the Hurriyat has been handled. If the HM's top leadership is eliminated early, then the Hurriyat may again suddenly discover their voice. The rift thus needs to be blown up, adding confusion even in the minds of the youth, compelling most from supporting neither of the two, changing the tenor of the agitation.
The HM consists of militants, none of whom have a long life. As has been repeatedly stated: "He who lives by the gun dies by it." So would the HM local leadership in the days ahead. It is just a matter of time. Thus the need to handle each in turn - the painful Hurriyat first and the brash HM next.
Insurgency is winning hearts and minds, breaking insurgent groups, creating internal confusion, dividing their ranks. Operational planners and intelligence agencies should be on their toes, seeking such opportunities to exploit, adding fuel to fire, forcing adversaries into caution and permitting security agencies to gain the upper hand. I hope they are already on the ball, exploiting the situation.