Zakir Musa has scripted Hizb obituary but New Delhi shouldn’t gloat yet

Official figures reveal that dead Burhan Wani has recruited more militants than when he was alive.

 |  4-minute read |   15-05-2017
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Slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s successor Zakir Musa quit the militant outfit on May 13, after the group refused to back his statement warning that Hurriyat leaders would be beheaded for calling the Kashmir issue "political".

Musa, who took over the outfit after the killing of Burhan in July 2016, announced that he would not be associated with the Hizb anymore. So the basic question is what could be the impact of his decision on the situation in restive Kashmir?

The immediate possibility is that Musa’s own fate looks skeptical. For having rebelled against one of the largest militant outfits active in Kashmir, and known for having waged deadly group wars with rival outfits in the 1990s, Musa may soon be history.

But it equally hints at the downfall of the Hizb led by Syed Salahuddin, who remote controls his militant empire from Muzaffarabad in the PoK.

This is because new-age militancy has been more about charisma of youth faces than outfits they belong to. Burhan makes the perfect example. Being the poster boy of new-age militancy, he gripped the Valley in Burhan-fever.

Official figures reveal that dead Burhan has recruited more militants than when he was alive. On May 8, 2017, the Inspector General of Police in Kashmir said that 200 militants were active in Kashmir and that 95 locals have joined militancy since last year. So, almost 50 per cent militant recruitments took place after Burhan’s killing. And why most of them joined Hizb, is simply because youth faces like Burhan belonged to the outfit.

As of now, after Burhan it’s Musa. The indoctrinated breed of youth will now join the ranks of Musa and not Hizb. And this has a reason. Hizb has little takers in Kashmir as Salahuddin’s spell rarely works. Burhan may have joined Hizb out of easy accessibility for it was the only outfit having some sleeper cells active in the region.

As about Salahuddin, Kashmir has already reportedly burnt his effigies. In the midst of the unrest of 2010, he had issued a statement that people should give up hartal and restore normal life. The sudden change in Hizb’s policy had incited public fury with the youth taking to the streets to burn his effigy.

While many had questioned as to what prompted him to issue such a statement, it remains an open secret that then Omar Abdullah-led government had allegedly approached the Hizb chief though his family, seeking his help to overcome the crises. 

wani-embed_051517062645.jpgAlmost 50 per cent militant recruitments took place after Burhan Wani’s killing. Photo: Reuters

As per former spymaster AS Dulat, the Hizb chief used to be in touch with intelligence operatives from time to time and had even got his son’s admission done in a medical college through IB. Though Salahuddin and his family verbally refuted the allegations, his son, a medico, working with the JK government, never moved court to legally contest Dulat’s claims.

So in a Valley where new age militancy is driven by young faces like Burhan or Musa, Salahuddin’s hair-dyed appearance holds little attraction.

But then the prospective downfall of Hizb shouldn’t logically cheer up New Delhi because till now fruitful India-Pakistan talks often meant dilution of militancy or to say revival of peace. But Musa’s breakaway from Hizb means an obvious no to Pakistani-dictations. Let’s not forget that the new-age militancy is homegrown, where arms-training is conducted within the Valley.

The separatist leadership seems to be turning irrelevant. While New Delhi has been unwilling to hold any talks with the Hurriyat, Musa’s warning has diluted their stakes further.

The Hurriyat used to dare the government by giving "Lal Chowk chalo" calls. But with Musa saying that his outfit would chop off the heads of Hurriyat leaders and hang them in Srinagar's Lal Chowk, the call for a march to the historic square won’t be that easy.

In the absence of space for soft separatism, agitated youth will only rely on picking up arms, where every funeral of a slain militant glamorises militancy further. How can you frighten a person who is willing to die?

In his youthful 20-something, Musa’s disagreement with the Hurriyat or Hizb is not about his conviction for life but his longing for death. "We are fighting for 'azadi baraye Islam (freedom for the sake of Islam)', I am fighting for freedom for the sake of Islam. My blood will spill for Islam and not for a secular state," he says.

To bring an end to this passion for death, New Delhi needs to bring life to flexibility for talks that take Kashmir towards sustainable peace, because otherwise Musa’s "Lal Chowk chalo" is a deadlier call!

Also read: Who is a role model for Kashmir youth - Ummer Fayaz or Burhan Wani?


Majid Hyderi Majid Hyderi @majidhyderi

The writer is a journalist based in Kashmir.

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