Al Qaeda queers the pitch on Kashmir

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Stoking the flames The al Qaeda video features footage from the 2010 unrest
Stoking the flames The al Qaeda video features footage from the 2010 unrest

Riding high on the recent successes in Syria and Iraq and citing the reinvigorated jihad in Afghanistan, al Qaeda has released an exclusive new video on Kashmir, calling for relaunching the armed struggle in the state. The video derides the peaceful resistance as “expedient”, even criticising the stone-pelting by the youth as a diversion from jihad which doesn’t earn Azadi.

“It is for the inhabitants of the honourable Muslims of the Valley. Now that the Muslims of the world have taken up arms in their hands, Allah’s book in their bosoms, on their lips the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and have plunged into the field of jihad… the question is, who snatched Kalashnikovs from Kashmiri Muslims and handed them stones?” the video asks, while rejecting protests, hartals and “hollow democratic methods” as a means to Kashmir’s “liberation”.

“Who perpetrated this injustice that after the martyrdom of 90,000 persons, the path to self-respect… was given up? Whose conspiracy was is it that put the ice of expediency on the bosoms burning with lava of Azadi?”

The 13-minute video starts with a montage of pictures from the 2010 Kashmir unrest, depicting security forces retaliating against demonstrations and beating civilians, some of them elderly. It is followed by a recitation of verses from the Quran and then reading of a long statement in Urdu by Maulana Asim Umar, an al Qaeda leader based in Pakistan.

It is the first ever Kashmir-specific video from al Qaeda. Although the group has intermittently mentioned Kashmir in its messages, the state was always mentioned as part of the larger ongoing Islamic jihad in the world. In a statement last year outlining the strategic guidelines for global jihad, Ayman al-Zawahiri, who took over as al Qaeda leader after US forces killed Osama bin Laden, endorsed the right of the militants in Kashmir to fight India.

Earlier in 2006, the then al Qaeda spokesman, Adam Gaddahn aka Azzam al Amriki, had in his video message identified New Delhi as one of the group’s targets besides Tel Aviv and Moscow. He also blamed India for killing “one lakh Kashmiris” in a message, which for the first time brought the state on the compass of the outfit’s jihadi discourse. Incidentally, the statement came just two months after a local video had announced the entry of al Qaeda into the state.

However, separatist groups, including the Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkare- Toiba, have rejected any role for al Qaeda in Kashmir, terming the struggle in the state as “indigenous with no link to pan-Islamic jihad”.

But, in May 2011, Hurriyat G chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani offered funeral prayers for bin Laden after he was killed in a secret raid. Following this, a European Union delegation, who were on a visit to the state around the time, cancelled a scheduled meeting with the leader.

The latest al Qaeda video has entirely been inspired by Kashmir, which is unprecedented for the pan-Islamic outfit that has often talked of jihad in various conflict zones in more or less generic terms and avoided focussing exclusively on one issue or conflict. It talks with disappointment about the decline in the militant struggle in Kashmir at a time when Islamists are registering victories in Syria, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the video seems to have been recorded before the recent advances by the terror group ISIS in Iraq.

“By the blessing of the blood of the martyr Osama bin Laden, mujahideen are winning in Syria. In Afghanistan, the people who dreamt of wiping out the mujahideen are seeing a new Afghanistan emerging, and in Iraq, America has already cut and run,” the video says, drawing up a global picture of the ongoing pan-Islamic campaigns around the Muslim world.

“From the land of Afghanistan, the caravans of mujahideen are on the way to Hindustan, not because of some secret direction or some government policy but to observe god’s command. We have defeated Russia, we have defeated the arrogant America, and we will liberate Kashmir. This is not a poet’s dream. It is the reality.”

riyaz@tehelka.com

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