On May 12, the Valley’s top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa released a 5 minute video threatening Hurriyat leaders with beheading should they continue to insist on calling Kashmir’s Azadi movement a political rather than an Islamic struggle. His words were blunt: “I am warning these leaders. If they don’t stop calling Kashmir a political issue, then the first thing we will do is to hang them. We will stop fighting non-believers and hang them first”.
He continued: “If Hurriyat leaders have to do their politics, then they shouldn’t become thorns in our struggle to enforce shariah. Otherwise, we will first chop off their heads and hang them in Lal Chowk”. This was no small threat. It was first time since the start of the armed separatist struggle in 1989 that a top militant commander had openly taken on the Hurriyat leaders and threatened to kill them. And the provocation was their opposition to calling Kashmir movement “Islamist” or having anything to do with the ISIS or Al Qaeda.
“Our movement has nothing to do with ISIS or Al Qaeda and practically these groups are non-existent in the state,” read a statement issued earlier by the top separatist trio of Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. “There is no role for these groups in our movement. Agencies are hiring some sick-minded goons and they have been assigned the task to create chaos in the state”.
However, Hurriyat could hardly have imagined that it would be snubbed by none other than the Valley’s most powerful militant commander. Musa not only confronted them with an ideological challenge but also, in a sense, directed them to follow his lead in matters of the Azadi struggle in Kashmir.
The challenge, however, was averted when PoK based Hizbul Mujahideen leadership termed Musa’s threats and the ideological line “unacceptable”, following which the commander quit Hizb. “I stand by my speech and by my message. It doesn’t bother me what others say,” Musa said. “If the secular state is our goal, then my blood will not be spilled for it. From this day on I have nothing to do with the Hizbul Mujahideen.”
However, while Hurriyat was dealing with this challenge to its authority, a sting by a television channel on some of its leaders put it further on the defensive. The channel showed three of its leaders — Nayeem Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar and Gazi Javed Baba accepting on camera that they receive money from Pakistan including also from Jamat-u-Dawa chief Masood Azhar.
This has forced the Hurriyat G, the separatist faction led by Syed Ali Geelani, to suspend Nayeem. Though most of the news channels broadcasting from New Delhi enjoy little credibility in Valley for their largely jingoistic coverage of Valley, the sting, for once, has raised serious questions about the functioning of Hurriyat. Nayeem’s admissions on camera, which he has termed as “doctored”, have further dented the Hurriyat credibility already reeling from the appointment of Hurriyat patriarch Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s grandson in the state’s tourism department during the peak of the unrest last year.
However, Hurriyat has so far felt little need to explain its position. Its implicit defence is that the allegations against it are the handiwork of the “Indian propaganda”. Though a part of this perception is also shared by the people, the sting has convinced people that the things are not all that hunky dory. And at a time when the youth in Valley are up in revolt and need the leadership, Hurriyat’s loss of credibility leaves it hardly in a position to provide it. More so, when some of the militants on the ground are also refusing to follow its ideological direction.