A killing, a funeral and a new dawn

Col Ajay K Raina
It was on 12 September 2021 that a young police officer, Probationary Sub Inspector Arshid Ahmad, was shot at and injured in a daylight attack in the busy market of Khanyar, Srinagar. A video plucked from the CCTV footage became viral immediately after the incident. In that video, one could see a man, a civilian, firstly running after the assassin and then returning back to pick up the injured cop. Someone then joins them and they pick up the young man. Unfortunately, the officer couldn’t be saved and his name just got added to a long list of many such unfortunate lives that have been gobbled up by a termite called terrorism in Kashmir.
The very next day, another video went viral. In that video, a huge crowd could be seen chaperoning the slain cop on his final journey in his hometown of Kalmuna in Kupwara. To many who have seen many professionally organised funerals of terrorists in the recent past, it may appear to be a way of life in the trouble-torn province of UT. However, for many others, this is something that signals the beginning of a new trend. In a land where half-dead victims like Yusuf Halwai, Justice Neelkanth Ganjoo, Tika Lal Taploo, Lassa Kaul and numerous others had been lain bleeding without anyone as much as stopping to call for help, this is a new dawn. Dawn-because unlike a distant glimmer or a reedy ray of hope, this is actually a gigantic change. While neither the killings have stopped nor have the encounters since that fateful day, such a response may well be the beginning of a new advent.
Fundamentalist movements the world over aim to capture power and wealth-be it in cash, precious metals, or black fluid; such movements are not really driven by the ideology but by the ravenousness for the cognizable and non-cognizable ends, as mentioned to the fore. While some may disagree with the statement being made, we may like to see a pattern in such developments to understand the underlying causes and motives. The so-called fundamentalist religious movements like Al’Qaida, ISIS, demand for Khalistan, LTTE, etc have all been endeavouring for wealth and power with utter disregard to the public, including folks from respective communities. It should, thus, not surprise us when we see almost all Islamic nations-and there are more than 50 such countries-not willing to allow such ideas to take shape inside their borders. None of them are entertaining refugees from troubled lands in any case. In other words, hardcore Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia are now relaxing their religion-related restrictions while those who don’t have Sharia laws going in their countries yet, just simply don’t want the menace to enter their lands.
A debate whether a particular religion preaches violence or otherwise can continue unceasingly for an eon to follow but a related fact that many a counteraction against such movements, too, are focused on wealth and power, needs to be fathomed. If anyone ever thought that the US had been moved by the plight of the women in Afghanistan or a belief that there existed some nuclear or biological warfare facilities in Iraq while invading these countries, he or she may be living in a different world altogether. Because had that been the motive, Saudi Arabia or China, for that matter, should have been attacked first; the latter, after all, has 28,000 strains of viruses as per a report!
Reverting back to Kashmir, whatever may be the circumstances, it is the public who dictates the terms in the end. As long as Kashmiris were ok witnessing other Kashmiris getting killed, terrorists had an upper hand. The number of terrorists neutralized during the past couple of years needs to be seen in the light of the fact that such successes happen only when the public starts to co-operate; HUMANINT is possibly the most potent of all intelligence sources available to agencies in any part of the world. Abrogation of Articles 35A and 370, in more than one way, turned the tide of the public mood in the Valley. Having witnessed surgical and airstrikes earlier and having seen the gross incompetence of their local leaders who could do sweet nothing beyond signing an equally ill-fated declaration, the Kashmiris had a degree of realisation set in their minds. The pace of development at the grass-root levels, coupled with crippling of terror financing as well as some well-deserved treatment to the separatists, then set the ball rolling. The public, when it changes its mind, can usher in the inevitable change. As it appears today, the new dawn is breaking in the Valley.
Power of public would also be seen very soon in Afghanistan wherein ladies and men are standing stolidly in front of gun-totting Taliban. In India, despite many movements flaring up in many states, it has been because of the public (read family) that has played a big role in calming things down. In very uncouth terms, if fundamentalist Islam had its way, possibly we would have been worst affected given the fact that India is home to the third-largest Muslim population! When seen in the light of the fact that our politicians have, over the decades, been playing religious cards unscrupulously, an assessment of the potentials suddenly becomes alarming. Our societal and family values are too strong to be overcome by such waves. While due credit must be given to our frontline soldiers, huge gratitude is also due to those parents, siblings, and communities who, without creating a scene, have kept things under control. It is because of such ground realities that there is a big hope that is now emanating from Kashmir.
Another perspective to the above argument stands illustrated when we take a look at the infamous Haqqani Network. There is no Haqqani tribe though Imran Khan may like to believe otherwise. Instead, all the students who have been through a particular madrasa, Darululoom Haqqania, in the town of Akora Khattak, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, call themselves Haqqanis. Incidentally, an Indian who had been a preacher at Deoband, Maulana Abdul Haq, had founded the so-called University of Global Jihad in September 1947. Many of its products, to include likes of Mohammad Yunus Khalis, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and Akhtar Mansoor then went on to create many monsters of different shapes but with a common DNA. The moot question in the ongoing context, therefore, is whether Maulana Haq could have created a similar set-up inside India? The answer, in the milieu of 1947 when so many Muslims had refused to follow Jinnah into Pakistan, is a big NO!
Yes, the public mood holds the key and that key is slowly turning in the Valley.
(The author is a military historian and is a Founding Trustee of the Military History Research Foundation ®, India)