Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have hinted at forming a coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir. Indications are that the formal announcement will be made soon and the government will assume office by the middle of February. There is a widespread belief that BJP-PDP is the best combination to meet the aspirations of the people of J&K who exhibited indomitable courage by coming out to vote in large numbers despite a threat to their lives.
Security will constitute a major challenge for the new government with a major threat emanating from neighbouring Pakistan. The threat is not only in the form of cross border firing, infiltration and terrorism as is commonly perceived. It will’ve social, religious and economic connotations among others.
Foremost among these threats is a malevolent religious agenda aimed at breaking down the culture of Sufism and replacing it with “Wahhabi Islam.” Wahhabism is an austere and puritanical interpretation of Islam promoted by Saudi Arabia. A well planned effort in this direction is making deep inroads into Kashmiri Muslim society. The face for this effort are foreign-sponsored organisations like the Jamait Ahle Hadith, which call themselves welfare organisations, but run their religious conversion agendas through hundreds of mosques spread across the Kashmir Valley.
Foreign interference in Kashmir has been taken a step further with the establishment of al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS). Kashmir remains a special focus of this group and attempts are being made to exploit polarised political sentiment.
Al-Qaeda, with ample support from Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) sponsored and Wahhabi-motivated terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), which is operating in the Kashmir Valley, is putting its considerable experience in the proliferation of terror to good use over there. There are reports that al-Qaeda has already released videos calling upon Kashmir Muslims to follow their “brothers” in Syria and Iraq. Experts opine that this movement will gain momentum as the U.S. leaves Afghanistan.
Apart from this, there is also the security threat from the Afghan Taliban and more so the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to contend with. Mercenary fighters of these organisations will turn their guns against India and engage its forces in volatile J&K following the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan.
No presence of the Islamic State (IS) has also been registered in J&K. However, in a recent development, masked men, waving IS and al-Qaeda flags and banners, appeared on the streets of Kashmir to protest against Israel. This put security forces on alert. The Islamic State appears dead serious about registering its presence in the South Asian region. Its efforts are towards rejuvenating the mythical land of “Khorasan” which would encompass modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, portions of the Central Asian Republics and extend to India.
This may look ridiculous at the moment but, this is how such fundamentalist movements gain momentum. Whatever is done by the IS should be taken seriously by the Indian authorities. The role of Pakistan’s ISI in sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir needs no elaboration. They, along with sponsoring terrorism, is also supporting drug smuggling to the Kashmir Valley in a big way, mainly through the ISI.
Consistent religious indoctrination and the inability of the state government to end rampant unemployment are leading to a revival of “home grown” insurgency. Knowing the ground reality, it would be inappropriate to brush aside this obvious attempt at further radicalising the Valley. Sadly, there are some in Kashmir who actually support such monstrous activity. Hence, it is not the physical threat posed by the IS that one needs to fear, it is the element of inhumanity creeping into the people of Kashmir that is of concern. The buck finally stops at the door of good and effective governance and at proactive diplomatic and information posturing.
Jaibans Singh (The writer is a Editor of www.defenceinfo.com)