Burhan Wani's death and a year of living dangerously

Hizb ‘commander’ quits over ideological differences

Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin addresses rally in Lahore on July 31, 2016.   | Photo Credit: AFP

A major rift within the ranks of the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen came to the fore on Saturday when its south Kashmir “commander”, Zakir Rashid Bhat, alias Zakir Musa, quit the organisation over ideological differences with the United Jehad Council (UJC) based in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Musa, an engineering student in his 20s, took over as a Hizb commander after Burhan Wani was killed in July 2016. He joined Wani’s group in 2013.

Hizb supremo Syed Salahuddin head the UJC, whose spokesman, Saleem Hashmi, showed open resentment over an audio message of Musa threatening to “decapitate and hang Hurriyat leaders” for calling “Kashmir a political dispute rather than an Islamic one”.

Musa’s 5.40-minute audio message calling for “establishing an Islamic Sharia” in Jammu and Kashmir went viral online on Friday.

Hashmi said, “Such a statement is unacceptable. It reflects the personal opinion of Musa. After Burhan Wani’s martyrdom, the entire leadership is united at every front for freedom and Islam.”

‘Assessing statement’

The UJC said it was “assessing Musa’s statement”. “We won’t hesitate to take steps for the betterment of the freedom movement. At this juncture, any such statement or step will strengthen the occupying and imperialistic forces,” Mr. Hashmi said.

Hours after the UJC’s statement, Musa, a resident of the Noorpora area in Tral, released an audio message announcing his decision to quit the Hizb.

“Hizb disassociated itself from my statement so I am disassociating myself from it. I stand by my earlier statement that my struggle is for Islam and establishing Sharia,” Musa said.

However, Musa clarified he did not mean to harm Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani.

“I did not mean to chop the heads of every Hurriyat leader, but only those who work and support a secular state,” he said, without naming any separatist leader.

“I know I have to first fight the occupational forces. I am not a RAW agent. I have nothing to do with IS or al-Qaeda. I have not done enough research either to reject or accept these groups. I know for sure Allah is with me. I ask my supporters to remember me in their prayers. I don’t know how long will I live but I am telling the truth and many people do understand it,” Musa said.

Several Hurriyat leaders refused to comment on the remarks of Musa. “We stand by our position that Kashmir is essentially a political problem,” said one Hurriyat leader on the condition of anonymity.

Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Kashmiri Taliban has already supported Musa. “People working for India will not be spared even if they are part of the Hurriyat,” said Kashmiri Taliban chief Muhammad bin Qasim.

Growing factionalism

Top security officials told The Hindu that factionalism, driven by how central Islam should be to the militant group’s ideology in Kashmir, had been brewing in the Hizb for quite some time now.

Differences came to the fore on April 7 when, on the first death anniversary of slain Hizb militant Naseer Pandit, a group of militants offered a gun salute at the grave in Pulwama and asked people to stop unfurling “un-Islamic Pakistan flag”, while calling for a “jihad against Pakistan as well as India to establish Ummah (Muslim brotherhood)”.

The UJC described the speech as the “handiwork of security agencies”. This was followed by posters in south Kashmir, calling for jihad.

“There is indeed an element of radicalism within the militant ranks, where extreme interpretation of Islam is seeing takers in the Valley. It remains to be seen how much sway Musa holds among the ranks in south Kashmir,” said a counter-insurgency official.

According to a police assessment, there are 224 militants active in Kashmir, of which 130 militants are locals and “trained within the Valley”.

South Kashmir has the highest number of active militants at 140, mainly from Hizb and Lashkar-e-Taiba.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 7:12:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/hizb-commander-quits-over-ideological-differences/article18449368.ece

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