By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
04 March 2019
The recent terror attack on the security forces in Kashmir is a grim reminder that that all is not well in the state. The appearance of ‘normalcy’ was shred to pieces by the powerful IED explosion which killed more than forty of our security forces. The suicide blast was owned by Jaish e Muhammad, which operates from across the border in Pakistan. It is a no-brainer to point out that there was a massive intelligence failure which led to this premeditated murder. But what needs to be underlined is that this is also a political failure. Over the years, the military has been able to neutralise scores of militants from different ideologies but then the military can only do that much. It cannot and should not acquire a political role for itself. It was incumbent on the civilian governments to start a political dialogue with different stakeholders in Kashmir. It makes perfect sense that India does not want to bring Pakistan onto to the negotiating table. But then, what stops it from negotiating with its own people? Granted that some of those people would insist of having Pakistan on board. Then, what stops the government form talking directly to the people of Kashmir? What stops it from talking directly to youth of the valley? It appears that the Indian state has no long term vision through which it can effect the harmonious integration of this country with the rest of the country. There is no need to forge a ‘people to people’ contact with Pakistan but what stops our government from starting a students’ exchange program between Kashmir and the rest of India? Till the time there is an ad-hoc policy on Kashmir with no long term view, a solution to the state’s problem will never be found.
Alienation runs deep in this state, particularly amongst its youth. Caught between a security apparatus and an increasingly conservative and radical interpretation of Islam, they have little manoeuvring space in the valley. There is very little space, for example, for Kashmiri youth to indulge in any creative pursuit of their choice. The problem is not that they do not want to: there is ample evidence to suggest the contrary. However, the political situation in the valley is such that they cannot afford to express their free and frank opinion on a range of issues. On the one hand, there is growing perception that only one kind of Islam is the correct way of orthopraxy. On the other hand, despite its pious proclamations, various governments have done little to help create an environment where such youthful articulations are possible without fear. As a result of this, young people are forced to think in a straightjacket way and most of the time, their discussions revolve around a master signifier called Islam.
Their grievances are real: fake encounters, sexual violence, and almost total unaccountability of the police and armed forces. Elected governments have been tossed over like cards; the popular will has been crushed under the might of various governments. But then there are various perspectives through which such things can be discussed. The problem is that the public sphere in the valley allows only one kind of discourse to be privileged over all else. All those who have another point of view are under heavy pressure not to identify with any other narrative. It is perhaps this absence of plurality of political articulations that makes a young Adil Ahmad Dar susceptible to vicious propaganda, motivating him enough to commit such an act of carnage. In order to understand such a motivation, it becomes important to closely analyse his ‘farewell’ video and message encoded therein.
It is impossible to objectively define a terrorist strike. Most of the time, a terrorist for one country is a martyr for another. Amidst this seeming confusion of what defines an act of terror, it is important to understand the self-identification and the motivation of the terrorist himself. The video made by Adil Ahmad Dar and his handlers leave no doubt as to where the motivation for this kind of grizzly attack lies. And that motivation seems to be primarily religious. Dar makes no bones about the fact that it is incumbent on Muslims to fight the Kafirs (unbelievers) who in this case are the Hindus. In the video, we do not have any distinction between the Indian state and a religion called Hinduism, both are understood as one and the same and fused together in a narrative which argues that Muslims have been exploited and repressed for years under a Hindu rule. The Hindus are called as cow piss drinkers who must be eliminated.
What is more worrying is that the suicide bomber believes in the concept of Ghazwa e Hind. According to this doctrine (which is narrated in a Hadis), the end time will not come till the time Islamic forces have not captured al-Hind, which is synonymous with the whole of India. Those who think that this must be a fantasy of some deranged souls need to think again. Repeatedly, Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of Jaish e Mohammad and a host of other religious authorities have proclaimed their belief in the Ghazwa e Hind. It is as if they consider it as the cardinal truth of Islam.
For a young mind like Adil Ahmad Dar, such a reading of Islam becomes the legitimation for conducting war against the Indian state which is identified as ruled by unbelievers. For those like him, blowing oneself to smithereens is an act of supreme sacrifice for the Muslim cause which assures a place in heaven. The very opening sentence of the video reminds us of the certain passion of this young mind when he proclaims that he will surely be reaping the pleasures of heaven very soon.
There is certainly some truth in the arguments that militant groups active in Pakistan are majorly responsible for turning this young person into a suicide bomber. However, there is a need to underscore that certain theological precepts may also be responsible for what ultimately became of him. And that’s why there is an urgent need to question such theological discourses which makes someone prone to violence. Without putting an end to such pernicious reading of Islamic theology, it will be difficult to stop another Pulwama.
Arshad Alam is a columnist with NewAgeIslam.com