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Not just Pandits, Kashmiri Muslims suffered terrorism too and it was all Pakistan’s doing

Both Kashmiri Pandits and Muslims were victims of terrorism. The former, of ruthless ethnic cleansing and the latter, of a cruel ideological purge.

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Not having watched the much-debated The Kashmir Files disqualifies me from making any objective assessment on either its content or the movie producer’s style of presentation. Instead, my input on Muslim fatalities in Kashmir due to terrorist violence, an issue that is being recurrently mentioned by critics of the movie during TV debates, might be valuable to the public at large.

To support their disapproval of the movie, many of its detractors have said that the number of local Muslims had been murdered by Kashmiri terrorists during the initial stages of the so-called ‘armed struggle’ were much greater than the number of Kashmiri Pandits (KPs) killed. While it is an undisputed fact and the number of Muslims killed in Kashmir is definitely much more than KPs, can human tragedy be quantified?

Using statistics to deny the premeditated ethnic cleansing and comparing it with the equally reprehensible atrocities committed against Muslims by Kashmiri terrorists at the bidding of their Pakistani masters tends to trivialise human tragedy. It is tantamount to mocking the deaths of those belonging to both communities.


Also Read: Vajpayee, Advani to UPA — The Kashmir Files acknowledges a tragedy no one wanted to talk about


About Kashmiri Muslims

While The Kashmir Files has brought out the horrors faced by KPs, regrettably, not much has been either spoken or written about the thousands of Muslims who were brutally dispatched by terrorists in Kashmir. Au contraire, the separatist camp has actually been shielding the guilty terrorists through blatantly false narratives.

What needs to be remembered is that while targeting KPs en masse was a communal act impelled by religious fundamentalism, Kashmiri Muslims were also singled out for harbouring or expressing views that were at variance with what was being enforced by terrorist groups. As a result, it was a joint tragedy for both KPs and Kashmiri Muslims alike. While the former were victims of ruthless ethnic cleansing, the latter were targets of a cruel political and ideological purge.

Kashmiri terrorists killing their own Muslim brethren reveals how the lust for power can turn men into beasts.


Also Read: The Kashmir Files holds no ‘grand truth’ to ‘open your third eye’. It exploits cinema’s flaws


Hezb-e Islami vs Hizbul Mujahideen

In his well-researched book Shadow Wars: The Untold Story of Jihad in Kashmir, noted investigative journalist Arif Jamal mentions a series of meetings held in Afghanistan during early 1991 between Hezb-e Islami (HeI) chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and a Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) delegation led by Syed Salahuddin. HM commanders present at these meetings had revealed to the author that, in the course of discussions, the HeI chief had advised Salahuddin to eliminate all HM’s rivals.

Whether it was Hekmatyar’s advice or Salahuddin’s own decision isn’t known, but in 1991, the HM unleashed an unforgiving campaign of killings in Kashmir Valley, targeting anyone who didn’t share its ideology of Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan. So, Muslims from all walks of life who were considered to be real or potential ‘rivals’ due to their personal, political, or ideological outlook became the HM’s target.

In an interview with Jamal, Rawalpindi-based top Hizb commander Ajam Khan admitted that HM had eliminated about 7,000 “political rivals.” However, Masood Sarfraz, who was once very close to Salahuddin but had since parted ways, told Jamal that the actual number of “political rivals” killed by HM were “many times higher.” Since KPs had already been forced to leave Kashmir by then, the so-called “political rivals” were obviously Kashmiri Muslims.

The HM also waged a war for supremacy against the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). According to its Pakistan-based co-founder Amanullah Khan, HM had eliminated more JKLF cadres than the Indian security forces and this admission was no exaggeration. The level of HM violence was so intense that it completely rattled JKLF.

Unable to hit back with equal force, the JKLF was forced to use an indirect approach. It abducted HM’s patron and senior Hurriyat leader SAS Geelani and held him hostage until HM agreed to a ceasefire and return of weapons and warlike stores it had seized from JKLF. However, this truce barely lasted for three months, after which HM once again started its bloodbath.


Also Read: Dismissing ‘The Kashmir Files’ is like shooting the messenger. Look beyond its flaws


HM’s killings

Ironically, the HM, which takes great pride in presenting itself as the first militant group with a rank and file entirely composed of locals and claims to be fighting for Kashmiris, has emerged as the biggest killer of Kashmiri Muslims. It also has the dubious distinction of introducing the gory practice of abducting and killing or torturing family members and relatives of its rivals.

The number of Kashmiri Muslims killed by HM runs into thousands and includes several famous personalities like JKLF supporter Dr Abdul Ahad Guru, JKLF ideologue Prof Abdul Ahad Wani, and All Jammu and Kashmir Awami Action Committee chairman Mirwaiz Maulvi Mohmmad Farook. However, as mentioned earlier, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC), despite knowing the truth, kept the public in the dark by blaming security forces for these killings.

It was only in 2011, that senior Hurriyat leader Prof Abdul Ghani Bhat admitted that “[Abdul Gani] Lone sahib, Mirwaiz [Maulvi Mohammad] Farooq and Prof. [Abdul Ahad] Wani were not killed by the army or the police. They were targeted by our own people.” The fact that neither APHC nor family members of the victims named by Prof Bhat contested his revelation, which clearly establishes its truth.

Prof Bhat further hit out at Kashmiri terrorists by saying, “wherever we found an intellectual, we ended up killing him. Let us ask ourselves: was Prof Wani a martyr of brilliance or a martyr of rivalry?” This admission, followed by his seminal poser, exposes how HM has been killing Muslim Kashmiris merely because their ideology poses a threat to Pakistan’s disruptive agenda in Kashmir.

Let us not allow our emotions to cloud our rationality. The undeniable fact is that during the nineties, both KPs and Muslims suffered greatly at the hands of terrorists in Kashmir. It’s puerile to assign relative values to the scale of distress endured by both communities by correlating it with fatalities that each community suffered. So, rather than viewing these killings in Kashmir through the prism of communalism, it would be prudent to jointly attack the root cause, which, in this case, is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

Colonel Nilesh Kunwar is a retired Indian Army officer who has served in Jammu and Kashmir, Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur. He is an amateur ‘Kashmir-watcher’. Views are personal.

(Edited by Srinjoy Dey)

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