Kashmir Report

‘Kashmir wants Islamic rule like Saudi Arabia': Much has changed from Burhan Wani to Zakir Musa

The ideological contours of the militancy in Kashmir have changed and it is gaining support in South Kashmir.

“Burhan made himself a hit through social media, not through the gun. Who knows about Zakir Musa?” mused a member of the auqaf, an Islamic charitable trust, in Rathsuna village. This village is in Tral area of South Kashmir, the home turf of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani who was killed in an encounter with the security forces last July. After Wani’s death, Zakir Musa, another militant from the Tral area, rose to prominence in the Hizbul Mujahideen, before he rebelled against the group and quit in May.

In fact, Musa has also made use of social media. But gone are the woods and fields of Wani’s videos, the shots of militants playing cricket, frolicking in the snow or swaggering with guns. Gone, too, are Wani’s assurances that Kashmiri Pandits could return to the Valley, provided they were not settled in separate colonies, and that Amarnath yatris would not be harmed.

A year after Wani died, seven Amarnath pilgrims were killed in an attack in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district. According to the police, operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba were responsible, though the outfit denies the charge.

Has militancy changed in its content and its message after Wani’s death, and is Musa a harbinger of this change?

A warning

In May, an audio clip went viral on social media. It came days after separatist leaders of the Hurriyat dissociated the Kashmir conflict from al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. In the five-minute clip, a soft, even voice believed to be Musa’s threatened to behead Hurriyat leaders if they called Kashmir’s war a political struggle.

“If you will be a thorn in our way, we will leave the infidels and kill you first,” the voice said. For the mujahideen, this was an Islamic struggle, for Islamic law, or sharia. Why else had protesting crowds in Kashmir always chanted “Azadi ka matlab kya? La illaha illallah.” What is the meaning of Azadi? That there is no god but Allah.

Shortly afterwards, another clip was released. His previous remarks were not targeted at Syed Ali Shah Geelani or any individual leader of the Hurriyat, the speaker clarified, merely against those who spoke of a secular state. The first battle was azadi from the Indian state, the next would be against the so-called moderates. The blood of the mujahideen would flow only for “azadi barai Islam [freedom for the sake of Islam]”.

In a third clip, he asserted that all militants in the Valley held the same beliefs, no matter which group they belonged to. Besides, he warned, “we should not become nazam parast [attached to any one party] or qaum parast [champions of nationalism]”.

The armed struggle in Kashmir has always shifted between different ideological strands. The earliest iteration, led by the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, sought an independent, secular state. Later, the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen gained prominence. By the mid-1990s, the Valley saw the rise of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, with its stated aim of an Islamic ummah, or an Islamic state transcending national borders, covering South Asia.

Today, the JKLF has long given up arms to join the ranks of the Hurriyat, leaving the Hizb and the Lashkar as the two major groups in the Valley. They work closely together, blurring ideological differences as well as the divisions between foreign and local militancy. Abu Dujana, the Pakistani commander of the Lashkar in South Kashmir, is a popular local figure.

Wani had mentioned a battle for khilafat, or caliphate, in some of his videos. But Musa’s messages seemed to sharpen the ideological contours of the new militancy in Kashmir.

Zakir Musa. Image: Video grab
Zakir Musa. Image: Video grab

Question of ‘radicalisation’

After the first clip was released, several developments took place at once. First, Musa was catapulted from the shadows to become a central figure in the armed rebellion. Second, the United Jihad Council and the Hizbul Mujahideen quickly distanced themselves from Musa’s comments, calling them “unacceptable”, prompting Musa to leave the outfit.

Third, a certain perception, held by a section of the security establishment and the national media, was strengthened. This view held that the new militancy in Kashmir was animated mainly by a religious “radicalisation” spreading in the Valley rather than a political demand for azadi. After Musa’s audio clips surfaced, one commentator noted, intelligence and defence experts began warning of a “parallel, resurgent narrative of terrorism”.

But what exactly do we talk about when we talk about radicalisation? British author Arun Kundnani, who has questioned official narratives on terrorism in Britain and America, describes how the word became popular after 9/11. Suddenly, Kundnani explains, it became difficult to talk about the “root causes”, or the socio-political factors that might contribute to terrorism – such a discussion was viewed as justifying terror. Instead, the Bush regime preferred to see terror “as a product of Islamic culture”.

Later, Sufism became identified with an ideal “moderate” Islam while Salafism and Wahhabism became “radical” Islam, leading inevitably to terror. It was a view that also surfaced in reports in the national media. Yet, the studies that back up this thesis, Kundnani found, are mostly inadequate. While they claim religious ideology is the most significant factor behind terrorism, they do not include a “control group” of individuals who may believe in Salafism but do not become involved in violence, or those who might take up arms without first subscribing to Salafism.

In Srinagar, too, both police and politicians reject this understanding of radicalisation and its links to local militancy. “I don’t see a relation with Salafism or the Ahl-e-Hadith,” said a senior police officer in Srinagar. “Most of the militants who got recruited were normal Hanafis, they were not from Jama’ati or Ahl-e-Hadith backgrounds.”

The Hanafi school of Islam is followed by the majority of Muslims in South Asia, including Kashmir, while the Ahl-e-Hadith grew out of a socio-religious movement advocating a return to the fundamental texts of Islam. The Jama’at-e-Islami is a socio-religious organisation that started life propounding “political Islam”.

‘Political radicalisation’

“There are 18 million Kashmiris shouting for a political settlement and the Centre hears only one voice,” said Junaid Mattu, spokesperson for the National Conference, referring to Musa’s statements. “Most militants take up arms for political reasons, then it becomes other things. The main cause of radicalisation is New Delhi.”

The term that is repeated again and again in these Srinagar circles is “political radicalisation”, a hardening of positions that mirrors the hardening at the Centre, the rise of Hindutva in the rest of the country and growing support for militant nationalism. The police officer in Srinagar speaks of the Army chief’s award to Major Leetul Gogoi, the soldier responsible for tying up Farooq Ahmad Dar to an army jeep in Budgam district and using him as a “human shield”, the attacks on Kashmiri students on campuses outside the Valley, the lack of political engagement between the government and the separatists.

The police as well as politicians from both of the main Valley-based parties, the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party, say the “othering of Kashmiris” in the national media, the daily harangues on prime time television, is a major reason for this hardening in the Valley.

In South Kashmir, protestors and the families of militants would agree. The national media was the “biggest recruiter”, said Ghulam Rasool Pandit, whose son had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen and was killed in an encounter with security forces in April 2016.

Public anger was heightened by reports that Kashmiri boys pelted stones or joined militancy for money – reports that are rejected as false in the Valley. “Who is going for money?” asked Pandit, with barely contained rage. “My son earned Rs 25,000 to Rs 30,000, why would he go for money? Who will go out for Rs 500-Rs 1,000? I am 57 years old, when I hear these things even I get angry. Those who did not think of these things now have it on their minds.”

In Srinagar, the police officer appraises the situation carefully. “Religion does play a part here but there are other factors that radicalise the militant – he may have been harassed by security forces, or he felt like a failure in life,” he said. He points out that Kashmir had no recruits to the Islamic State, that the separatist leadership had also denounced such an ideology. “The only change is Zakir Musa,” he said. “Although he is getting isolated, discredited in the process.”

Pehlipora village. Image credit: Rayan Naqash
Pehlipora village. Image credit: Rayan Naqash

‘Musa, Musa’

Yet in Anantnag town, boys gathered to watch the Champions Trophy final on a television rigged up in a park. Whenever Pakistan scored a boundary, they would cheer “Musa, Musa”.

In Karimabad in Pulwama district, boys sitting near a militants’ graveyard said they respect Musa because he has “taken Burhan’s post”. They might even revere him “more than Burhan”, they say, because “he is spending his precious life for Kashmir and for Islam”.

In Wani’s hometown, Tral, residents tell stories about Musa’s charity. “There were rumours that he had taken up arms because he had no money,” said one resident. “But he had a Rs 12 lakh car. One day, he piled all his clothes in the car and said to distribute them among people, he did not care if they were Hindu or Muslim or Sikh.”

This is South Kashmir, where Musa was born and is believed to be active. Here, the militant seems to have a robust support base among the youth, in particular, though some from the older generation are still sceptical. Villages which have lost boys to the militancy will speak of the local fighter first – in Rathsuna, it is Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, a close aide of Wani who was recently killed in an encounter; in Pehlipora, it is Waseem Shah, who was also part of the Wani cohort; in Karimabad it is Naseer Pandit. But Musa and Dujana are names that crop up across villages.

Musa is believed to have turned up at the funerals of Lashkar and Hizb militants to offer gun salutes. Residents of South Kashmir dismiss rumours of a rift in the militant ranks. If there had been one at all, it was healed now, it is believed. “These things happen within tanzeems [organisations],” said a boy in Tral town who went to school with Wani. “It is their own affair. People don’t suspect them.”

Few people in South Kashmir have a quarrel with the content of his speeches: shariat, shahadat, or martyrdom, and khilafat.

“This is not a political matter,” said the 21-year-old elder brother of a slain militant in Sangam. “Kashmir wants an Islamic hukumat (Islamic rule), like Saudi Arabia.” The boys who took to the streets to protest did so for azadi, he said, but those who took up arms dreamt only of jannat, or paradise.

Subzar Bhat (in the front row), Burhan Wani (in the middle).
Subzar Bhat (in the front row), Burhan Wani (in the middle).


In these parts of South Kashmir, witness to massive security crackdowns and civilian killings over the last year, talk of zulm, or oppression, by the state often precedes talk of “Islamic hukumat”. Zulm comes in various forms.

Ishfaq Hameed Dar, from the Sangam area of Pulwama, was killed last year in an encounter with security forces, seven months after he had joined Burhan Wani’s group. His family believes he was framed for the murder of a sarpanch’s father and wrongly jailed for six months. They talk of how the police harassed him. They even allege that he was tortured during his time in prison. So what else could he have done but take up arms? This sense of oppression is now associated with other actions of the state as well.

“In Shopian, they burst crackers for Pakistan so the security forces came and vandalised cars, is this not zulm?” raged Abdul Hameed Dar, Ishfaq’s father. His mother and sister speak of harrowing visits to the police station, where they were treated like “thieves”. When the justice system of a secular state had failed them, there seemed to be only one alternative. “If we have freedom and no Islamic hukumat, what’s the point?” asked Abdul Hameed Dar.

Women in Shopian, for their part, acquiesce to the stricter rules of a religious government, if only it ensured them safety. This district was home to Asiya and Nilofer, the two girls whose bodies were found in a rivulet in 2009. A probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation ruled that the girls had drowned and the initial medical reports had been doctored. Local residents still believe the girls had been raped and murdered by security forces, and the probe was a cover up.

“Zakir Musa is still small, but he didn’t say anything wrong,” allowed a woman in Shopian district who called herself Shaista. “But it’s a political issue before it’s a religious issue.”

Young men in Shopian talk of “intiqam”, or revenge, for the deaths of Asiya and Nilofer. Then they say, “We want khilafat. Today no one is illiterate. We have both school education and religious knowledge.” They had been helped by a surge in religious preaching since 2013, said a resident called Yusuf, not so much through the internet as local madrasas and mosques.

In Kashmir, which has had no experience of religious rule, the shape of this khilafat is not yet clear. In yet another audio clip, Musa had exhorted his “Indian Muslim brothers” to join the “jihad” against oppression, invoking a global sense of community. But in most parts of Kashmir, a khilafat may still be tied to an imagined geography, the map of an “azad Kashmir”. Besides, most are anxious to assert that all communities would be respected.

The idea of khilafat had been “twisted” by the national media, said Wani’s schoolmate in Tral. “Zakir Musa is asking for khilafat, but Hindus and Sikhs here do not mind,” he explained. “Burhan used to take shelter with them. Under a khilafat, non-Muslims will have equal rights. They may have to pay a small tax but we are already paying tax to the government, this would be a lot less.”

In Karimabad, weeks before the attack on Amarnath pilgrims, Pandit spread out his hands. “The army, BSF [Border Security Force] are saying we will give security, but no one’s going to do anything to them [the pilgrims],” he despaired. Some time ago, when yatris were snowed in, had it not been Kashmiris who had taken them in and given them shelter?

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Top picks, best deals and all that you need to know for the Amazon Great Indian Festival

We’ve done the hard work so you can get right to what you want amongst the 40,000+ offers across 4 days.

The Great Indian Festival (21st-24th September) by Amazon is back and it’s more tempting than ever. This edition will cater to everyone, with offers on a range of products from electronics, home appliances, apparel for men and women, personal care, toys, pet products, gourmet foods, gardening accessories and more. With such overwhelming choice of products and a dozen types of offers, it’s not the easiest to find the best deals in time to buy before your find gets sold out. You need a strategy to make sure you avail the best deals. Here’s your guide on how to make the most out of the Great Indian Festival:

Make use of the Amazon trio – Amazon Prime, Amazon Pay and Amazon app

Though the festival officially starts on 21st, Amazon Prime members will have early access starting at 12 noon on 20th September itself, enabling them to grab the best deals first. Sign up for an Amazon Prime account to not miss out on exclusive deals and products. Throughout the festival, Prime members will 30-minute early access to top deals before non-Prime members. At Rs 499/- a year, the Prime membership also brings unlimited Amazon Prime video streaming and quick delivery benefits.

Load your Amazon pay wallet; there’s assured 10% cashback (up to Rs 500). Amazon will also offer incremental cashbacks over and above bank cashbacks on select brands as a part of its Amazon Pay Offers. Shopping from the app would bring to you a whole world of benefits not available to non-app shoppers. App-only deals include flat Rs 1,250 off on hotels on shopping for more than Rs 500, and flat Rs 1,000 off on flights on a roundtrip booking of Rs 5,000 booking from Yatra. Ten lucky shoppers can also win one year of free travel worth Rs 1.5 lakhs.

Plan your shopping

The Great Indian Sale has a wide range of products, offers, flash sales and lightning deals. To make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals, or lose your mind, plan first. Make a list of things you really need or have been putting off buying. If you plan to buy electronics or appliances, do your research on the specs and shortlist the models or features you prefer. Even better, add them to your wishlist so you’re better able to track your preferred products.

Track the deals

There will be lightning deals and golden hour deals throughout the festival period. Keep track to avail the best of them. Golden-hour deals will be active on the Amazon app from 9.00pm-12.00am, while Prime users will have access to exclusive lightning deals. For example, Prime-only flash sales for Redmi 4 will start at 2.00pm and Redmi 4A at 6.00pm on 20th, while Nokia 6 will be available at Rs 1,000 off. There will be BOGO Offers (Buy One Get One free) and Bundle Offers (helping customers convert their TVs to Smart TVs at a fraction of the cost by using Fire TV Stick). Expect exclusive product launches from brands like Xiaomi (Mi Band 2 HRX 32 GB), HP (HP Sprocket Printer) and other launches from Samsung and Apple. The Half-Price Electronics Store (minimum 50% off) and stores offering minimum Rs 15,000 off will allow deal seekers to discover the top discounts.

Big discounts and top picks

The Great Indian Festival is especially a bonanza for those looking to buy electronics and home appliances. Consumers can enjoy a minimum of 25% off on washing machines, 20% off on refrigerators and 20% off on microwaves, besides deals on other appliances. Expect up to 40% off on TVs, along with No-Cost EMI and up to Rs 20,000 off on exchange.

Home Appliances

Our top picks for washing machines are Haier 5.8 Kg Fully Automatic Top Loading at 32% off, and Bosch Fully Automatic Front Loading 6 Kg and 7 Kg, both available at 27% discount. Morphy Richards 20 L Microwave Oven will be available at a discount of 38%.

Our favorite pick on refrigerators is the large-sized Samsung 545 L at 26% off so you can save Rs 22,710.

There are big savings to be made on UV water purifiers as well (up to 35% off), while several 5-star ACs from big brands will be available at greater than 30% discount. Our top pick is the Carrier 1.5 Ton 5-star split AC at 32% off.

Also those looking to upgrade their TV to a smart one can get Rs. 20,000 off by exchanging it for the Sony Bravia 108cm Android TV.

Personal Electronics

There’s good news for Apple fans. The Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch Laptop 2017 will be available at Rs 55,990, while the iPad will be available at 20% off. Laptops from Lenovo, Dell and HP will be available in the discount range of 20% to 26%. Top deals are Lenovo Tab3 and Yoga Tab at 41% to 38% off. Apple fans wishing to upgrade to the latest in wearable technology can enjoy Rs 8,000 off on the Apple Watch series 2 smartwatch.

If you’re looking for mobile phones, our top deal pick is the LG V20 at Rs 24,999, more than Rs 5000 off from its pre-sale price.

Power banks always come in handy. Check out the Lenovo 13000 mAh power bank at 30% off.

Home printers are a good investment for frequent flyers and those with kids at home. The discounted prices of home printers at the festival means you will never worry about boarding passes and ID documents again. The HP Deskjet basic printer will be available for Rs 1,579 at 40% off and multi-function (printer/ scanner/ Wi-Fi enabled) printers from HP Deskjet and Canon will also available at 33% off.

The sale is a great time to buy Amazon’s native products. Kindle E-readers and Fire TV Stick will be on sale with offers worth Rs 5,000 and Rs 1,000 respectively.

The Amazon Fire Stick
The Amazon Fire Stick

For those of you who have a bottomless collection of movies, music and photos, there is up to 60% off on hard drives and other storage devices. Our top picks are Rs 15,000 and Rs 12,000 off on Seagate Slim 5TB and 4TB hard drives respectively, available from 8.00am to 4.00pm on 21st September.

The sale will see great discounts of up to 60% off on headphones and speakers from the top brands. The 40% off on Bose QC 25 Headphones is our favourite. Top deals are on Logitech speakers with Logitech Z506 Surround Sound 5.1 multimedia Speakers at 60% off and the super compact JBL Go Portable Speaker at 56% off!

Other noteworthy deals

Cameras (up to 55% off) and camera accessories such as tripods, flash lights etc. are available at a good discount. Home surveillance cameras too will be cheaper. These include bullet cameras, dome cameras, simulated cameras, spy cameras and trail and game cameras.

For home medical supplies and equipment, keep an eye on the grooming and personal care section. Weighing scales, blood pressure monitors, glucometers, body fat monitors etc. will be available at a cheaper price.

The sale is also a good time to invest in home and kitchen supplies. Mixer-grinders and juicers could see lightning deals. Don’t ignore essentials like floor mops with wheels, rotating mop replacements, utensils, crockery etc. Tupperware sets, for example, will be more affordable. There are attractive discounts on bags, especially laptop bags, backpacks, diaper bags and luggage carriers.

Interesting finds

While Amazon is extremely convenient for need-based shopping and daily essentials, it is also full of hidden treasures. During the festival, you can find deals on telescopes, polaroid cameras, smoothie makers, gym equipment, gaming consoles and more. So you’ll be able to allow yourself some indulgences!

Small shopping

If you have children, the festival is good time to stock up on gifts for Diwali, Christmas, return gifts etc. On offer are gaming gadgets such as Xbox, dough sets, Touching Tom Cat, Barbies, classic board games such as Life and more. There are also some products that you don’t really need, but kind of do too, such as smartphone and tablet holders, magnetic car mounts for smartphones and mobile charging station wall stands. If you’re looking for enhanced functionality in daily life, do take a look at the Amazon Basics page. On it you’ll find USB cables, kitchen shears, HDMI cables, notebooks, travel cases and other useful things you don’t realise you need.

Check-out process and payment options

Amazon is also offering an entire ecosystem to make shopping more convenient and hassle-free. For the festival duration, Amazon is offering No-Cost EMIs (zero interest EMIs) on consumer durables, appliances and smartphones, plus exchange schemes and easy installation services in 65 cities. HDFC card holders can avail additional 10% cashback on HDFC credit and debit cards. Customers will also get to “Buy Now and Pay in 2018” with HDFC Credit Cards, as the bank offers a 3 Month EMI Holiday during the days of the sale. Use Amazon Pay balance for fast and easy checkouts, quicker refunds and a secured shopping experience.

Sales are fun and with The Great Indian Festival offering big deals on big brands, it definitely calls for at least window shopping. There’s so much more than the above categories, like minimum 50% off on American Tourister luggage! To start the treasure hunt, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Amazon.in and not by the Scroll editorial team.