The Sordid Tale Of Ikhwan
By Sheikh Shahid
29 June, 2015
With India's Defence minister, Manohar Parikar's bilious remarks of neutralizing 'terrorists with terrorists' & the subsequent chain of killings in sopore, of some Jammat affiliates & surrendered militants, by unidentified gunmen, the latent memories of 90s once again aroused the fear of the sanguinary Ikhwan amongst the people. A wave of panic & paranoia has taken over the valley especially in this northern town of Sopore, the nucleus of resistance.
Nevertheless, people need to be as hopeful as ever, for Kashmir has survived countless overt & covert counterinsurgency manoeuvres of India over the decades of its occupation. If, for the time being, resistance got weakened by these dirty tactics of India, it however could not suppress the burgeoning spirit of freedom. On the contrary, decades of occupation has only helped Kashmiris unite for a single cause.
History bears witness to the purge of everything obstructive to the dominant freedom sentiment,the dreaded Ikhwan being no exception. Besides the ideological renegades, since the dawn of insurgency in 1989, India has used the repressive renegades- former militants-turned pro-India agents, to stifle the pro-independence voice & to further their grip on Kashmir. They were employed for carrying out the extrajudicial executions of militants, human rights activists, journalists & others deemed threat to the idea of occupation & later quite conveniently dismissed as intergroup rivalries. As Victoria Schofield notes: 'Numerous Jamaat activists were eliminated together with Hizb-ul-Mujaheddin members. Ikwan-ul-muslimoon also targeted the media & is believed to have been responsible for the bomb blast in September 1995 at the BBC offices in Srinagar, when photographer, Mushtaq Ali, was killed.'
Since, they worked under the tutelage of the Indian army, they would loot, rape & terrorize the hapless Kashmiris, appropriate properties & extort money with no fear of any consequence. If sometimes arrested, these Ikhwan members were released on orders of the security forces or government authorities & no one was prosecuted ever for human rights abuses. Instead, they were paid with lump sums & other fringe benefits & sometimes festooned with state awards. One such farce was conferring of India's prestigious civilian award, Padma Shri on the killer counter-insurgent Ghulam Muhammad Mir alias Muma Kanna in 2011. Not surprising though, that it was none other than the playboy Farooq Abdullah, the former CM of J&K who had recommended Muma Kanna for the award.
It was in early 1994, when Mohammad Yusuf Parray, aka Kuka Parry alias Jamsheed Shirazi, the folk singer-turned militant who later turned into a renegade began to cooperate with the Army to carry out the dirty counterinsurgent wars, after having surrendered to the Indian security forces in 1993.Soon afterwards, many such militants followed the suit & started to switch sides & cooperate with the army. Prominent among them were the former National Conference MLC, James Ahmed Shah & Liaqat Khan who joined the movement shortly afterwards, operating in the southern Kashmir town of Anantnag. At the end of that year, all the three renegades had merged into the feared Ikwan-ul-muslimeen, of which Kuka Parray's Ikwan-ul-muslimoon was a splinter group, which later became the most dreaded among all others.
Renegades like such proved highly useful for the Army especially in conducting the assembly elections of 1996. They played the dual role of informers & killers at the same time, thus suppressing the militants to a great extent, who otherwise would have proved to be a great encumbrance to the elctions. As Farooq Khan, the then SOG head, is reported to have said that without these groups, it would have been very difficult for the elections to be held in a peaceful atmosphere. Obviously this was much to the convenience of the Army, as things were being done the extrajudicial way that too without any strain of accountability on them.
Apart from countless other killings, there are many high-profile killings & fake encounters where the role of Ikhwan was suspected. For instance, the Chattisinghpora massacre in March 2000, where 35 sikh men were murdered by some unidentified gunmen. As usual India blamed foreign militants, while locals knew it were the renegades. Following Chattisinghpora, Panchalthan encounter occured in which 5 civilians had been picked up by some unknown persons & later killed by the CRPF & passed as the militants responsible for the Chattisinghpora massacre. Bodies had been charred & defaced beyond recognition. On May 21, 1990, Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq, the head of moderate faction of APHC & spritual leader was shot dead at his home by some unidentified gunmen.
The human rights activist, H.N Wanchoo, a Kashmiri pandit who had documented and filed writ petitions for hundreds of custodial deaths was assasinated by unidentified gunmen in December 1992. Likewise, Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru, the founder-head of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Department at SKIMS was kidnapped by unidentified men on March 31, 1993. His bullet-riddled body was spotted by Soura residents on April 1. Apparently, he had treated some injured militants.
Another noted human rights activist Jalil Andrabi was abducted by unidentified men in March 1996 & tortured to death. Later, the police chargesheet against Major Avtar Singh, the prime accused revealed that he was accompanied by '15-20 Army personnel and two renegade militants working for the Army.'
Zafar Mehraj, the veteran journalist was shot & critically injured by unidentified gunmen while he was returning from an interview with Kaka Parray. Abdul Ghani Lone, the founder of People's Conference was assasinated by unidentified gunmen on 21 May, 2002 while commemorating the twelfth anniversary of the death of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq. And to the same chain of assasinations was added one more prominent name of Dr. Jalal-ud-din, who functioned as SKIMS Director after serving as Head of Department of Cardiology, who was shot by a group of unidentified men at his home at Pampore on July 18, 2013. Alluding to the renegade militia, in January 2011, former Hurriyat Conference chairman Professor Abdul Gani Bhat said at a JKLF seminar that most Kashmiri intellectuals, including Dr. Guru, had been killed 'by our own people'.
However, soon after the 1996 elections the Ikhwan bubble started to shrivel with the unqualified public dislike of their ruthless machinations & the subsequent political & official apathy. To quote Victoria Schofield again 'By the late 1990s, the usefulness of the counter-insurgents was being undermined by their own behaviour. In October 1997, DGP, Gurbachan Jagat, reported: Continued services of the surrendered militants was proving to be counter-productive in view of reports of excesses during the operations.' Many important figures of Ikhwan had contested the 1996 elections, in which Kuka Parray of Awami League won a seat, became MLA in 2002 from Sonwar, defeating NC's candidate Mohammad Akbar Lone. This created a sort of wedge between NC & Ikhwan, thus giving further thrust to the official apathy. With the official security cover striped off, Ikhwanis became a naked target for the militants. From then on Ikhwan was isolated & left alone to fend for themselves. For example, In 1998 alone, 49 Ikhwan members were killed in different attacks. On june 21, 1998, nephew of Kukka Parray, Manzoor Parray, aka Wafadar Khan was killed in a landmine blast. Setha Gujru alias Mohammad Ameen Wani who had 90 cases of murder registered against him & who had boasted to the weekly Chattan about having killed 300 persons was killed in 2001. The infamous renegade, Kukka Parray was killed in 2003, one year after becoming MLA in 2002. In this charged atmosphere, many Ikhwan families started to live together. One such example, as Praveen Swami reported in 1999, was the Prem Raj Nivas, a large bangalow of a rich Pandit, who had fled the valley in 90, which housed many Ikhwan members & their families. 'However, with terrorist attacks against militia members increasing during the past year, Prem Raj Nivas has become not so much a home as a fortress', observed Praveen Swami. According to one estimate , there were about 28,000 renegades used by the Army, but that number started to swiftly come down to a few with the growing militant attacks & official estrangement. In 1999, Gurbachan Jagat acknowledged that there were only 1200 renegades in the payroll of the govt.
Thus, from all sides, Ikhwan found itself isolated & resented with no one ready to accomodate them. They were in no position to return to their normal lives, nor were they fit to go back to their former militant parties & worst of all their masters too had dumped them. All the promises proved just a burst of hot air with the Police department too refusing to induct them in their ranks. They realised that all their lives, they had been marionettes in the hands of Indian agencies who had finally cut the strings off. Now, keeping in view the Defence Minister's remarks & the subsequent chain of 'unidentified' attacks, It could be well said that instead of apologizing to Kashmiris for the excesses done in the name of counterinsurgency, India seems to resurrect the dreaded Ikhwanis of yore, yet again. But, as already stated, Kashmir is the graveyard of countless dirty counterinsurgents & the freedom sentiment only gets emboldened by such tactics. However, the only losers in such dirty games are the renegades & their masters themselves.
From: Thamuna, Pulwama , Kashmir.
Student of English Literature.
On Twitter @TheValeBoy
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