The darkest hour is just before the dawn, or so goes the saying. Even today, amid all the bloodshed in Kashmir, some people are hoping for a ray of light. They are not wrong.
Let me begin by talking about Sandeep Sharma, aka Aadil. Born in Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, Sandeep was a welder by profession. Work opportunities took him to Kashmir. Here he met members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba. They planned to use his skills to break into ATM machines. Sandeep considered it preferable to working as a welder in the searing heat, which would damage his eyesight. At around the same time, he met a Kashmiri girl. They got married and he converted to Islam. The possibility that the Lashkar had hatched a conspiracy to mislead Hindu boys from western Uttar Pradesh cannot be ruled outAre those fighting with the so-called ‘love jihad’ sensing a new challenge here? They will now have to keep a close watch not just on the girls but on boys as well.
Sandeep’s story isn’t a crime thriller full of twists and turns. If the Lashkar militants are using ‘non-believers’ to break into ATMs, it can be interpreted in a number of ways. Is a shortage of cash compelling them to rob cash machines? When their separatist movement was dying down, militants in Punjab had adopted similar tactics to try make a fast buck. That was the beginning of their downfall.
If you remember, I had mentioned Dehradun’s Danish Ahmed four weeks ago in this column. He had come in contact with Kashmiri militants through social media. He had affirmed that in the garb of militants, certain people are busy extorting money and creating the impression of being macho. Sandeep Sharma’s story appears to be the next episode of the same story. This is because until now the militants described themselves as mujahideen. They used to justify bloodshed in the name of jihad. Their attempt was to make the issue of Kashmir’s independence synonymous with Islam so that the unity and sovereignty of India could be challenged by internationalizing regional dissent.
There was a time when it was perceived that most personnel of the Kashmir police sympathized with the separatist cause. But the manner in which the Jammu and Kashmir police personnel have recently come under attack has unleashed a wave of anger and sorrow across the state. “Is this the azaadi we were fighting for,” asked the sister-in-law of Ayub Pandith, who was killed outside the Jamia mosque in Srinagar. A few days before that, the barbaric manner in which the bodies of six policemen from Kashmir police were mutilated also raises the question whether it is holy war (jihad) or terrorism that is being foisted upon us in the name of jihad.
This is where the role of politicians in Kashmir comes to the fore. Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti may say with a heavy heart that the murder of seven Amarnath pilgrims has brought shame upon Kashmiriyat, but she has to sow the seeds of such emotions in the hearts of the common people. Are the ministers, members of the legislative assembly, leaders and activists of her People’s Democratic Party in a position to confidently ask the people on the street to boycott those spreading terror in the name of Kashmiriyat? Why doesn’t she seek the cooperation of the National Conference and other regional parties for the sake of peace in Kashmir? Why doesn’t Mehbooba request spiritual organizations and religious leaders at mosques not to issue statements in favour of terrorists, and to speak about the well-being of Kashmir? If she fails, her failure won’t just be that of a leader, but the failure of an entire political system.
Here, I draw hope from people in the rest of the nation. Even I have been distressed by the attack on the Amarnath pilgrims. But instead of spreading sensational or self-destructive rumours, let us keep our faith in the system. We have good reason to do this. At the centre, apart from a government armed with a majority in the Lok Sabha, we have a national security adviser of the calibre of Ajit Doval. Doval has spent more than five decades of his life fighting terrorism and separatism. Rather than engaging in needless criticism and pontification, let us allow him to do his work.
We have to keep believing that in the ultimate analysis, Hindustaniyat will triumph over imported terror. This is what our 5,000-year history teaches us.
Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan.
His Twitter handle is @shekharkahin.