ISLAMIC BLOW BACK: AN HISTORICAL PHENOMENON

The recent elections in UT of Jammu and Kashmir for DDC have been hailed as a victory of democracy and rejection of the separatist agenda with the voter percentage reaching a respectable 51% but that needs to be analysed under a spatial overhang of North of Pirpanjal Mountains and South of the Mountain Range (fig-1). The disparity has brought to fore the heterogeneity of the demography and this chasm is also evident in the communal fault lines (fig-2) which have been exacerbated, leave aside the other major issue of restoration of the status of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir which was the glue that bound erstwhile adversaries into a kaleidoscopic alliance known as the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).

Fig-1: Voter Turnout[1]

 

 

 

 

 

Fig-2: Communal Divide in Seats[2]

 

 

 

 

Much has been said and written about the elections and the aim of this paper is not to add to that volume but put the cross wire on another aspect of the elections and that would be the ‘Blow Back Effect[1]’ in the valley and more pronounced would be the reinvigorated effort of our Western neighbour to showcase it as a cromulent miscarriage of peoples aspirations. Islam and blow back in India are not a new phenomenon and every time it has faced a threat which has challenged its seat of power a response has been forthcoming from the Indian shores.

The most consequential blow back of this nature was the Khilafat Movement (1919–1924) when the Ottoman Empire faced dismemberment. Under the leadership of the Ali Brothers, Maulana Muhammad Ali and Maulana Shaukat Ali, the Muslims of South Asia launched this movement to try and save it. The general impression among the Muslims of India was that the western powers were waging a war against Islam throughout the world in order to rob it of all its power and influence. Muslims of India have always had a strong feeling of identity with the world community of Islam. Radicalized theologians see the decline in the political fortunes of Islam as USA and its European allies conquer Muslim lands one after the other. Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered and now Saudi Arabia is under their sphere of influence.

The muslim community in India has so far avoided the lure of global jihad and that is due to the inherent sectarianism within Indian Islam divided by theology (for instance, Barelwis or Deobandis), economic and caste lines (Ashrafs, Thangals, Syeds, Ajlafs, and Arzals), by schools of jurisprudence (Shafi, Hanafi, Ahle Hadeeth/Salafis), by reform movements (for instance, Tablighi, Jamaat e-Islami or Deobandi), and by language and geography (for instance, Bengali, Urdu, Tamil, Gujarati, Malayalam). All these groups and their members constantly intersect and interplay, creating a variety with each group having its local contexts, aspirations and challenges. Transnational terrorist groups are only able to appeal to smaller subsections depending on the language of propaganda used. Until most recently, this was limited to Urdu but there have now been attempts to use Malayalam and Tamil as well.

Mainstream Indian Muslim never identified with the alleged travails of Islam in Kashmir and was divorced from the jihad within the valley but of late the attempts of Deep State within Pakistan have been to link the so called bellicosity of a right wing government against the minorities Pan-India to Kashmir. Moreover, discrimination, bias, Islamophobia and other related factors have existed for decades in India. Many of these issues are being deliberately exacerbated by Pakistan. Reports of lynching, minority blaming and shrinking spaces for minority expression provide major and plausible push factors for people to join terrorist groups to right such injustices[3]. The riots in February 2020 in Delhi were an apt jus ad bellum to incite such recruitment. Pakistan has made all efforts to join the very obvious dots between the inflammatory speeches delivered by BJP politicians, the subsequent outbreak of violence and then the systematic way in which violence was organized and directed, the Deep State has propounded a theory that the riots were the product of a conspiracy hatched against those protesting against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.

Islamophobia hit a crescendo during COVID-19 with the blame being apportioned to a Markaz of Tableeghi Jamat in Hazrat Nizamuddin where estimated 1,500 to 1,700 people had assembled at the Markaz building for a conference in March 2020. In continuation with the same trend line, the abrogation of Article 370 and other laws which are being construed as anti-Kashmiri are being linked to being anti-Islam. Coming back to the DDC elections; BJP has won three seats in the Kashmir Valley, its significance is of immense proportions. BJP was always seen as an untouchable party in the Valley. The fact that these three seats have been won in three different regions of the valley; one in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district, one in Central Kashmir’s Srinagar district and one in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district is indicative of a toe hold if not a foot hold.

A sense will be soon created by ideologues that this election result is un-Islamic and it is a religious duty of every Kashmiri youth to join Jihad against it. Some of the religious institutions controlled by Jihadist ideologues are preaching a skewed and misconstrued interpretation of religion that has the potential to capture the hearts, minds and imaginations of the young people.[4] Jihadi ideologues will create an alternative narrative and push moral boundaries to legitimize the violence against government agencies as a service to God. The aim would be to weave a web of misinformation promising the youth sudden identity as a solider of God, an exalted position among his peers and local populace. The most unfortunate part is that if this misguided youth returns to the main stream, the family suffers the stigma of having a son who is coward and scared of attainting martyrdom. Parents are caught between the misinformation campaign and violation of tenants of Islam by separatist and ideologues forcing youth to join Jihad without sufficient reasons. The loss or killing of terrorists is celebrated, parents are congratulated and family members are made to believe that now their path to attain salvation has been cleared by their son by sacrificing his life for Islam and Jihad. The cycle of recruitment continues because ideologues of Jihad glamorize the killing of terrorists to create more recruits. The assembly line production of terrorists would be further accentuated by a nexus of the OGWs and corrupt government officials who would play both sides to make it into a financially lucrative enterprise.

In a mental or cognitive sense, youth will perceive that this toe hold of BJP would be envisaged as Enemy at the Gates, especially in form of physical presence; a drastic identity simplification dynamic would kick in. In normal situations, as the Nobel laureate Amartya Sen eloquently puts it[5]: “The same person can, for example, be a British citizen, of Malaysian origin, with Chinese racial characteristics, a stockbroker, a non-vegetarian, an asthmatic, a linguist, a bodybuilder, a poet, an opponent of abortion, a bird-watcher, an astrologer, and one who believes that God created Darwin to test the gullible.” When the young people of a religious community perceive that they are being attacked by a powerful enemy — “Them” — all these various social identities get thrown out the window in favor of one single dimension of collective identification giving rise to recruitment under the double whammy of peer pressure along with radicalization.

In Jammu and Kashmir today it is time to engage the youth and religious preachers and prevent denigration of the democratic process. The LG’s rule should be seen as an opportunity to ensure course correction and break the status quo of public disorder. State should not be seen as oppressor but as benevolent and committed to the genuine welfare of the people of J&K without any biases. Mr Ram Madhav in his interview to the Economic Times had said, “Many governments across the world have only one approach towards terrorism; eliminate the terrorists to eliminate terrorism.”[6] It is true that elimination of terrorists is important but not holistic to completely annihilate terrorism. It is high time that instead of targeting terrorists, state should work out methodology to deal with terrorism in a holistic manner. To bring calm to the streets, unarmed Jihadists are required to be dealt with appropriately and they cannot be allowed to run a parallel system of Intifada.

Written by Ankur Rommel
https://ankurrommel.medium.com/

[1]https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/the-number-theory-understanding-the-ddc-election-results-in-jammu-and-kashmir/story-JjJ6fMjzP2DXcn0LTMpM6H.html accessed on 04Jan 2020.

[2] http://ceojammukashmir.nic.in/DDC_PE_Phasewise%20turnout.htm accessed on 04 Jan 2020.[1] Blowback is a term invented by CIA to describe the unintended consequences of policies kept secret from the American people. https://ips-dc.org/blowback_from_iraq_war_is_global_and_growing/ accessed on 02 Jan 2020.

[3] Isabelle Duyvesteyn and Bram Peeters, “Fickle Foreign Fighters? A Cross-Case Analysis of Seven Muslim Foreign Fighter Mobilisations (1980–2015),” Hague: International Center for Countering Terrorism, 2015.

[4] Thomas Koruth Samuel, The Lure Of Youth Into Terrorism, South East Asia Centre for Counter Terrorism https://www.searcct.gov.my/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Youth-And-Terrorism.pdf

[5] Amartya Sen, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (London: Allen Lane, 2006). https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2304/pfie.2007.5.2.271 accessed on 01 Jan 2020.

[6] Vasudha Venugopal, Only governor’s rule can improve the situation in J&K: Ram Madhav, Economic Times, Jun 21, 2018. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/only-governors-rule-can-improve-the-situation-in-jk-ram-madhav/articleshow/64674769.cms accessed on 05 Jan 2020.

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