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The Rediff Special/ Sati Sahni

The birth of the Hizbul Mujahideen

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The first of a three-part series on Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest militant group operating in Jammu and Kashmir. On July 24, it had announced its willingness to talk with the Indian government to find a "permanent solution to the [Kashmir] problem".

Master Ahsan Dar MASTER Ahsan Dar, a schoolteacher of Pattan, went across the Line of Control to Pakistan in 1988. He was trained there. With detailed instructions he came back to Kashmir in 1990 to establish a "hard-hitting fighting organisation" to spearhead the freedom struggle.

In Srinagar he was joined by another veteran, Mohammed Abdullah Bangroo. The Hizbul Mujahideen came into being by April 1990.

Bangroo was the military advisor while Dar was the chief of operations. There was no dearth of funds or arms and, therefore, no problem to get recruits. Within a year the HM had over 10,000 armed cadres, mostly trained in Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

The outfit's first major strike is believed to be against the mirwaiz of Kashmir Moulvi Mohammed Farooq. According to the police, Bangroo and his two associates conspired to kill Moulvi Farooq on May 21, 1990. The subsequent disorder that followed the killing resulted in firing, which left 26 killed.

The popular belief was that it was the handiwork of government agents. It is well-known that the HM is an ally of the Jamait-e-Islami and advocates Kashmir's merger with Pakistan. It also stands for the Islamisation of Kashmir. It is public knowledge that Moulvi Farooq had not taken any public stand openly on such contentious issues.

In June 1990 the HM asked fruit growers and dealers in Kashmir not to export their produce through "Hindu lalas" thereby severing the link between the "local rich class" and their counterparts "in India". It also accused the local rich merchants of playing a "dubious role in the present struggle".

The Delhi police picked up from the Walled City on March 25, 1991 HM deputy intelligence chief Ashfaq Hussain Lone. In the spring of 1991 the HM set up a supreme advisory council. Shams-ul-Haq was made the ameer (chief). It also set up a youth wing under the leadership of Nasar-ul-Islam. On June 29, 1991 its activists kidnapped Mohammed Imam Khan, Kashmir's director of food and supplies.

A month later, on July 26, 1991, the youth wing was separated and given a new name, Jamait-ul-Mujahideen. Nasir-ul-Islam was named its first chief.

The HM decided to spread its wings to the Jammu province. In February 1991 it appointed Aurangzeb and Mohd Daud as provincial chief and commander of operations, respectively. Also appointed was the chief of intelligence. Field intelligence units, too, were set up at different places.

It was announced that the HM chief had asked the Moslem Auqaf Trust and the custodian of evacuee property to report all property "owned by and under your possession" by the end of March 1991. The outfit also asked the revenue authorities in Jammu, Udhampur and Kathua districts to publish the details of the permanent resident certificates issued in the past 40 years. The HM asked all non-residents to leave the state within one month or face the consequences.

DIFFERENCES in ideology between the HM and others started appearing in the open in the spring of 1991.

The HM was very critical of all those who stood for independence as the third option. The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front had said that the United Nations resolution was not the only opening that could lead to the solution of the Kashmir tangle. On July 30, 1991 the HM, in a hand-written statement, described the JKLF stand as "childish and highly irresponsible". It even accused the JKLF of helping India indirectly.

"Separating UN resolutions from Kashmir dispute is like inflicting a severe blow to the movement," it stated.

Its patron 'General' Mousa was arrested on September 23, 1991. He was replaced by Nissar Mohd Gujari alias 'General' Shoaib. A faction of the Allah Tigers announced its merger with the HM on October 8, 1991.

A reorganisation was necessitated. The supreme advisory council met for two days and on November 11, 1991 announced the changes. Chief Commander Master Ahsan Dar stepped down. Syed Salahudin was named the patron and also supreme commander. There would be three divisional commanders, each in charge of two districts in Kashmir. For Srinagar district three deputy commanders were appointed in view of the stepped-up activity there.

The HM had felt for quite some time that the press was not giving it enough publicity. On March 31, 1992 it banned in Kashmir the sale and circulation of The Indian Express and asked its staff correspondent at Srinagar, George Joseph, to leave the valley within 48 hours for "anti-movement reporting and news".

Security forces arrested a senior divisional commander, Ghulam Mohammed Khan, from a taxi near Ganderbal on August 7, 1992.

Supreme Commander Syed Salahudin and Abdul Majid Dar, the HM advisor general, said their movement would achieve success early if all guerrilla outfits came under one unified command. In an interview on September 5, 1992 they said that a United Jehad Council would be set up immediately with five guerrilla groups.

Syed Salahudin had returned to Kashmir after a long sojourn in Pakistan. He categorically denied that the HM was the armed wing of the Jamait-e-Islami and asserted that his organisation was a separate set-up with no link to the Jamait "except fraternal".

He said the movement belonged to the entire population of Kashmir and "to make it property of any particular party amounts to treason". Similarly, the HM belonged to the whole of Kashmir. He felt that because of the black sheep in different guerrilla groups the movement was being labelled a "terrorist movement". He identified these black sheep as such elements who indulge in condemnable acts like harassing innocent persons, looting banks, extortion, kidnapping, and the like.

In early 1992 the HM had become a member of the Popular International Organisation, under the leadership of Sudan's Dr Hassan-al-Turabi. Which made it eligible for guidance, training, funds and arms from abroad.

THE state police launched its Operation Tiger in the middle of 1992. It paid greater attention to bigger and better organised units.

In September 1992, HM chief organiser Mohammed Saleem was killed in an encounter. On December 24, 1992 Sikandar Azam, a district commander was killed. Its divisional commander Maqbool Illahi was shot dead in Budgam on April 19, 1993.

Then J&K governor General K V Krishna Rao called for the surrender of armed militants in March 1993. The first Union minister to invite the militants to participate in election was then home minister S B Chavan.

The HM was the first major outfit to reject both the offers. While dismissing the conditional offer for dialogue, its statement said "unconditional negotiations among India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir are the key to the solution of the problem".

A week later, on March 18, Syed Salahudin stated that "no agreement was possible with the government after thousands have laid down their lives". He warned the government that the HM would not allow official machinations to "create disunity among the freedom fighters". He also declared that the principal aim of the movement was the "establishment of an Islamic caliphate the world over, starting with Kashmir".

FROM such high ideals the HM came down quickly to matters of daily life. It took upon itself to fix the price of mutton to be sold in Srinagar. On April 19, 1993 it 'advised' the meat sellers to sell mutton at not more than Rs 46 per kg. They were asked to disregard all government directives in this regard.

In Sopore town on May 3, in a fire two big buildings, 51 residential houses and 29 shops were gutted. The HM owned responsibility for firing rockets at the building that housed Border Security Force personnel. The HM claimed that 'several BSF personnel' were killed.

Professor Chaman Lal Gupta, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party J&K unit had been very strident in his criticism of the militants and the violence "unleashed by them on the general public". HM divisional commander Saifullah Khalid in a statement in Srinagar on June 26, 1993 asked Gupta to desist from "anti-Muslim and anti-Islamic activities". Fearing the Hindus might react strongly, the statement said "our fight is with India and not with Hindus or any other community. We will provide them full protection".

The HM in Jammu region was being expended for larger operations. Before it could act in a big way, the police on May 5, 1993 arrested the Jammu provincial deputy chief Shakeel Hussain. The police claimed that he had confessed that with two other colleagues they were plotting to kill the governor, Dr Farooq Abdullah, then Congress state president Ghulam Rasul Kar and Chaman Lal Gupta. He also said that they had been assigned to throw bombs at religious places.

In the Kashmir valley, Riyaz Rasul, the divisional commander for Srinagar and Budgam districts, and Akbar Bhai, an Afghan national, were killed in an encounter on June 15, 1993. The same day the HM appointed Burhanud-Din Hijazi its deputy chief commander.

About this time there was an influx of foreign mercenaries into the outfit. On July 15, 1993 the group, justifying this, said: "The presence of foreign nationals in our ranks is an eye-opener for those who dub the movement the handiwork of misguided youth. The involvement of the guests from different countries shows that the people of Kashmir are not alone in their struggle and enjoy the support and confidence of so many countries of the world, especially the Moslem world."

About their role the statement said: "They are providing the Kashmiri youth necessary assistance and guidance in their struggle."

A mercenary organisation of the Afghans, Harkat-e-Jihad-e-Islami, presently based in Pakistan, was actively collaborating with the HM, providing guidance and material assistance. The HM claimed that on an average it was spending Rs 4.5 million every month to maintain its cadres.

Its district commander for Srinagar, Nisar Ahmed Mir alias Yunus Saleem alias Zulkarnain, was killed in an exchange of fire with the BSF in a Srinagar suburb on July 24, 1993.

In 1993, three of its most important functionaries -- Supreme Commander Syed Salahudin, Ghulam Mohammed Sufi, the chief co-ordinator of training, and Ashraf Saraf, the chief co-ordinator of arms supplies -- crossed over to set up base in Pakistan.


Meet Master Ahsan Dar: ex-schoolteacher and alleged torturer
Confessions of a Pak-trained militant
Blood in the snow: 10 years of conflict in Kashmir

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