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Boosting Jihad

May 10, 2020 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Despite the spurt in terror attacks, cross border violations and infiltration attempts by Pakistani terrorists, bodies of killed terrorists continued to be handed over to relatives for burial, providing a platform for anti-establishment propaganda. Thousands have been gathering at the burial site defying the lockdown while J&K along with the rest of the country battled COVID-19. The crowds are aggressive; youth singing songs of defiance on microphones and exhorting mourners to continue their struggle for ‘azadi’. This was also brought out in media on May 2, 2020 reporting a large crowd joining the funeral procession during lockdown of three local militants killed in Keran Sector of Kupwara district.

Over the years, Pakistan’s ISI has been able to recruit youth from J&K for lure of money, ideology of jihad and due to unemployment. Clerics play a major role in attracting youth into jihad. Anti-India sloganeering at funeral processions is orchestrated notwithstanding whether the slain terrorist belongs to J&K or Pakistani. ISI is doing so effectively because death of terrorists can be exploited to causes frenzy of martyrdom among people from across all the age groups, which causes mass dissent and acts as catalyst to organise mass protests better and activities like stone-pelting to disrupt operations of security forces. Mechanics for organising large crowds for the funeral procession by terrorist or separatist begin much before the body is handed over to relatives. Diktat is given as to who must attend the funeral procession and number of people per family or household on threat of retribution. Even the parents are directed how to behave and what to speak during the funeral. Processions are funded by Pakistan, local religious bodies and even business community under coercion. Funeral Brigades are lucrative business with contractors showing groups of women beating chests and crying for videos, which are used for propaganda by Pakistan. Ironically this has been happening over the past three decades, which boosts jihad.

Mercifully, bodies of Hijbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo and his accomplice killed on May 6 were not handed over to relatives but buried at unknown place. Hopefully this will be done in future too but given the terrorists surveillance system, terrorists could dig up bodies and resort to funeral processions. In the instant case an official told media that the bodies were buried in Sonamarg in Ganderbal Distinct in presence of a magistrate. Terrorists could coerce the magistrate to reveal the location. When Islamists are vehement that terrorism has no religion, bodies of slain terrorists should simply be burned.

The second major boost for jihad was this year in New Delhi where some 9,000 members of Tablighi Jamaat from abroad and from within congregated at Markaz Nizamuddin, which also resulted in big spurt in COVID-19 casualties. Of serious concern is Tablighi Jamaat’s links to Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), and their cadres participated in the 1999 hijacking of Indian Airlines Flight IC-184. Farhan Zahid, a Pakistani counter-terrorist specialist in his article ‘Tablighi Jamaat and its links with Terrorism’ published in 2015, wrote, “in many cases it (Tablighi Jamaat) has acted as the nursery for indoctrinating Islamist terrorists…….Tablighi Jamaat’s congregations allows radical elements worldwide to meet and discuss violent activities and provide them with the best opportunity to coordinate …….. many of its followers have dual membership with jihadists groups.” With respect to Pakistan becoming the global terror hub, Farhan says, “Several mainstream Islamist violent non-state actors have taken their roots from Tablighi Jamaat’s in-doctrination”. Asif Ibrahim writes on to say, “Tablighis believe Coronavirus is a curse of God let loose on the sinful humans to teach them a lesson….The illiterate clerics feed the common Muslims that Corona virus is a conspiracy to damage the religious traditions of the Muslims. Mosques are ‘deserted’ because Muslims have no love for or fear of God, and they are mandated to ‘populate’ it.” In his article ‘Tabligh, Religion, and Corona’ published on April 4, 2020 in South Asia Journal, Asif Ibrahim, former IPS officer and Director, Intelligence Bureau, writes, “Though many Muslims associate themselves in India with the activities of the Tablighis, which is a puritanical movement, and seeks to drag the Muslims 1400 years back, most of the Muslims are very critical of it, and oppose it tooth and nail. They call it ‘Taklifi Jamaat’, as, according to them, it maximises difficulties of its followers and of the Muslims. They see it as an enemy of the Muslims, since it persuades the Muslims to renounce the world, and take to prayers and propagation of the puritanical form of religion as a full-time activity.

The Tablighis move in cities, towns, and villages, and stay in the mosques, and engage with the Muslims of the locality. They tell the young minds to distance themselves from the world, education, career, and wallow in the opium of religion.” This particular Tablighi Jamaat happened in New Delhi in March despite Iran having already banned congregational prayers and Saudi Arabia having closed Ka’aba to pilgrims due to COVID-19. But most importantly, the Tablighi Jamaat membership is open to retired military officers of Pakistan. At one time General Javed Nassir, former ISI chief held an important position in the Tablighi Jamaat hierarchy. Not only did the Grand Mufti of Mecca criticize Tablighi Jamaat on February 11, 2019, advisor to Minister of Islamic Affairs of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), wrote on the Al Jazeera website that Tablighi Jamaat is a more dangerous terrorist organisation than the Muslim Brotherhood, and Tablighi Jamaat recruit terrorists for other terrorist organisations, because of which KSA has banned this organisation. The Saudi official also stated that Tablighi Jamaat are not loyal to the state in which they live; they are a state within a state. The surprising part is that with all this evidence on record in addition to similar musings by Farhan Zahid, Pakistani counter-terrorist specialist in 2015 as mentioned above, Tablighi Jamaat had a free hand in in India and would have continued to do so, had they not contributed to spreading COVID-19. An earlier request for the TJ meet to be held in Aurangabad had been turned down by the Maharashtra Police. All this including the funeral processions in the Valley indicates our primacy is vote-banks, we are not serious about terrorism and lives of security forces matter little.