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The Rediff Special/ Sati Sahni

'We have no enmity towards the people of India'

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The second part of a series on Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest militant outfit in Jammu and Kashmir. Click for Part 1.

Syed Salaluddin HIZBUL Mujahideen was one of the few underground outfits that expressed grief over the death and destruction in the earthquake in Latur, Maharashtra, in September 1993. It conveyed its sympathy thus:

'We have no enmity towards the people of India. Our struggle is against the Government of India for its illegal occupation of Kashmir.'

Shams-ul-Haq, the HM's chief of teaching and training wing, and three associates were killed in an encounter with security forces in Budgam on December 16, 1993. It was a big jolt. Haq was considered the successor of Syed Salahudin.

Fourteen days later, from the same area the army captured HM's military advisor Wahid Sheikh and his bodyguard. District administrator Mohammed Shaffi 'Haroon Rashid' was killed by security forces on December 30, 1993. Shaffi was responsible for a number of attacks on security forces. Also killed with him was Abdul Ahad Mir 'Saleem' alias Road Commander.

In 1993 the HM suffered heavy casualties. According to its annual report for the year it lost 675 members in different encounters. Among them were acting chief Shams-ul-Haq, top functionaries like Dr Drabi, Zulkarnain, Abdul Rauf, Raja Khalid Manhas, and over 40 area and district commanders. The group claimed over 1,500 attacks on security forces.

The HM's Jammu unit was also receiving attention from the authorities. On January 4, 1994 in Jammu, the police arrested Zulfiqar Ashraf, HM deputy chief of Doda district.

In Kashmir the outfit imposed a ban from January 7, 1994 on night movement of all vehicles everywhere except Srinagar city. This was done because the large scale movement of security forces was taking place mostly at night. The ban also applied to movement on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

To thwart any revival of the political process, the HM on January 19, 1994 announced the seizure of all organisational assets of the National Conference and the Congress. Its deputy chief commander Burhan-ul-Din Hijazi 'banned' the entry of Dr Farooq Abdullah and Ghulam Rasul Kar to their organisational offices. He ordered the confiscation of the Congress' Khidmat printing press, where four daily and one weekly newspapers were being printed.

In January 1994 the Hizb stepped up its activity in the Kulgam area of Anantnag district. Security forces killed the outfit's co-ordinator Manzoor Ahmed Lone 'Hilal'. For the next 10 days, from January 19, 1994, the outfit announced Operation Top Ten. Which meant that all actions undertaken in the next 10 days would be dedicated to the memory of top 10 militants killed in 1993.

The killed included Maqbool Ilahi, General Shoaib, Shams-ul-Haq, Khalid Gibran, Jamal Afghani, Khalil-ul-Rehman and Nasir-ul-Islam.

THE outfit lost its Srinagar district administrator when Dr Abrar Ahmed alias Tahir Mehmood was arrested by the Border Security Force on February 25, 1994 from a hospital in Srinagar.

The Jammu provincial unit received a big jolt when its chief Abdul Rashid Islahi alias Khalid Saifullah was killed on February 16, 1994 in Shiva village of Doda district.

The Special Task Force of the state police was deputed to apprehend the top HM functionaries in the next few weeks. The STF arrested Ghulam Rasul Lone alias Umar Chacha, divisional commander north, on March 13, 1994. From clues provided by him, the STF recovered some arms. But in doing so they came under intense fire from militants. Lone was killed by a militant's bullet. The HM's claim, however, is that Lone was killed later in custody.

The HM deputed two of its trusted, Pakistani-trained activists, Ghulam Hassan Lone and Bashir Ahmed Padroo, to Jammu to kill Wali Mohammed Itoo, a National Conference leader and the former speaker of the legislative assembly. When Itoo was returning after Friday prayers he was shot dead on March 18, 1994 in Jammu city. Both the assailants escaped.

The Hizb offered a general amnesty on March 26, 1994 to all politicians who had left the Valley and were living in self-exile in Jammu, Delhi, or abroad. In a joint statement two deputy chief commanders, Burhan-ud-Din Hijazi and Nasib-ud-Din Ghazi, asked such politicians to return to the valley and "join the ongoing jihad".

If they did so, the statements said, their "past misdeeds will be overlooked". The statement also clearly warned that if they did not accept the offer "these fugitives would be meted the same fate as Wali Mohammed Ittoo, former speaker of the assembly".

There was a lot of talk in Srinagar and in New Delhi about the restoration of peace in Kashmir. HM chief Syed Salahudin declared that his outfit would not allow the sacrifices of thousands of Kashmiris to go in vain.

"We will foil any attempt to do it," he stated in May 1994 from his hideout.

To ensure that its writ still ran in Doda district's rich forests and also in the outer reaches of south-eastern Kashmir valley, the HM "banned felling of trees and extraction of timber from the forests". In a statement issued on June 4, 1994, it said "national wealth was being plundered by civil administration and security agencies", and this must be stopped forthwith.

HM publicity chief Latif Bhat alias Idrees Khan was arrested form Srinagar's Press Enclave on August 7, 1994. The Special Task Force of J&K police also arrested on October 18, 1994 Sajjad Ahmed Bhat alias Shabaaz. He was the commander of the Civil Lines area in Srinagar.

Mast Gul MAST GUL, a mercenary from across the Line of Control, entered Kashmir in 1994. He had the HM's full support.

From February 1995 Mast Gul was in the Charar-e-Sharief, organising his men for a prolonged confrontation. They fortified the entire township and the surrounding ridges and slopes. The HM and its commandos were fully committed to this operation.

After a two-month stand-off, most of the town and the holy shrine of the patron saint of Kashmir, Sheikh Noor-ud-Din, were burnt. On May 11, 1995, most of the HM cadres with Mast Gul managed to escape from the cordon laid by security forces.

Mast Gul held a press meeting on May 26, 1995 from a HM hideout. HM divisional commander Riyaz Rasul was also present. On behalf of his chief Syed Salahudin, Riyaz announced an award of Rs 100,000 to Mast Gul for his "heroic deed".

In February 1995, the HM lost two important functionaries. On February 13, its divisional administrator Ali Mohammed alias Munshi was arrested. Four days later, its divisional commander for Poonch and Rajouri districts, Javed Kohistani, and seven associates were killed by the army on the outskirts of Charar-e-Sharief

IN the winter of 1995-96 there was a lot of talk about elections in the near future. HM chief Syed Salahudin warned the government employees in Kashmir not to get associated with this process. He also asked them not to become "tools" in the hands of the government.

The outfit "directed the public" not to pay their electricity arrears. It asked government officials not to force the people to pay. Divisional commander Riyaz Rasul castigated J&K employees for "dual loyalties". He said "on one hand they take the oath of loyalty in private to the ongoing movement" but from their office issue orders against the movement.

Disturbed by the rethinking about gun culture among the cadres of many militant outfits, the HM planned to stop it before it snowballed. On October 3, 1995 it administered a stern warning to all those who, according to it, were working against the ongoing movement.

The warming came a day after an emergency meeting of district commanders and senior members. The statement declared amnesty for those who wanted to return to "our fold". It stated that no action would be taken against them. Those who continued to work against the movement would not be tolerated.

Because of inter-gang rivalry, many leaders of the Hurriyat Conference publicly expressed fear of attacks by surrendered militants. The HM was apprehensive that the blame would be put on its members. In a statement on March 6, 1996 it warned the people of plans to kill some Hurriyat leaders and put the blame on HM cadres.

The parliamentary election was scheduled for May 1996, and the Kashmir administration started preparing for it. The HM was surprised that government employees were undertaking election duties without any protest. On March 1, it issued a warning to all employees to keep away from election work. A spokesman warned bureaucrats of dire consequence if they worked against the ongoing movement.

The HM also banned audio-cassettes produced by the state information department. According to it, the cassettes propagated "anti-Tehrik material". Even possession of such cassettes would be an offence "which will be punished", it said.

Although dead against election in Kashmir, the HM was not able to undertake anything big to stall it. The parliamentary election was completed without any major obstruction. The HM was not able to do much about the legislative assembly poll either, in September 1996.

The HM has been under the scrutiny of the authorities for a long time. The state government had on September 19, 1996 declared it an unlawful association, and banned it under the J&K Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1983.


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

The Rediff Specials

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