Abdul-Majid Dar, area commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest group fighting against the Indian occupation, was gunned down on March 23 while visiting his brother’s home in Sopore. His mother and sister were also seriously wounded. The next day 24 Hindu villagers were gunned down in Nadigam, in the Shopian area of Pulwama district. They were shot at close range by 15 heavily armed men; the dead were 11 men, 11 women and two children. These two events point to a new strategy adopted by the Indian occupiers of Jammu and Kashmir, which has been in the throes of an uprising since December 1989. In answer the 700,000-strong Indian army of occupation routinely indulges in murder and rape.
The murder of Hindus was intended to cast the Kashmiris’ movement for self-determination as a conflict between Hindus and Muslims, in which the Hindu minority is also targeted. India’s traditional bogey, Pakistan, was also blamed. In fact, Indian home minister Lal Krishan Advani, who visited the Hindu Pundits of Nadigam on March 25, used the occasion to blame Pakistan, but received an unexpectedly harsh response. The Pundits wanted to leave the area and settle in Delhi, despite pleas from Advani not to do so. Pakistan had already condemned the killing of villagers as an act of “terrorism.”
To their credit, leaders and workers of the Kashmiri resistance have maintained excellent relations with all communitieséHindu, Sikh and Buddhist alikeéand have adhered scrupulously to the policy of fighting only the Indian army of occupation. That is why the All-Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC), an umbrella-group of 23 political organisations, immediately denounced the murder of Hindus in Nadigam. In a statement issued in Srinagar on March 24, the APHC described the incident as “abominable.”
The following day a complete strike was held in occupied Kashmir. The Kashmiris demanded an impartial inquiry into the murders, to identify and punish those responsible for the heinous crime. Two APHC delegations, one led by Muhammad Yasin Malik and the other by Ghulam Muhammad Butt, visited Nadigam and conveyed their condolences to the bereaved families. Other groups and leaders in Indian-occupied Kashmir, such as Shabbir Ahmad Shah, the Democratic Freedom Party chief, also visited or sent condolences. Jamaat-e Islami of Occupied Kashmir, Human Rights Forum, Jammu and Kashmir Students Association, Allama Iqbal Students Movement and various Kashmiri mujahideen organisations also condemned the murders.
Observers in Srinagar say that investigations of similar atrocities in the past have revealed the hand of Indian ‘intelligence’ agencies. They have used Indian troops and other armed agents to murder civilians, be they Hindus or Sikhs, in order to stir up strife in Kashmir and defame the liberation movement. They referred specifically to the probe launched after the killing of 35 Sikhs in March 2000 in Chatti Singhpora village, Islamabad district. Their murder coincided with the visit of then US president Bill Clinton to India.
The Indians immediately pointed the finger of blame at Pakistan. Clinton refused to take the bait and insisted that it was too early to say who was responsible. Later, independent observers and Sikh representatives confirmed that Indian agents were the culprits. Their sole purpose was to blame Islamabad and brand Pakistan a “terrorist” state.
Dar’s death can be viewed in a different light. The Indians, as usual, accused Pakistan-based Kashmiri groups of killing him. On May 4 of last year, Dar and two of his associateséZafar Abdul-Fateh and Asad Yazdaniéwere expelled from the Hizbul Mujahideen by the Hizb Command Council. The reason was their links with Indian officials and their refusal to follow the collective decision of the council. In fact, Dar had begun to drift away from the movement, perhaps motivated by political ambitions, in July 2000, when he announced a unilateral ceasefire with India.
The Hizb Council felt that he had overstepped his authority, and the Indians exploited these internal disagreements. Last May, when Dar was expelled, Saleem Hashmi of the Hizb Command Council announced that Saiful Islam had been appointed to replace him. Saiful Islam set up his own faction of the Hizbul Mujahideen. Dar’s killing, like that of the Hindu villagers, is being exploited by India to advance its own agenda and brand the Kashmiris as “terrorists.” That the Kashmiri leadership has seen through this ploy is to their credit, but they must be very careful to avoid falling into the trap of lowering their guard or falling prey to Indian machinations.