‘From Sufi to Salafi: Spirit of Kashmiriyat in danger’

NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir is going through a phase of radicalisation where traditions like Sufism have been eroded and there is a threat of Kashmir being lost to fanatical Islam with no space to other religious beliefs, a senior BSF officer has said in an article mean’t for internal circulation.

‘Salafism’ backed by Pakistan has sounded the death knell of ‘Kashmiriyat’. “We are losing Kashmir to fanatic Islam where there is no place for other religions and religious sects other than Sunnis,” S S Guleria, posted as DIG intelligence in Kashmir, has said in BSF’s annual magazine ‘Borderman’.

Guleria has warned that the tentacles of radicalism have struck deep roots in Kashmir with teachers prompting students to hate non-Muslims and same is the case in colleges. He has written of Wahabi preachers systematically visiting villages on Fridays and weekends to propagate exclusivist Salafi ideology among youth.

In the solutions that he has suggested, Guleria has batted for opening cinema halls, liquor shops in the Valley as well as organising concerts and IPL matches there. He has also called for stronger laws against radicalisation, de-ligitamising madrasas and introduction of textbooks that reflect moral points of all religions.

The officer has said Hurriyat, Jamaat-e-Islami, Ahle-Hadith and other such organisations have facilitated the spread of extremist thought and that Pakistan has been “fully backed by China” in its efforts to destabilise the Valley.

The influence of Wahhabis, according to the officer, has changed the nature of insurgency in Kashmir from calls for “freedom” to that of terrorists fighting in what they say is the cause of Islam. He warns that the “signs of alienation and growing anti-India sentiments may look familiar, but a churn is taking place beneath the surface”, which is threatening Kashmiri co-existence.

The presidential medal winning officer writes that in south Kashmir particularly, about 5-6 preachers visit villages and go to a pre-selected house where a group of 20-25 youth in the age group of 15-30 are in attendance with tea and snacks being served. The preachers espouse Salafi ideology, preach hatred and intolerance against other communities and advocate secession.

“This brainwashing is done in a very systematic way. Those radicalised are encouraged by separatists to threaten the members of minority community (mainly Sikhs) to leave Kashmir so that they can convert it into a singular monolithic society, an anti-thesis of Kashmiriyat”, Guleria writes.

The mosques controlled by Wahhabis, including Ahle-Hadith, according to the officer, have doubled from around 1,000 in the last decade with most of the youth opting for them rather than the traditional Kashmiri Sufi shrines.

The factors that have deepened radicalisation, according to Guleria, include free-flow of Wahhabi literature through print, electronic and social media as well as money from the Gulf and narco-terrorism. Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), according to him, have managed to convince even educated Kashmiri youth that Sufism portrays an image of tolerance, meekness and pacifism. This has attracted a sizeable number of educated youths from well off families to terrorist ranks.

Young Kashmiris are subscribing to jihadi ideology propagated by Islamic State, Al Qaeda, and the online propaganda of IS, AQIS and Hizbul Mujahideen among others is appealing to the young generation. There are currently 365 militants in the Valley including 172 Pakistanis, he adds.

About China’s role, Guleria says in his write-up that its economic support has emboldened Pakistan’s confidence to meddle in Jammu and Kashmir due to which Islamabad is sponsoring radicalisation financially, militarily and with material support.

Asserting that merely killing of militants, or providing material support to Kashmiris or blocking the internet will not help, Guleria asks government to deal with the problem of radicalisation “surgically”.

He recommends a dynamic counter-radicalisation policy for Kashmir as current endevaours of Indian government in this regard are “miniscule” as compared to the ISI of Pakistan. Government, Guleria recommends, should open large number of educational institutions where nationalism and secularism should find due place. He asks government to establish and sponsor government newspapers in the Kashmir Valley as most dailies there currently indirectly support militancy.

Source: Times of India

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