Zakir Musa was unlike any other militant to have emerged from the bloodied battlefield of Kashmir. Musa, 25—who left his engineering studies halfway to pick up the gun—was a radical Islamist who wanted to establish the “rule of Allah” and had once threatened to publicly hang separatist leaders for refusing to acknowledge Kashmir’s battle as a “religious war”. And Zakir Musa’s killing by security forces last week could potentially mark the end of a phase in Kashmir’s militancy that is seen by police and security experts as an aberration. Jammu and Kashmir police chief Dilbagh Singh said as much, “Zakir’s killing” has ended the “cult and concept of radical jihad as he was the last militant of ISIS-influenced ideology”.
The police and other security agencies are playing down the killing of Musa, who led the Ansar-ul-Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an outfit announced by the al Qaeda-affiliated Global Islamic Media Front. The police issued a brief statement about the encounter in which Musa was killed and referred him with his real name, Zakir Rashid Bhat. “Zakir was important only because of his vintage. He was one of the oldest-surviving militants and could make a lot of impact on social media. His elimination is a dent to his kind of brand,” says inspector general of police, Swayam Prakash Pani.
In the nearly three-decade-long militancy, Musa was an unusual militant, who tried to upend militant discourse in Kashmir and saw Pakistani state as “apostate” and warned it against exploiting Kashmir’s militancy. Musa, son of a retired engineer based in Traal, joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in 2013 and became a close aide of its commander Burhan Wani. Musa, in fact, picked up the tricks of exploiting social media from Wani, who had lifted the veil from militancy by posting his pictures on Facebook. Wani, once seen as the poster boy of Kashmiri militancy, was killed in an encounter on July 8, 2016. His killing had sparked a nearly six-month-long unrest which killed nearly 90 people and injured thousands of others. Musa took over as Hizb’s commander after Wani’s death.
Once an aide of Burhan Wani, Zakir Musa was a rigid Islamist who wanted to establish the “rule of Allah”
Musa parted ways with the Hizb in 2017 to head the Ansar-ul-Ghazwat-ul-Hind. He also released an audio clip, setting his agenda and accusing Pakistan of betraying the ‘jihad’ in Kashmir. He vowed to continue the fight for “freedom for the sake of Islam” after Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin publicly dissociated from him for threatening to “slay and hang” separatist leaders at the Lal Chowk for opposing the establishment of Islamic rule in Kashmir. While separatists and militant outfits seek a political solution to Kashmir and talk about the implementation of the UN resolutions on Kashmir, Musa claimed to be pursuing the cause of freeing the “ummah”—the worldwide community of Muslims—and “establishing the law of Allah”. Unlike the ISIS, founded with the declared goal of overthrowing “corrupt” regimes in “near enemy” wars in West Asia and replacing them with a “true” Islamic state, Al-Qaeda, advocates international jihad and calls for targeting “far enemy.”
In September 2018, four grenades were hurled at a police station in Maksudan, Jalandhar. An NIA probe later revealed that the attack was the handiwork of Ansar Ghazawat-ul-Hind. The grenade attacks, which didn’t cause any casualty, were seen by the police here as fitting with the concept of “far enemy” of al Qaida. “Earlier deadly attacks were carried outside J&K by other militant groups and they were mostly Pakistan-sponsored terror acts. The grenade blasts at Jalandhar were different as here it was literally following the al Qaida’s concept of the far enemy,” says a police official pleading anonymity.
Pani told Outlook that the biggest security threat continues to be the Jaish-e-Muhammad. On February 14, a Jaish militant Adil Dar targeted a security convoy in Kashmir and killed 40 CRPF personnel that brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. “This year, we have killed around 90 militants, and most of them were from Jaish. Terrorists are planning to carry out attacks but it is the police and other security agencies which are thwarting their plans,” added Pani.
By Naseer Ganai in Srinagar