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Cleric To Militant Supremo: Journey Of Hizbul Chief Salahuddin As NIA Crackdowns On His Family In Kashmir

The properties belonged to Shahid Yusuf and Syed Ahmed Shakeel, both sons of Syed Salahuddin, who is the supremo of the militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen and also chairman of Pakistan-based United Jihad Council(UJC)—a conglomerate of various militant organisations. 

Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin addressing the media.
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Continuing with its operation of “dismantling” the “terror eco-system” in Kashmir, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) recently attached two immovable properties in Soibugh village of Budgam district and Nursing Garh Ram Bagh area in Srinagar district.

The properties belonged to Shahid Yusuf and Syed Ahmed Shakeel, both sons of Syed Salahuddin, who is the supremo of the militant organisation Hizbul Mujahideen and also chairman of Pakistan-based United Jihad Council (UJC)—a conglomerate of various militant organisations. 

NIA Has Crackdown On Salahuiddin’s Family In Kashmir, Here Is All About Hizb Chief’s Journey From Cleric To Militant Supremo 

Shahid and Shakeel are currently lodged in Tihar Jail for allegedly receiving funds from abroad from the associates of their father, Salahuiddin, and overground workers of Hizb.

The attachment of two recent properties in Kashmir assumes significance as it has direct involvement with Pakistan-based Salahuddin, who has been living in the country for over three decades now, from the militancy heydays in Kashmir to now the phase of lowest militant numbers in Valley. 

Who is Syed Salahuiddin?

Before guns and bombs began to rattle the Valley’s landscape, the people used to throng in hordes to hear a religious preacher, their ‘Shah saeb’ on Fridays. The Islamic scholar’s prolific religious sermons on Fridays in those days at Exhibition Ground in Srinagar had become an instant hit among the Valley’s people, particularly with now banned Jamiat-e-Islami (JeI) ideologues.

Mohammad Yusuf Shah, who later became the supremo of Kashmir’s indigenous militant outfit—Hizbul Mujahideen became an instant hit among the people in Kashmir for his thunderous speeches.

Came the elections of 1987 and Shah contested Assembly Elections from Amirakadal Constituency on JeI ticket. It is alleged that the elections were rigged and Shah was made to lose. This made his supporters disgruntled, who protested. However, they had to face the backlash from the state and many of Shah’s supporters, including his polling agent Yasin Malik, who also later became a militant commander was jailed following protests. Many in Valley believe that the 1987 elections became the flashpoint for militancy in Kashmir. 

77-year-old Shah is a native of Budgam’s Soibugh village. It was in 1991 after Shah took over as the chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen and adopted his nom de guerre Syed Salahuddin. It was after the 12th-century Sultan of Egypt and Syria and an Islamic crusader, Saladin. 

Shah has graduated from Srinagar’s SP College and also has Masters in Political Science from Kashmir University. 

In 2017, Salahuddin was designated as a global terrorist by the US State Department after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met then-US President Donald Trump.

The move prohibited US citizens from engaging in transactions with Salahuddin. It also meant attachment of Salahuddin’s property and interests in property under US jurisdiction.

In reaction, Salahuddin stated: “We are not terrorists… Our struggle is for freedom from India and it will continue till the liberation of Kashmir”.

Salahuddin is known to operate out of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Salahuddin led-HM has its political ideology to either merge Kashmir with Pakistan or a separate nation. He is on the NIA’s list of most-wanted men.

Salahuddin has five sons, who live in Kashmir. His wife in Kashmir Taja Begum passed some years back in 2014. His one son Syed Abdul Mueed, who was Manager (Information and Technology) at the Commerce and Industries Department was dismissed from the service by the government last year. While his other two sons—Shahid and Shakeel were also dismissed from the government service.

Former RAW chief AS Dulat in his book, ‘The Vajpayee Years’, mentions, “One of Salahuddin’s big concerns was his son, who had qualified for medical college admission, but in Jammu, not in Srinagar; possibly the grades required for admission for Srinagar were higher. But the boy and his father were desperate that he somehow gets into Srinagar. So Salahuddin reached out to everyone…."

Dulat mentions that the admission was done with the help of the CM and NC leader Farooq Abdullah.

However, HM rebutted Dulat’s claim. Also, Salahuddin’s son Dr Wahid had said, “Allegations were a distortion that sought to malign the image of his father”.

Dr Wahid had said he “was selected on the basis of merit, and the only favour granted was that he was allowed to shift from a Jammu college to Srinagar college because of security concerns”.

Salahuddin who commands a huge respect among the militant ranks had also generated a stir at times. 

In 2010, Salahuddin in a quiet ceremony in PoK had married Noor Jehan, the widow of a slain HM commander . It had raised eyebrows within the outfit where such an alliance is considered taboo.

Jehan was the widow of HM district commander Khursheed Ahmed who was killed by security forces in Kashmir in the 1990s. Khursheed was popularly known as Aurangzeb. He hailed from Srinagar’s Rainawari area.

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In 2010, when street protests were a common sight in Kashmir, Salahuddin urged Hurriyat to call for an end to protests. This generated a lot of rage with some groups taking out protests against Salahuddin in Srinagar’s downtown. 
Salahuddin in the past has also been favourable to dialogue with India with the condition that “sincere efforts” are made.

Post Burhan Wani killing, when protests were rampant in Kashmir, groups of youth carrying placards of Salahuddin used to chant: “…hikmate Salahuddin, Hizbul Mujahideen’(philosophy of Salahuddin, HM)”. 

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