Islamist Militancy in Kashmir: The Case of the Lashkar-i Tayyeba


Yoginder Sikand

[November 20, 2003]


'Let not the enmity of any people make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice'  (Holy Qur'an: 5:8)




The emergence of radical Islamist groups in Kashmir over the last decade has added a new dimension to the ongoing conflict in the region. It has led to a rapid transformation in the terms of discourse in which the conflict is represented, by India, Pakistan and by many Kashmiris themselves. The current stage in the Kashmir conflict can be dated to 1989, when the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) inaugurated an armed uprising against Indian rule. By the mid-1990s, however, the JKLF had been increasingly taken over by Pakistan-based Islamist groups. The wiping out of many of its cadres in confrontation with the Indian armed forces, the withdrawal of Pakistani support and the growing realisation of the need for peaceful, as opposed to military, means for the eventual resolution of the Kashmir dispute, seem to be among the major reasons for the gradual decline of the JKLF as a military force in Kashmir, despite the fact that its goal of an independent Kashmir still commands the support of many Kashmiri Muslims.[1] On the other hand, military and other forms of support from the Pakistani establishment, from private jihadist groups in Pakistan and elsewhere, in addition to a passionate zeal for what is seen as a 'holy' cause, account, in large measure, for the gradual take-over of the armed struggle in Kashmir by militant Islamist groups, mainly based in Pakistan and led, for the most part, by Pakistani nationals.

            Despite the active involvement of Islamist groups in the on-going struggle in Kashmir, little written has been written about them from a scholarly and detached point of view. This article seeks to provide an account of the ideology, organization and development of one of the leading Islamist groups active in Kashmir today, the Lashkar-i Tayyeba. Of the several Pakistan-based Islamist groups active in Kashmir today, the Lashkar is, by far, the most well-organised, well-trained and heavily armed. From the mid-1990s, this once little known group has emerged today as the most serious challenge to the Indian armed forces, being responsible for several attacks in Kashmir, killing a large number of Indian soldiers as well as civilians, both Hindu as well as Muslim.


This article looks at the emergence of the Lashkar as a key player in the present stage of the Kashmiri struggle. Owing to the relative paucity of published material, the article relies heavily on the official Internet web site of the Markaz Da'wat wa'l Irshad ('Centre for Invitation and Instruction'), of which the Lashkar is the armed wing.[2] 

This article is divided into three main sections. Part I looks at the origins of the Lashkar in the specific South Asian context, tracing its understanding of Islam and jihad to the emergence of the Ahl-i Hadith ('The People of the Prophetic Tradition'), an Islamic reformist movement, in the sub-continent. We then look at the ideology of the Lashkar, seeing how it seeks to fashion armed jihad as a means for the 'liberation' of Muslims from what it sees as 'oppression' and to advance its own stated goal of establishing the 'supremacy' of Islam, as it understands it, as a global ideology. Part II examines the involvement of the Lashkar in Kashmir, seeing it as emerging out of a broader Islamist movement in the region, the roots of which go back to the early years of the twentieth century. The concluding section of the article looks briefly at how far the Lashkar has been able to actually establish itself among the Kashmiri Muslims. In assessing its ability to do so, a distinction is stressed between, on the one hand, its military engagements against the Indian armed forces, and, on the other, its ability to impose its own vision of Islam as the accepted version. 


The Lashkar: Early Origins


The Lashkar is the military wing of the Markaz Da'wat wa'l Irshad, with its headquarters at the town of Muridke in the Gujranwala district in Pakistani Punjab. The Markaz was established in 1986 by two Pakistani university professors, Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed and Zafar Iqbal. They were assisted by the late 'Abdullah Azam' a close aide of Osama bin Laden, who was then associated with the International Islamic University, Islamabad. Funds for setting up the organization are said to have come from Pakistan's dreaded secret services agency, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).[3]

The Markaz is affiliated to the Ahl-i Hadith school of thought, a reformist Islamic movement, which had its origins in early nineteenth century north India. The founders of the Ahl-i Hadith, men such as Maulana Nazir Husain (1805-1902), Nawab Siddiq Hasan Khan Bhopali (d1832-90) and Maulana Sanaullah Amritsari (1870-1943), believed that they were charged with the divine responsibility of purging popular Muslim practice of what they saw as 'un-Islamic' accretions and borrowings from their Hindu neighbours, regarding these as 'unlawful innovations' (bida'at), and as akin to shirk, the sin of associating anything with God. They insisted that Muslims must go back to the original sources of their faith, the Qur'an and the Hadith, the Traditions of the Prophet, and abandon all beliefs and practices not sanctioned therein. They called for Muslims to abide strictly by the Islamic law (shari'ah) and to abandon 'imitation' (taqlid) of the traditional schools of Islamic jurisprudence (mazhab. pl. mazahib), attempting to refashion the worldwide Muslim community in the mould of the Companions of the Prophet. The 'ulama of the Hanafi mazhab, representing the vast majority of the Muslims of South Asia, entered into bitter conflict with the Ahl-i Hadith on the matter of taqlid. The latter defended their opposition to taqlid on the grounds that the schools of jurisprudence had developed more than two hundred years after the death of the Prophet, and that, therefore, the Companions of the Prophet did not follow taqlid. Since, they argued, Muslims should follow the model of the Companions, there was no need for them to 'blindly follow' the schools of jurisprudence, for this would be tantamount to 'personality worship' of the founders of the mazahib, a heinous sin. Further, they claimed, the Hanafis had fabricated numerous hadith to prove the claims of their mazhab, and quoted a hadith to the effect that 'he who fabricates hadith shall be thrown into hell-fire'.[4]

Besides attacking the Hanafi 'ulama, the Ahl-i Hadith directed their attention to bitterly critiquing Sufism, which they saw as a 'wrongful innovation', for, they argued, it had no sanction in the practice of the Prophet and his Companions.[5] Every 'wrongful innovation', they insisted, was a heinous sin, the punishment for which was damnation in hell.  They stiffly opposed the adoration of the Prophet as a superhuman being as well as the devotion to the saints and the cults centred on their shrines that are an integral part of popular Sufi tradition in South Asia, seeing this as a deviation from the practice of the Prophet and the early Muslims. Faith in the powers of Sufi preceptors and the widespread belief in the Sufi saints as intermediaries with God were condemned as akin to polytheism. So, too, was the belief in the supernatural powers of the Prophet and of his being ever-present and all-seeing.

Given the immense popularity of the Sufi traditions and the influence of the Hanafi 8ulama among the Muslims of South Asia, it was hardly surprising that the Ahl-i Hadith faced stiffed opposition, being banned from worship at mosques and condemned as apostates and enemies of Islam. For their part, the Ahl-i Hadith appeared to have revelled in controversy, not losing any opportunity of attacking their Muslim opponents for what they branded as their 'un-Islamic' ways. Engaged in constant conflict with other Muslims, drawing clear lines of division between themselves as the only truly Muslim group and the rest, seems to have played a crucial role in the development of a separate Ahl-i Hadith identity.

Confrontation with other Muslim groups created an atmosphere conducive to militancy, and the Ahl-i Hadith saw themselves as carrying on in the long tradition of jihad, which they accused other Muslims as having abandoned. The founders of the Ahl-i Hadith claimed the legacy of the early nineteenth century jihad movement led by Sayyed Ahmad Barelvi and Isma'il Shahid against the Sikhs in the Punjab. In the failed revolt of 1857 against the British, several Muslim ulama associated with Ahl-i Hadith-style activism played a role in leading uprisings at some places. After 1857, while some Ahl-i Hadith leaders accommodated themselves to British rule and devoted themselves to peaceful preaching, others continued to carry on violent struggles against the British in the North-West Frontier Province, till they were finally crushed by the end of the nineteenth century. Although from the early twentieth century onwards the Ahl-i Hadith, as a whole, gave up the path of violence in the face of British arms, an Ahl-i Hadith scholar writes that they 'refused to accept the supremacy of the British and the Hindus', and vowed to carry on the struggle through other means to 'convert India into an abode of Islam (dar-ul islam) through jihad'.[6] While they desisted from entering into violent confrontation with the British, their opposition to Sufism and to the Hanafis brought them into conflict with many traditional Muslims, which sometimes took violent forms.[7] However, they were doomed to a marginal existence owing to their vehement opposition to popular Muslim practice, and hence were not able to emerge as a mass movement. Rather, they remained an elitist group, characterised, as Barbara Metcalf writes, by a sense of 'moral superiority' and 'self-righteousness', tinged with 'a certain harshness', and with a small following among urban Muslims, particularly in north India.[8]


The Ahl-i-Hadith in Pakistan and the Rise of the Lashkar:


Since the Lashkar has its headquarters in Pakistan and most of its fighters in Kashmir are Pakistani nationals, the role of the Lashkar in Kashmir must be seen in the context of the growing salience within Pakistan itself of the Ahl-i Hadith, to which it owes allegiance. Following the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the Ahl-i Hadith began making gradual progress in the country, establishing mosques and madrasas of its own. It had to face with stiff resistance from traditional Sufis, for its opposition to Sufism and taqlid. It tended to have a more visible presence in urban areas, its strict scripturalist literalism appealing to groups such as urban traders who were not tied down to local Sufi shrines.

            Although the Ahl-i Hadith still has a limited following in Pakistan, from the 1980s onwards it was able to make considerable inroads in Pakistani society. A number of factors have combined to make for this. Firstly, the growing appeal of scripturalist Islam as a result of the rapid expansion in the number of madrasas or Islamic seminaries in the country in recent decades, many of which are sponsored by the Saudis and preach a conservative yet militant form of Islam that has a close resemblance with that of the Ahl-i Hadith. Secondly, the active sponsorship and patronising of such madrasas by the Pakistani state, under and after General Zia-ul Haq (d. 1988). Thirdly, the Afghan jihad against the Soviets, which saw a great expansion of resources for groups such as the Ahl-i Hadith, with massive amounts of aid, in the form of money and arms, pouring in from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Many Ahl-i Hadith and other Sunni madrasas emerged at this time as training grounds for militants active in the Afghan jihad. After expelling the Soviets from Kabul, these mujahids turned their attention to fresh pastures, Kashmir being one of them. Thus, from being a relatively minor group in Pakistan's Islamic landscape, the Ahl-i Hadith grew, by the end of the 1980s, into a major force, with scores of madrasas all over the country, particularly in the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, and several newspapers and journals articulating its vision of an Islamic revolution.

            Along with other Islamist groups, the Ahl-i Hadith immersed itself in the jihad in Afghanistan. In 1986 it set up the Markaz Da'wat wa'l Irshad, based in a sprawling 160-acre campus at Muridke, a town some 30 kilometres from Lahore, to train mujahidin to fight the Soviets. As the Markaz's activities rapidly grew, it was decided to divide its work into two separate but related sections: the educational and the jihadist. Thus, in 1993, the Markaz established its separate 'jihadic and warfare' wing, the Lashkar. The Lashkar later set up four training centres in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where, 'thousands of mujahidin from all over the world are being trained'. Markaz authorities claim that the militants produced at these centres have played a leading role in armed struggles, first in Afghanistan, and then in countries as far afield as Bosnia, Chechenya, Kosovo, the southern Philippines, Kashmir and 'in other areas where Muslims are fighting for freedom'.[9] All Muslims, it believes, are members of one global community. Oppression of Muslims anywhere makes it incumbent on Muslims everywhere to assist them, if necessarily through active engagement in violent conflict with their non-Muslim opponents.[10] As the Lashkar case so strikingly illustrates, one of the characteristic features of some contemporary Islamist movements is precisely this global agenda, a marked contrast with the local or national scope and ambitions of Islamist movements in the past.[11]

According to one report, in recent years the spread of the Markaz/Lashkar in Pakistan has been 'phenomenal', and today it has some five hundred offices all over the country, most of them in Punjab, which operate as recruitment centres for would-be mujahidin.[12] At its Muridke headquarters, the Markaz runs an Islamic school and university, most of whose students are local Pakistanis, with some from both Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Kashmiris from the Indian-ruled part of the state, and several Afghans and Arabs. Established in 1994, several hundred students have already graduated from the school. Scores of smaller schools run on the same lines have been set up in various other parts of Pakistan, and, by mid-2001, their number was said to be almost 130, with some 15,000 students and 800 teachers on their rolls.[13] Young boys of the age of eight are taken in and are given a 12-year training, which includes the standard Islamic disciples, taught from an Ahl-i Hadith perspective, English, Arabic, and Science, as well as the handling of weapons and techniques of armed combat. A strict military atmosphere is enforced. Students must wear military uniforms, abide by military discipline and 'properly assimilate the commandments of their theologians and military instructors that their future profession - as mujahidin- will be in great demand in the Muslim world on the threshold of the new millennium'.[14] Students from different countries and ethnic groups live together, and every effort is made to discourage ethnic differences. They must wear the same clothes, speak the same language (Urdu, Arabic). Names that might suggest local, clan, tribal or caste origins must be effaced.[15] The only identity that should matter to them is of being Muslim, ethnic differences being seen as working to divide and weaken the worldwide Muslim ummah.

At its four training centres, would-be mujahidin are given rigorous military training. This is of two kinds. Firstly, a short twenty-one day course, the daura-i 'ama ('general course'). Secondly, a three-month intensive course, the daura-i khasa ('special course'), geared to guerrilla warfare, in which trainees learn how to handle small arms as well as survival and ambush techniques.[16] These courses, it is claimed, 'change the course of life' of the trainees completely', and a sign of this is said to be that they 'no longer shave' and 'wear their shalwars (baggy trousers) above their ankles, as enjoined by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)'.[17] They are fired with a passionate zeal in what is said to be a 'holy' cause, willing to sacrifice their lives and attain 'martyrdom' for it. Families whose sons die in battles with the Indian forces are said to celebrate and rejoice their deaths, rather than mourn, for they are confident of their securing a place for themselves in heaven.[18] This has particularly crucial implications for how Kashmiri Lashkar activists see themselves. If, traditionally, Kashmiri Muslims were depicted as 'cowards', 'passive' or 'mild', and lax as far as religious observances were concerned, at least compared to their Pathan and Punjabi Muslim neighbours, they are now sought to be made 'true', 'brave' and 'fearless' Muslims, fired by the zeal of would-be 'martyrs' for the faith.



The Ideology of the Lashkar:


Like other Islamist groups, the Markaz/Lashkar sees Islam as a perfect, all- embracing system (nizam). Islam is said to govern all aspects of personal as well as collective life, in the form of the shari'ah. For the establishing of an Islamic system, an Islamic state is necessary, which will impose the shar'iah as the law of the land. This is seen as 'the solution to all our problems'.[19] If such a state were to be set up and all Muslims were to live strictly according to 'the laws that Allah has laid down', then, it is believed, 'they would be able to control the whole world and exercise their supremacy'.[20] Since the laws have already been laid down by God, there is no room for human beings to exercise their judgement in creating fresh legislation. Hence, democracy, in the sense of a system where people make their own laws, is condemned as completely un-Islamic[21]. Since Islam is seen as the very antithesis of nationalism, it demands the establishment of one universal Islamic state, ruled by a single khalifah. Thus, the present division of the Muslims into many nation-states must be overcome. Since 'the ummah is one', it follows from this that 'the system of khilafah does not recognise the physical borders or the independence of one Muslim country from another'. Hence, 'the state is one, the army is one, the flag is one, the budget is one, etc.'.[22]

The struggle for the establishment of the Islamic state can take various forms, peaceful as well as violent. Islam, the Lashkar admits, is 'a religion of peace and harmony', and seeks to 'eliminate mischief and disorder, and to provide peace, not only to Muslims but also to the entire humanity'. However, Muslims are commanded to take to armed struggle, or jihad, to defend their co-religionists suffering from the oppression of others. Such a situation is said to prevail over much of the world today. While jihad in defence of Islam and of Muslims labouring under oppression is presented as a liberation struggle, it is also seen as a means for Islam to 'prevail on this earth', for Islam is seen as the only true religion.[23] Armed jihad must continue 'until Islam, as a way of life, dominates the whole world and until Allah's law is enforced everywhere in the world'.[24]  Since Islam is meant for all peoples, the Islamic State must spearhead a movement to spread the Islamic 'ideology' all over the world. In the course of this struggle, it is 'expected' that it will encounter 'conflict' with other states and their ideologies. The conflict can be resolved through peaceful diplomacy, but, if that fails, then the only course left open for the Muslims is armed jihad.  In this sense, the Markaz/Lashkar believes, jihad is 'the foreign policy' of the Islamic State. This does not, however, mean that force can be used to coerce others into accepting Islam. Rather, jihad is seen as providing them with the 'security that comes from the application of Islam', while leaving them free to follow their own religion or to become Muslims.[25]

The subject of armed jihad runs right through the writings and pronouncements of the Markaz/Lashkar and is, in fact, the most prominent theme in its discourse. Indeed, its understanding of Islam maybe seen as determined almost wholly by this preoccupation, so much so that its reading of Islam seems to be a product of its own political project. Being born as a result of a war (in Afghanistan), fighting for a holy cause has become the very raison d'être of the Lashkar, and its subsequent development has been almost entirely determined by this concern.  The contours of its ideological framework are constructed in such a way that the theme of armed jihad appears as the central element of its project. In the writings and speeches of Markaz spokesmen jihad appears as violent conflict (qittal) waged against 'unbelievers' who are said to be responsible for the oppression of the Muslims. Indeed, it is projected as the one of the most central tenets of Islam, although it has traditionally not been included as one of the 'five pillars' of the faith. Thus, it is claimed that 'There is so much emphasis on this subject that some commentators and scholars of the Qur'an have remarked that the topic of the Qur'an is jihad'. Further, a Markaz statement declares, 'There is consensus of opinion among researchers of the Qur'an that no other action has been explained in such great detail as jihad'.[26]

The global jihadist programme of the Markaz presents itself as a 'liberationist' project, basing itself on widespread feelings of discontent and suffering of sections of Muslims who see themselves as being persecuted by Western-oriented elites in their own countries, as well as by the 'West' more generally. The greatest problem of the Muslims, says Hafiz Muhammad Sa8eed, head of the Markaz, is their 'subjugation to the West'.[27] Thus, the Markaz is reported to have gone so far as to call for a jihad against the USA.[28] 'All Muslims', the Markaz believes, are oppressed today, by such 'enemies' as the Hindus, the Jews or Christians. 'Wherever you look, you will find that non-believers are everywhere trying to enslave Muslims and destroy them', it argues. Hence, Muslims must form a 'solid bloc' to defend themselves from these 'enemies', and if all peaceful means fail they must resort to armed jihad for their liberation.[29] This Muslim bloc must be led by both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and have its headquarters at Mecca. It must aim at forming a pan-Islamic union based on strong trade, education and defence links, including a joint military command. Mujahidin from various Muslim countries would be trained to undertake jihad against unbelievers if peaceful means to put an end to oppression of Muslims fail. However, the Markaz insists, jihad is to be directed only at military and not civilian targets.  It is contrasted with other forms of war that are pursued for purely worldly concerns, and is described as 'the act of supreme sacrifice to preserve human rights bestowed by Allah'.[30] Jihad is thus a means for challenging 'oppression' and of establishing the rule of Islam.[31]


Jihad is seen as the secret of Muslim power in the past when much of the known world was under Muslim rule, and it is argued that when Muslims 'abandoned jihad and other injunctions they began to degenerate'.[32] In Markaz/Lashkar discourse, jihad is projected as a religious duty binding on all Muslims today. Thus, it is claimed that the prevailing global situation warrants all Muslims to be involved in some way or the other in jihad against non-Muslim 'oppressors'.[33]  In this grand enterprise there are different roles for different people to play. Those who are ordered by the khalifah to fight must do so, while others may be required to assist the mujahidin by supplying them food, arms and other supplies, providing medical assistance, looking after their families in their absence or even simply by exhorting others to participate in the war.[34] Thus, every Muslim, man or woman, must be mobilised to assist in the struggle in some form or the other, and if any Muslim has 'never intended to fight against the disbelievers', his or her faith 'is not without traces of hypocrisy'.[35] Those believers who have the capacity to participate or assist in the jihad but do not do so are said to 'be living a sinful life'.[36] On the other hand, Muslims are promised that they would receive great rewards, both in this world and in the Hereafter, if they were to actively struggle in the path of jihad. Not only would they be guaranteed a place in Heaven, but they would also 'be honoured in this world', for jihad is also 'the way that solves financial and political problems'.[37]


The Jihad in Kashmir and India


The Markaz sees its active involvement in the armed struggle in Kashmir as only one stage of a wider, indeed global, jihad against the forces of disbelief, stopping at nothing short of aiming at the conquest of the entire world. As Qari 'Abdul Wahid, former amir of the Lashkar in Indian-administered Kashmir, puts it, 'We will uphold the flag of freedom and Islam through jihad not only in Kashmir but in the whole world'.[38] Likewise, Nazir Ahmed, in-charge of the public relations department of the Markaz, declares that through the jihad that the mujahidin have launched, 'Islam will be dominant all over the world, Inshallah (God willing)'.[39] This war is seen as a solution to all the ills and oppression afflicting all Muslims, and it is claimed that 'if we want to live with honour and dignity, then we have to return back to jihad'.[40] Through jihad, it is believed, 'Islam will be supreme throughout the world'.[41] The mujahidin are promised that with the launching of the global jihad against all the 'unbelieving oppressors' of the world, 'The day is just round the corner when Islam will prevail in this earth, Insha Allah'.[42]


In Markaz/Lashkar discourse, the conflict in Kashmir is seen not as a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan, but as nothing less than a war between two different and mutually opposed ideologies: Islam, on the one hand, and disbelief [kufr], on the other. This is portrayed as only one chapter in a long a struggle between the two that is said to have characterised the history of Hindu-Muslim relations for the last 1400 years ever since the advent of the Prophet Muhammad.[43] The Prophet is claimed on the basis of a hadith to have singled out India as a special target for jihad. 'Whosoever will take part in jihad against India', Markaz leader Muhammad Ibrahim Salaf claims that the Prophet had declared, 'Allah will set him free from the pyre of hell'.[44]

The Markaz/Lashkar sees the roots of the Kashmir problem as lying in its Muslim rulers having been replaced, first by the Sikhs and then by the Hindu Dogras through British assistance. With India (the 'Hindus') having taken over Kashmir in 1947, a long and protracted reign of bloody terror is said to have been unleashed on the Kashmiri Muslims. This is seen as a direct and logical consequence of the teachings of Hinduism itself, because, it is alleged, 'the Hindus have no compassion in their religion'.[45] Hence, it is the duty of Muslims to wage jihad against the 'Hindu oppressors', for 'it is the Hindu who is a terrorist'.[46] All Hindus are tarred with the same brush, described in such essentialist terms as 'terrorists', 'traitors', 'cowards', 'enemies', etc., these powerfully echoing widely shared sentiments among Pathan and Punjabi Muslims of Hindus being 'weak' and 'slavish', having been subjected to 'Muslim' rule for centuries, and of being 'crafty' and 'cunning', probably owing to Hindu near-monopoly of trade and commerce in India. This also builds on Pathan sentiments of 'manly honour', 'chivalry' and 'bravery', which Hindus are supposed to lack, being allegedly 'effeminate' and 'cruel'. Thus, Hafiz Muhammad Sa8eed declares: 'In fact, the Hindu is a mean enemy and the proper way to deal with him is the one adopted by our forefathers [&] who crushed them by force. We need to do the same'.[47] India is a special target for the Markaz's mujahidin. According to the amir of the Markaz, Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed, 'The jihad is not about Kashmir only. It encompasses all of India'.[48] Thus, the Markaz sees the jihad as going far beyond the borders of Kashmir and spreading through all of India. The final goal is to extend Muslim control over what is seen as having once been Muslim land, and, hence, to be brought back under Muslim domination, creating 'the Greater Pakistan by dint of jihad'.[49] Thus, at a mammoth congregation of Markaz supporters in November 1999, Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed declared, 'Today I announce the break-up of India, Inshallah. We will not rest until the whole of India is dissolved into Pakistan'.[50] On the same occasion, Amir Hamza, senior Markaz official and editor of its Urdu organ, ad-Da'wa, thundered: 'We ought to disintegrate India and even wipe India out'.[51] Those who take part in this anti-Indian jihad are promised that 'Allah will save [them] from the pyre of hell', and 'huge palaces in paradise' await those who are killed in fighting the 'disbelieving enemies'.[52]


This project for the disintegration of India, followed by its take-over by Pakistan and the establishing an Islamic state in the entire sub-continent, is sought to be justified by an elaborate set of arguments that use the rhetoric of liberation. Thus, instances of human-sacrifice, untouchability, infanticide, the oppression of the 'low' castes by the Brahmins and the suppression of women in Hinduism are described in great detail, and on this basis it is sought to be shown that such a religion as Hinduism should not 'be allowed to flourish'. In Markaz literature, the mass slaughter of Muslims by Hindu chauvinist groups, often in league with the Indian state and its agencies, and the growing wave of attacks on other marginalised groups in India such as the 'low' caste Dalits, Shudras and Christians, are presented in stark colours, and the point forcefully made that such a country 'where non-Hindus are not allowed to exist' should break-up. The Markaz/Lashkar poses as a 'champion' of not just the oppressed Muslims of Kashmir or India but even of the 'low' caste Shudras and Dalits. It sees itself as having a divinely appointed mission of saving the Shudras from Brahminical tyranny. Thus, it says, 'It is incumbent upon us to save the Shudras of India [&]from the clutches of Brahmins', and insists that 'the Brahmin Authority' must be 'ransack[ed]'.[1] Although it claims that its jihad is aimed only against 'the tyrannical government and the army' and that 'nowhere do the mujahidin target non-Muslim or innocent people', there are reports that speak of Lashkar fighters being involved in the killing of several Hindu villagers in Jammu, Kashmir and in neighbouring Himachal Pradesh.[53]



The Lashkar's Involvement in Kashmir


Roots of Islamism in Kashmir


The emergence of the Lashkar as a powerful military force in Kashmir must be seen in the context of the emergence of an Islamist constituency in the region, a process that can be traced back to the early years of the twentieth century. A major development in Kashmir at this time was the establishment of the first branch of the Ahl-i Hadith in Srinagar, in 1925, by Sayyed Hussain Shah Batku, a Kashmiri student of the Madrasa Miyan Sahib in Delhi, a seminary set up by one of the pioneers of the Ahl-i Hadith in India, Maulvi Nazir Hussain. On his return to Kashmir after completing his education, Batku began directed his attention at attacking what he saw as 'un-Islamic' and 'Hinduistic' practices and beliefs associated with the popular Sufism of the Kashmiri Muslims. Batku is said to have 'raised a storm of controversy' for his critique of customary practices which he condemned as 'un-Islamic', such as visiting Sufi shrines, imploring Sufi saints for interceding with God, keeping fasts on particular days dedicated to various saints and reciting litanies (aurad) in the mosques.  This is said to have seriously 'aggrieved the leading theologians of Srinagar'. The leading Hanafi ulama of Kashmir are said to have issued several fatawa against him, branding him as 'an apostate and an infidel' and as the dajjal (Anti-Christ), subjecting him to a 'social boycott'.[54]

            Among the other notable pioneers of the Ahl-i Hadith in Kashmir were Maulana Anwar Shah Shopiani (d.1969), Maulana Ghulam Nabi Mubaraki (1902-80) and Sabzar Shah. Anwar Shah was a close disciple of Batku, and played a major role in spreading the message of the Ahl-i Hadith in Srinagar and Shopian. He also undertook missionary tours to outlying regions of the state, including Bhadarwah (Doda) and Ladakh. Like Anwar Shah, Maulana Mubaraki was a trained 'alim, a prolific writer and a powerful orator. He edited two Ahl-i Hadith journals, Tauhid and Muslim, and wrote extensively against the Ahmadis, the Shi'as, the Arya Samajists and the Christian missionaries, all of whom he saw as bent on the extirpation of Islam from Kashmir. He served as the president of the Ahl-i Hadith jama'at in Kashmir for several years, as well as the Imam of the Ahl-i Hadith Jam9ia mosque in Srinagar. Unlike Anwar Shah and Mubarakpuri, Sabzar Shah was not a trained 8alim, although he is said to have 'grasped the fundamentals of Islam and wedded himself to the cause of the Ahl-i Hadith'. In order to convey the message of the Ahl-i Hadith beyond the relatively narrow circle of middle-class Kashmiris, to which it had been largely restricted, he would roam the streets of Srinagar in the garb of a peddler selling soaps, combs, pins, bangles and toys. To his customers, mostly women and children, he would invariably speak about the 'strict monotheism' of the Ahl-i Hadith and would fiercely denounce 'shrine worship and other polytheistic practices'. For this, it is said, he was beaten on numerous occasions, but, it is said, he refused to relent.[55] 

In the face of the great opposition, the Ahl-i Hadith managed to make a small, yet significant number of converts, mainly in the towns of Srinagar, Islamabad (Anantnag) and Shopian. In 1923, in order to co-ordinate the efforts of individual activists, and to 'face the determined challenge posed by the mullas of Kashmir', a central organisation, the Anjuman Ahl-i Hadith Jammu and Kashmir, was established in Srinagar, with one Haji Muhammad Shahdad as its president. The establishment of the organisation 'came as a thunderbolt' to the traditional Hanafi 'ulama and Sufis of Kashmir, who are said to have now 'declared a virtual war' on the Ahl-i Hadith. Several Ahl-i Hadith activists were physically attacked; a social boycott was instituted against them; they were turned out of their localities; and, being branded as apostates, they were refused entry into the mosques, following which they had to set up their own separate places of worship.[56] Leading Hanafi 8ulama issued fatawa declaring them to be non-Muslim renegades.[57]

Despite the zeal of its activists, the Ahl-i Hadith singularly failed to develop a mass following in Kashmir.[58] Several factors may be adduced for this. Firstly, its stern opposition to the 'blind imitation' of the schools of jurisprudence brought upon it the wrath of the traditional Hanafi 'ulama, who exercised a significant influence in Kashmir. Secondly, its hostility to Sufism, which it branded as an innovation not sanctioned by the practice of the Prophet, could hardly win the hearts of many Kashmiris, given the strong influence of popular Sufism in the region. For their trenchant criticism of popular practices associated with the shrines and cults of the Sufis, the followers of the Ahl-i Hadith were branded by the Kashmiri 'ulama as kafirs (unbelievers) and munkar-i auliya ('deniers of the friends of God'), this greatly limiting their appeal to the Kashmiri Muslims. Thus, The Mirwai'z of the Khanqah-i Mu'alla, one of Kashmir's most important Sufi shrines, denounced the Ahl-i Hadith as the dajjal (Anti-Christ). One Hanafi 'alim issued a fatwa declaring that no Muslim should marry a follower of the Ahl-i Hadith, and nor could the corpse of an Ahl-i Hadith follower be buried in a Muslim graveyard. Other 'ulama declared it impermissible (haram) for Hanafi Muslims to pray along with Ahl-i Hadith followers. For their part, Ahl-i Hadith Imams condemned Kashmiri  Hanafi mosques as 'little better than temples', because of the practice therein of reciting litanies (aurad) aloud before the congregational prayers [59]

The Ahl-i Hadith's advocacy of a stern, legalistic understanding of Islam brooked no compromise with deeply rooted local cultural traditions, many of which it did not hesitate to brand as 'Hindu' or 'un-Islamic'. This naturally limited its appeal among many Kashmiris. In addition, the Ahl-i Hadith focussed most of its efforts in the towns of Kashmir, almost completely neglecting the countryside, where most Kashmiri Muslims lived. It confined itself, by and large, to stirring religious controversy and preaching, not providing any significant social services which might have made for a larger following. Further, internal differences contributed to the weakening of the movement. In 1940, it split into two rival groups on the issue of qabl-i zawal, or on whether the Friday congregational prayers could be offered between 11 am and 12 noon.[60]

Writing in 1997, Wani noted that the Ahl-i Hadith has not been able to 'take deep roots in the [Kashmir] valley'.[61] Rather, it remains a largely elitist phenomenon, with its core support base among a limited section of the urban lower middle and middle classes, roughly the same core support-base of competing groups such as the secular nationalist JKLF and the Islamist Jama'at-i Islami. Although Ahl-i Hadith thus failed to establish a mass base for itself in Kashmir, it did provide fertile soil for the emergence of other Muslim reformist trends from the 1930s onwards, inspired by its efforts at purging the popular Kashmir Muslim religious tradition of elements that were deemed to be 'un-Islamic'. These trends, in turn, played a significant role in preparing the ground for radical Islamist[62] groups, including the Lashkar. Of particular importance in this regard was the emergence of the Jama'at-i Islami. Established in 1941 by Sayyed Abul 'Ala Maududi, and organised as an independent organisation and political party in Kashmir in 1952, the Jama'at-i Islami is now a major force to contend with in the region.[63] Like the Ahl-i Hadith, the Jama'at-i Islami sought to combat 'un-Islamic' practices, but, unlike it, it abstained from directly attacking the Sufi tradition, and refrained from branding other Muslims as apostates or deviant. In contrast to the Ahl-i Hadith, the Jama'at was not opposed to Sufism as such but only to those practices and beliefs associated with popular Sufism, which it saw as 'un-Islamic'.[64] Its advocacy of an Islam based on the model of the Prophet's Companions and its opposition to what was seen as local 'un-Islamic' customs, such as prostration at the graves of saints, beseeching them for help, keeping fasts or holding feasts on special days dedicated to them, made for a growing appeal to a class of educated, particularly urban, Kashmir Muslims who were influenced by Muslim reformists currents from outside. Unlike the Ahl-i Hadith, which devoted most of its energies simply to preaching and entering into controversies with its Muslim opponents, the Jama'at gave great stress to modern education, setting up scores of schools where secular as well as religious subjects were taught. Its social services, combined with its resolute opposition to Indian rule, won it considerable support among many Kashmiri Muslims, disillusioned with the politics of the ruling National Conference for what they saw as 8selling out9 the interests of the Kashmiris to India.  For many young Muslims belonging to this class, the Jama'at's understanding of a socially engaged Islam was seen as an attractive alternative to popular Sufism, that was branded as 'other-worldly', 'superstitious', 'corrupt', and, above all, 'un-Islamic'. It is primarily among this constituency that the Ahl-i Hadith's vision of Islam, which the Lashkar represents, derives its greatest support in Kashmir today. Owing to their shared commitment to a radical understanding of Islam, the Lashkar seems to have been able to win over the support of several Kashmiris associated with or sympathetic to the Jama'at-i Islami, thus making for a broader appeal for the Ahl-i Hadith than it previously enjoyed.


The Lashkar in Kashmir


As in the case of the other Pakistan-based militant groups now active in Kashmir, the Lashkar's direct participation in the Kashmir conflict dates back to the end of the Afghan war in 1992, in which an estimated 1600 of its militants are said to have participated. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Lashkar shifted its attention to Kashmir to 'help the oppressed and innocent Kashmiris who were undergoing Indian aggression for the past fifty years'.[65] In this, it was assisted by the Jama'at-i Islami of Pakistan and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the powerful Pakistani secret service agency, both key players in the Afghan jihad.[66] Raman, an Indian political analyst, writes that from 1992 onwards, the Pakistani authorities began sponsoring militant Islamist outfits, including the Lashkar, to undertake what it called a jihad in Kashmir, instead of channelling such aid directly, in order to escape being branded as a 'terrorist state'. Raman calls this the 'privatisation of jihad', and remarks that the patronage given to these groups must be seen as a reflection of the growing fear of mass support of the JKLF and its advocacy of an independent Kashmir, which went fundamentally against Pakistan's own perceived interests.[67] The Islamists were seen as a far more reliable ally, for all of them are fiercely opposed to nationalism, and, therefore, insist that Kashmir must join Muslim Pakistan, this being seen as but the prelude to a grand unity of all Muslims. With various militant Islamist groups, many of them Pakistan-based and led by Pakistanis, now being liberally assisted by the Pakistani state, assistance to the JKLF began drying up. Presumably, the Indian authorities must have seen this new situation to their advantage, as it meant a serious division in Kashmiri Muslim ranks.

The Lashkar is said to have first entered Kashmir in 1990[68], sending in a number of its trained activists, most of who were Pakistani nationals. It then 'upgraded' its jihad there in 1993, when its militants attacked an Indian army base in Poonch. In 1994, following the laying down of arms by the JKLF, the Lashkar began sending large numbers of its fighters into Kashmir, most of them from outside Kashmir, mainly Pakistanis, Kashmiris from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and Afghans. 1996 witnessed a major shift in the Lashkar's Kashmir strategy, with greater attention being paid to the border districts of Jammu, particularly Rajouri and Poonch, areas dominated by non-Kashmiri Muslims such as the cattle-grazing Gujjars and Bakkarwals, ethnically related to the Punjabi Muslims, as well as Doda. Reports suggest that some of the mass killings of Hindu villagers in these areas have been its handiwork, with the aim of engineering an exodus of the Hindu population of these areas so as to make its task easier.[69] By mid-2001, the Lashkar claimed, it had killed 14369 Indian soldiers in Kashmir, losing in the process 1016 of its own men. [70]

In mid-1999 India and Pakistan almost came to war after Pakistan-based militants, believed to have been backed by the Pakistani army, occupied certain strategic heights in the Kargil sector in the Ladakh region in the remote northern part of Kashmir. The four principal militant groups taking part in this operation, all Islamist and manned mainly by non-Kashmiris, were the Harkat ul-Mujahidin, the Tehrik-i Jihad, al-Badr and the Lashkar.[71] These groups together formed a joint military command to co-ordinate their military operations against the Indian army.[72] The Lashkar contingent consisted, among others, of several students from its college at Muridke, led by one 'Abdur Rahman 'Abid, a graduate of Madinah University.[73] The Lashkar force was joined by some two hundred militants from the Nuristan province of Afghanistan, the first time that such a large number of Afghan fighters had entered Kashmir in recent years.[74]

          The Pakistani attempt to enter Kashmir through Kargil, however, failed, and under pressure from the West, the then Pakistani Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, appealed to the militants to withdraw from the heights that they had captured. The militants reluctantly obeyed what they saw as Sharif's capitulation to the USA, but announced what they called 'the second stage' of the Kashmir jihad- taking the battle against the Indian army right inside the Kashmir valley itself, in order, as Zaki ur-Rahman Lakhvi, the amir of the Lashkar, put it, 'to avenge' the atrocities unleashed by the Indian army on the Kashmiri Muslims.  According to the amir of the Markaz, Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed, in this second phase 'the jihad would spread all across Kashmir. It would spread to every peak, every forest and every path'.[75] As part of this new strategy, the Lashkar came up with a new means of attack suicide bombers, which it named as 'Ibn Taimiya Fida'i ('Faithful') Missions', in memory of the medieval Arab Islamic scholar who crusaded against what he saw as un-Islamic practices, and to whom the Ahl-i-Hadith owes much of its inspiration.

The successful attack by a fida'i mission on the Indian army headquarters in Srinagar in November 1999, in which several Indian soldiers were killed, came as a great boost to the morale of the Lashkar fighters, smarting under their forced withdrawal some months earlier from the Kargil heights. In the wake of the attack, Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed declared before an audience of an estimated three hundred thousand people in Muridke in November 1999 that his fighters could now 'strike anywhere in India', threatening even to target the Indian Prime Minister's office if India did not stop its aggression against the Kashmiri Muslims and vacate Kashmir. The jihad, declared the Hafiz, was not now limited simply to freeing Kashmir from Indian control. Rather, he stressed, it was aimed at 'liberating' India itself.[76]He revealed that the Lashkar was now planning to extend its activities beyond the borders of Kashmir deep inside India. [77] Some 50,000 Pakistani youth are said to have responded to this appeal to join the grand anti-India crusade. That this was no empty boasting was made clear in a Lashkar attack on an Indian army post at the Red Fort, the very heart of Delhi, in December, 2000, in which several Indian soldiers are said to have been killed.


The Limits of Jihad: Its Implications for Kashmir, India and Pakistan


The development of the Ahl-i Hadith in Kashmir, from being a marginal group, fiercely opposed to by many Kashmiri Muslims, to emerging, in the form of the Lashkar, as the most formidable element in the on-going armed struggle in the region, poses crucial questions regarding the actual level of support for the Ahl-i Hadith's own vision of Islam in Kashmir.  Given the limited support for the Ahl-i Hadith in Kashmir prior to the outbreak of the armed struggle in 1989, it appears that its emergence as a major actor in the region owes largely to the role of the Lashkar in taking on the Indian army. The support for the Lashkar in Kashmir, limited though it might be, must, then, be seen as essentially a result of its stern opposition to Indian rule rather than as representing any considerable acceptance of its theological vision. In assessing the Kashmiri Muslim response to the Lashkar9s involvement in the region, a clear distinction needs to be made between how many Kashmiri Muslims would probably see the Lashkar's military strikes against Indian soldiers and army installations, on the one hand, and how far they might accept its understanding of Islam and its own ultimate agenda, on the other. Many Kashmiris, and not necessarily all supporters of a 'Wahhabi' sort of Islam, might well support the Lashkar in its willingness to take engage the Indian army.  On the other hand, the consistent opposition of the Lashkar to any negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue, insisting that the only solution of the question is carrying on with the jihad till the region finally merges with Pakistan, certainly limits its potential support base.[78] The fact that the Lashkar is almost entirely in the hands of Pakistanis and Kashmiris from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and that it refuses to recognise the possibility of an independent Kashmir, means that it has a very limited appeal to those Kashmiris who support an independent, sovereign state, which, however, neither India nor Pakistan seem willing to accede.

 A further obstacle in the path of the Lashkar in Kashmir is its own understanding of Islam, rigid, regimented and vehemently opposed as it is to Sufism. 'Sufism', the Lashkar insists, 'has been designed with no other purpose than to dampen the spirit of jihad'.[79] Since jihad is seen as integral to Islam, Sufism is regarded as 'un-Islamic'. The Lashkar's vehement opposition to Sufism, in line with the Ahl-i Hadith position on the matter, seems at striking odds with Kashmir tradition, where Sufism is still deeply rooted. The history of the spread of Islam in Kashmir is virtually synonymous with the missionary efforts of various Sufi orders, most notably the Kubrawi, the Suhrawardi, the Qadri, the Naqshbandi and the Rishi. Till today, Sufism remains the dominant form of Islamic expression in Kashmir, and the vehement opposition to it from Islamist groups that see it as 'un-Islamic' has registered little success. Indeed, defenders of the cults centred round the Sufi saints have not hesitated to brand the 'Wahhabis'[80] as 'un-Islamic' and 'enemies of the faith' in turn. Till such time as Sufism remains dominant in the region, and continues to play a central role in the definition of Kashmiri identity, there seems little hope for groups such as the Lashkar to see their understanding of Islam win popular acceptance for their vision of Islam. The Lashkar is even less likely to find warm support among the Shi'as of the region, who form the majority in the Kargil district of Ladakh and are a sizeable minority in the Kashmir Valley, for the Shi'as are seen by the Ahl-i Hadith as non-Muslim 'heretics'.


If the odds seem so heavily weighed against the Lashkar in attempting to win support for its own vision of Islam among the Kashmiri Muslims, it can still continue to play a major role in escalating the conflict in the region, making it even more difficult to resolve the issue. The Lashkar insists that dialogue with the 'disbelievers' is prohibited in Islam, and that hence the only way ahead is through armed jihad.[81] This intransigence has serious implications for all three parties to the Kashmir dispute India, Pakistan as well as the people of Kashmir. While carrying on with the armed strikes in order to inflict maximum damage to India might suit the short-term interests of the Pakistani establishment, it might, as some commentators have warned, have major consequences for Pakistan's own future, the full implications of which do not seem to have been appreciated by the managers of Pakistan's Kashmir policy. It is quite possible that the growing strength of groups like the Lashkar might mean that Pakistan, too, could soon be engulfed in civil war, with armed groups seeking to take over the country in the name of establishing an Islamic order.

The Lashkar, for its part, insists that it will not stop with its jihad in Kashmir, but, rather, regards it as but the beginning of a greater struggle to establish an Islamic state in all of South Asia, including both India as well as Pakistan. It has repeatedly condemned what it sees as 'un-Islamic' forces within Pakistan, demanding that there should be a 'total enforcement of Allah's shari'ah' in the country.[82] The Pakistani ruling elite are accused of 'disbelief', for taking the name of Islam, while at the same time refusing to establish an Islamic system in the country. There is every fear that if the Pakistani state were to enter into some sort of agreement with India on Kashmir, armed Islamist groups active in Kashmir today might turn their attention inwards, and seek to carry on with their agenda at home through armed struggle. Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed, the amir of the Markaz, himself hints at the possibility, cautioning that, 'As soon as we start to fight the disbelievers, we are sure to stop fighting among ourselves. But if we persist in keeping from jihad against the enemy, we are bound to go on fighting among ourselves'.[83] Pakistani political scientist Eqbal Ahmad, sensing the very real threat of militant Islamist groups, many of them active in Kashmir today, plunging Pakistan into a bloody civil war, warns his countrymen, 'The chickens of jihads once sponsored by imperialism and the [Pakistani] state have been coming home to roost. Afghanistan threatens to become a metaphor for the future'.[84] Ahmad's appeal seems to have fallen on deaf ears, for the Pakistani establishment seems oblivious to the consequences of its continued patronage of groups such as the Lashkar, that today have become so powerful as to be, in the words of Minhas, a Pakistani analyst, quite 'unmanageable'.[85]

The implications of the Lashkar's determination to carry on with what it calls a jihad against India poses serious questions for India, too, faced as it is with the growing threat of Hindu militancy, targetted primarily against the country's large Muslim population. As mentioned earlier, the Lashkar views its involvement in Kashmir as merely a prelude to a grand war against India, aiming at nothing less than the merger of India into a 'Greater Pakistan'. It sees itself as crusading on behalf of India's Muslims, who are said to be labouring under great oppression at the hands of militant Hindu organizations and the Indian government.[86] Leading Markaz spokesmen have appealed for Indian Muslim leaders to launch an armed struggle against India. [87] Not many Indian Muslims would, however, seem to be receptive to the appeals of the Lashkar to launch a jihad against the Hindus. With a Hindu right-wing government in power in India, and the growing challenge of Hindutva fascism, voices calling for peace and dialogue with the Hindus seem to prevail over those insisting on confrontation and conflict.


The Crisis in Afghanistan and the Lashkar in Kashmir


The American reprisals against the Taliban following the 11 September, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, were fiercely opposed by Islamist groups, including the Lashkar. In the wake of the attacks, the Lashkar is said to have despatched several of its armed volunteers to Afghanistan, to supplement the 600 Lashkar special guards who had earlier been specially appointed as personal security for Osama bin Laden.[88] The Lashkar viewed the American assault on Afghanistan as the launching of a new 'crusade' by the 'Christian' West against the Muslim world. One of the principal aims of the attacks, it claimed, was to destroy Pakistan's nuclear capabilities.[89] The head of the Markaz warned Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf not to co-operate with America, and issued a thinly veiled threat, calling for defiance of the government if it continued to toe the American line.[90] The head of the fatwa section of the Markaz, Mufti 8Abdur Rahman, issued a fatwa claiming it a binding duty on all Muslims to help their Afghan co-religionists. If Pakistan's rulers supported America, he laid down, this would be treated as a gross violation of Islam, and they would be considered as 'rebels and traitors of Allah and His prophet'. If a group of Muslims is attacked by 'unbelievers', the fatwa said, 'the entire Muslim community must help it, even through war'. In the ongoing 'war between Islam and disbelief', as it described it, it declared, 'it has become obligatory for all the Muslim states in the interest of the dignity of Islam and the Muslims to [&] forge unity in their own ranks and send their armies to support jihad and the mujahidin'. [91]


Under pressure from the Americans, Musharraf was forced to take action against some militant groups based in Pakistan and active in Afghanistan, including the Lashkar. Several leading Lashkar activists, including the head of the organisation, Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed, were arrested, only to be soon released. Careful not to embarrass Musharraf, and to win his support for its continued involvement in Kashmir, the Markaz reorganised itself in December 2001, setting up two separate wings. The first, christened as the Jama'at ud-Da''wa , was to focus on tabligh or Islamic missionary activism and on 'political and reformist activities'. The other, which would retain the name of the Lashkar-i Tayyeba, would devote itself to jihad, which would remain confined to Kashmir alone. In other words, jihadist activities of the Lashkar in other parts of the world were to be stopped, and the resources of the organisations directed to Kashmir. In the face of charges that the mainly Punjabi Pakistani Lashkar activists in Kashmir had taken over the movement and had, in the process, marginalized the Kashmiris, a new central committee of the Lashkar was set up in late December 2001, which consisted entirely of Kashmiris, from both Pakistani- and Indian-administered parts of the state, and headed by a little-known Kashmiri Islamic scholar, 'Abdul Wahid. This promoting of Kashmiris within the central apparatus of the organisation was also intended to rebut charges of the militant movement in Kashmir being an externally inspired and directed one, and not an indigenous 'liberation' struggle.[92]  Significantly, alongside this, the radical anti-American rhetoric was toned down in the Markaz's official website, probably under pressure from Musharraf. However, despite Musharraf's insistence that Pakistan was taking all possible steps to prevent the entry of militants into Kashmir from its territory, Lashkar activists continue to cross over into Kashmir and their military engagements with the Indian armed forces show no sign of letting up.






The continuation of the armed conflict in Kashmir has resulted in untold sufferings for the Kashmiris, and has also diverted scarce resources from desperately needed development work to an unprecedented arms build-up in the region. An entire generation has grown up in Kashmir for whom killings are a daily affair. It is increasingly becoming clear to many, including the Kashmiris themselves, that the only possible long-term, viable solution to the vexed Kashmir issue is through a negotiated agreement between India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir that satisfies all parties to the dispute. Armed conflict can only mean a further tragic loss of life and continued destruction. Given this, it appears that if groups such as the Lashkar refuse to read the signs of the times they might be threatened with further marginalisation. Already muffled voices within Kashmir's pro-Pakistan Jama'at-i Islami, in addition to pro-independence Kashmiri nationalist groups, have been calling for peaceful dialogue, and it seems, one hopes, a matter of time before other Islamist groups would begin to veer round to seeking a resolution of the dispute through peaceful means.[93]

In this context, the refusal of certain Islamist groups in Pakistan and Kashmir, such as the Lashkar, on the one hand, and militant Hindu groups in India, on the other, to consider a negotiated settlement of the dispute, based on the aspirations of the Kashmiris themselves, is the greatest hurdle in the path of establishing peace in the region. With any move towards peaceful negotiation of the dispute ruled out on the grounds that entering into agreements with 'disbelievers' is forbidden in Islam, the Lashkar insists that the jihad must continue till its logical culmination the break-up of India and its absorption into a 'Greater Pakistan'. While this seems an obviously vain and dangerous hope, it is a vision, one must recognise, that inspires thousands of Lashkar activists, leading them on to even sacrificing their lives, to kill or to be killed.

The Lashkar has been able to carve for itself a presence as a major actor in the Kashmir conflict less because of the appeal of its ideology than owing to its engagement with Indian armed forces in the region. The 8Islamisation9 of the conflict has had crucial implications for the way in which numerous Kashmiris have come to see themselves. The image, long internalised, of Kashmiris as 'passive' 'cowards' has been forcefully challenged by gun-wielding militants. The tolerant, rich and vibrant Kashmiri Sufi tradition has come under great strain, as new forms of understanding Islam have emerged, stressing conflict, armed jihad and martyrdom.  If Kashmir was one of the few parts of South Asia that were spared the frenzy of Hindu-Muslim violence in 1947, it owed, in large measure, to the deeply embedded Sufi traditions of the Kashmiris. Today, with traditional Sufism being under threat from competing understandings of Islam, and with unrelenting assaults on Muslims in India at the hands of Hindu chauvinist groups, Kashmir's indigenous religious resources of conflict-management and inter-community dialogue seem powerless to pose any major challenge to the politics of religious hatred. In the meanwhile, the toll of innocents, sacrificial victims at the altar of communal strife, continues to mount.



[1] The JKLF abandoned the path of military struggle in 1994, believing that the struggle for Kashmiri independence should be carried out using non-violent means.

[2] The Markaz9s website can be accessed on However, the contents of the site are constantly changed, and many articles quoted here have been removed, particularly after the incidents of 11 September, 2001.

[3] Tariq Ali, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, Verso, London & New York, 2002, p.199.

[4] Shakeel Ahmad Meeruthi, foreword in Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf, Tehrik-i-Jihad, Jama9at Ahl-i-Hadith Aur 8Ulama-i-Ahnaf, Dar-ul Kitab Islamiya, Delhi, 2000, p. 3. See also, Sanaullah Amritsari, Ahl-i Hadith Aur Islam, Dar-ul Kitab, New Delhi, n.d., p.8.


[5] Abu Naim, Bar-i Saghir Mai Agar Wahhabi Na Hotey, Ahl-i Hadith Academy, Maunath Bhanjan, 2002, p.21.

[6] Hafiz Salahuddin Yusuf, Tehrik-i-Jihad, Jama9at Ahl-i Hadith Aur 8Ulama-i Ahnaf, Dar ul-Kitab Islamia, Delhi, 2000, p. 54. For this purpose, some saw the need for co-operating with the Hindus to overthrow the British, and hence several Ahl-i Hadith 8ulama joined the Indian National Congress          

( Sa9eed 8Abdul Bari, Azad Hindustan Mai Muslim Tanzimey: Ek Ja9iza, Institute of Objective Studies, New Delhi, 2001, pp.147-48).

[7] Abu Muhammad Shakil Ahmad Meeruthi, Akabir 8Ulama-i Ahnaf Ke Bhuley Bisrey Fatawe, Dar ul- Kitab Islamiya, Delhi, 2001, p.32). 

[8] Barbara D. Metcalf, Islamic Revival in British India: Deoband, 1860-1900, Princeton University Press, Princeton, 1982, p. 283.

[9] A Brief Introduction to the Markaz and the Lashkar, These four centres are the Mu8askra-i-Taiba, the Aqsa, the Umm al-Qurra and 8Abdullah bin Ma8sud.

[10] A fierce advocate of pan-Islamism, the Markaz/Lashkar seeks to unite Muslims all over the world into one solid bloc. It is said to be part of Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden9s 8International Front for Jihad Against the USA and Israel9 (Badamibagh And After,

[11] I owe this point to Francis Robinson.

[12] Lashkar-i-Taiba: The New Masters of Kashmir,


[14] Jihad,

[15] Names are also probably changed to conceal their actual identities. A radical uniformity is sought to be imposed by giving the recruits a common Arabic title of Abu (8father of), after which an Arabic name is added.

[16] Allah9s Army: Mujahideen-e-Lashkar-e-Taiba,

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Implementation of Shar9iah is a Cure-All,

[20] Speech of Hafiz 8Abdur Rahman Makki,

[21] Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Neither Despotism Nor Democracy in Islam,, p.2.

[22] Democratic System vs. Islamic Polity,

[23] Editorial, Voice of Islam, February, 2000,, p.2.

[24] Jihad in the Present Times [part 1],, p.2.

[25] Jihad: The Foreign Policy of the Islamic State,, p.1.                                         .

[26] Jihad: The Foreign Policy of the Islamic State,, p.2.

[27] Hafiz Muhammad Sa8eed, Jihad is the Only Solution,

[28] B.Raman, Osama Bin Laden: An Up-Date,, p.3.

[29] Radio al-Jihad,


[30] What Jihad Means in Islam,, p.2.





[33] Jihad in the Present Times [part iii], op.cit.,  p. 3,

[34] Jihad in the Present Times, [part iii], op.cit., p.3.

[35]  Jihad in the Present Times, part [ii], op.cit.,  p.5.

[36] Jihad in the Present Times, [p.iii], op.cit.,  p.7.

[37] Hafiz Muhammad Sa9eed, Khutbah Jumu8ah,, p.1.


[39] Jihad is the Only Solution,

[40] Speech by Qari 8Abdul Wahid Kashmiri,

[41] Speech by Abu Sa8ad Shabbir Ahmad,

[42] Editorial, Voice of Islam, February, 2000, p.2,



[44], p.1.

[45] Kashmir: The Forgotten Jihad,, p.1.

[46] Radio al-Jihad,

[47] Hafiz Muhammad Sa8eed, No More Dialogue on Kashmir,

[48] Ibid..

[49] Hafiz Muhammad Sa'eed9s address to the Takmil-i Pakistan Conference,, p.1.

[50] Hafiz Muhammad Sa8eed, Khutbah Jumu8ah,, p.1.

[51] Hafiz Muhammad Sa8eed, Khutbah Jumu8ah,, p.1.

[52] Speech by Muhammad Ibrahim Salafi,

[53] Speech by Muhammad Ibrahim Salafi,

[54] Mushtaq Ahmad Wani, Muslim Religious Trends in Kashmir in Modern Times, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna, 1997, pp.35-36.

[55] Ibid., pp.36-37.

[56] Ahl-i-Hadith followers generally worship in separate mosques all over South Asia, many of them refusing to pray behind Imams belonging to other Muslim groups. Their practice of amin bi9l jahr (announcing amen aloud) and rafa-i yada9in (lifting the hands till the ears before genuflecting in prayer) clearly distinguish them from the Hanafis. On numerous occasions, Ahl-i Hadith followers have been forcibly expelled from Hanafi mosques.

[57] Ibid., 1941.

[58] Bashir Ahmad Khan, 'The Ahl-i Hadith: A Socio-Religious Reform Movement in Kashmir', The Muslim World, vol.90, nos. 1 & 2, Spring 2000, p.133.


[59] Ibid., pp.138-151.

[60] Wani, op.cit., p.41.

[61] Wani, op.cit., p.41.

[62] Islamism, understood here as a political ideology committed to the setting up of an Islamic state, inspired by a vision of Islam as an all-embracing ideology.

[63] For details, see Ashiq Kashmiri, Tarikh-i-Tahrik-i-Islami Jammu Aur Kashmir: Aghaz-i-Islam Se 1947 Tak, Department of Publications and Publicity, Jama8at-i-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, n.d., and by the same author, Tarikh-i-Tehrik-i-Islami Jammu Aur Kashmir:1947 Se 1970 Tak, Department of Publications and Publicity, Jama'at-i-Islami of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar, 1984.

[64] Several leading early Jama9at activists hailed from Sufi families known for their piety and scholarship. Senior Jama'at leader, Qari Saifuddin, translated and published the works of the leading Kashmiri Rishi, Hazrat Nuruddin Nurani, presenting him as an orthodox Muslim, in contrast to the image of him as  having been an unorthodox Sufi and  a proponent of syncretism.   

[65] Allah9s Army&, op.cit..

[66] Are the Talibans Coming?,

         [67] B.Raman, Kashmir: After Ten years of Militancy,


[68] Bhim Singh, Sulagta Kashmir, Voice of Millions, New Delhi, 1996, p.128

[69] Lashkar-I-Taiba: The New Masters of Kashmir, op.cit..


[71] These groups all share a common commitment to an Islamist vision. Some of these groups are clearly sponsored by the Pakistanis, who, it seems, feel that the existence of multiple groups would make them more dependent on Pakistan. A united movement, it would appear, might pose serious challenges to Pakistani control and manipulation.

[72] Kashmiri Militants Fighting Indian Advance,

[73] Kargil: The Graveyard of Indian Troops,

[74] Militants Say Over 200 Afghans Deployed In Kashmir,

[75] Kashmir Militants Start 8Round Two9 Of Struggle,

[76] Kargil:The Graveyard of Indian Troops, op.cit..

[77] Ijitma Coverage By Indian Newspapers,

[78] 8There is no negotiated settlement in Islam9, a Markaz statement insists, adding that, 8there should be no deal with the disbelivers [as] [t]here is no way the disbelievers will allow Islam to prevail (Kashmir, the Forgotten Jihad,, p.1.

[79] Jihad in the Present Times [part v],, p.3.

[80] A term used to refer to the followers of the eighteenth century Arab Muhammad ibn 8Abdul Wahhab, who vehemently opposed Sufism, branding it as 8un-Islamic9.

[81] Hafiz Muhammad Sa9eed, Hizbul Mujahideen Should Not be Deceived by India9s False Promises,, p.2.

[82] Hafiz Muhammad Sa9eed, No More Dialogue on Kashmir,, p.2.


[84] Eqbal Ahmad, Jihad International Incorporated,, p.4.

[85] Saeed Ahmed Minhas, Sectarianism and Deeni Madaris in Pakistan,, p.1.

[86], p.1.


[88] media/jtimes/200220_4/014.htm.


[90] 8Lashkar-i-Taiba Chief Urges Muslim Ummah to Rise, Stand Shoulder to Shoulder with the Afghans9. Jihad Times, 26 October, 2001 [].

[91] Mufti Abdur Rahman, 8The Decree in Support of Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan9,


[93] Sati Sahni, Kashmir Underground, Har-Anand Publications, New Delhi, 1999, p.132.

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