Militant Groups in Kashmir: An Analysis

06 Sep, 1999    ·   258

D.Suba Chandran analyses the three major militant groups operating in Kashmir

There are at least three major militant groups active in Kashmir , Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen besides a number of minor groups such as Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen, Al Badar, Al Barq, Al Jihad etc. Though these groups fought in Kargil under the banner of the United Jihad Council, they do not form a monolithic entity. There are immense differences among them in terms of their objectives, their area of operations, the people and groups who support them and finally the level of support they receive from the Pakistan government and the ISI.



Lashkar-e-Toiba, (Army of the Pure) is the militant wing of Markaz Dawa-ul-Arshad (Center for Preaching), whose twin objectives are preaching and jihad. The Markaz, is a religious organisation, founded in 1987 and is located in 190 acres of land in Murdike, a small town 30 miles north of Lahore . Initially funded by the Arabs and Pakistanis, the Markaz has resources like iron and garment factories to generate its own income. There are about thirty schools run by the Markaz, in which around 5,000 students are studying. All the students do not become Lashkars, but those who wish are given special military training in Pakistan and Afghanistan . After the training, in which a Lashkar is taught guerilla warfare and the use of weapons, he is also given a new name after mythical hero. Though the Lashkars are the products of these schools and the majority of them are from Pakistan , there are also others from other organisations. Most of them are educated and come from the middle class. Though initially helped by the ISI, the Markaz and the Lashkars are not totally under the control of either the ISI or the Pakistani government, as they have succeeded in mobilising independent income. Around 300 Lashkars are active in the Valley, Poonch, Rajauri and Doda.



The Harkat ul Mujahideen (HuM) was earlier known as the Harkat-ul-Ansar, but changed its name after the US declared it as a terrorist group in 1997. The HuM belongs to the Deobandi-Wahabi faith and is closely linked to the Maulana Samiul Haq faction of the Jammat-e-Ulama -e-Islam (JUI). Unlike the LeT, the HuM, does not have an organisational structure from where it can recruit its members. Most of its members are from other organisations, especially from the Tabligi Jamaat. (The President of Pakistan, Rafiq Tarar is associated with the Tabligi Jamaat).  HuM members are mostly Afghans and were trained in weapons operation, including the Stinger missiles by the ISI and the CIA to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan . When the Najibullah government collapsed, they were sent to other parts of the world, from Algeria to Bosnia to Kashmir . Out of an estimated total of 5000 volunteers, around 350 of them fighting in Kashmir .



The Hizbul Mujahideen, unlike other organisations, operates only in Kashmir . Founded in 1989, its popularity increased once the pro-independence groups of Kashmir fell out of Pakistan 's favour. The HM has strong links with the Jamiaat-i-Islami of Pakistan and most of the members of the HM are from the "Islami Jamiate Talaba", the student wing of the JI. Though the HM claims to have its members are from Kashmir , there is a sizeable population of Afghans and Pakistanis. The HM, unlike the HuM and the LeT, does not have any bases for training in Afghanistan , because of its closeness to the JI. (The Jamiaat-e-Islami has close links with Gulbadin Hikmatyar, who is fighting against the Taliban in Afghanistan . Contrary to the popular belief, the JI does not support the Taliban's influence inside Pakistan ). Though supported by the ISI, the HM today is not under the total control of the ISI, as it receives its orders from Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the Amir of the JI. There are around 800 Hizbul Mujahideens active in Kashmir .



There are differences among these groups regarding their objectives. Whereas the Hizbul Mujahideens objective is focussed only on the liberation of Kashmir from Indian occupation, the objectives of the HuM and the LoT are broader. Both aim to use Kashmir as a stepping-stone towards a larger goal - to unite the entire muslim community in the subcontinent and elsewhere. It is not merely Kashmir but the "jehad" which they want to promote. For these "jehadis" Kashmir is only a gateway to establish the "rule of Allah throughout the world". For them Kashmir is not the end but only a means. The ultimate aim of these "jihadi" groups is "to revive the tradition of jihad among Muslims everywhere in order to win back the last glory of the Muslim world"