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US terror tag on Hizbul Mujahideen unlikely to affect militancy in Valley

For India, designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a foreign terror outfit is going to be a big diplomatic victory as it will also put Pakistan under pressure to rein in Hizb and its leadership in that country.

Written by Mir Ehsan | Srinagar |
Updated: August 17, 2017 6:40:56 pm
Hizbul Mujahideen, US Hizbul Mujahideen, Hizbul Mujahideen global terror tag, Hizbul Mujahideen foreign terror tag, Hizbul Mujahideen news, Syed Salahudin, Hizbul Mujahideen chief, india news A policeman tears apart a photo of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani at Rambagh in Srinagar on Sunday. (Source: Express photo by Shuaib Masoodi 14-08-2016)

On Wednesday, the US State department declared Kashmir’s largest indigenous militant group Hizbul Mujahideen as foreign terrorist organization. The decision comes a month after Mohammad Yusuf Shah, alias Syed Salahudin, was declared as global terrorist by the US state department. Salahudin, the chief commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, based in Muzaffarabad, PoK, is also the chairman of United Jihad Council (UJC) – an umbrella group of militant outfits operating in Jammu and Kashmir.

For India, designation of Hizb as a foreign terror outfit is going to be a big diplomatic victory as it will also put Pakistan under pressure to rein in Hizb and its leadership in that country. India will sure use this as an opportunity to deal with the militants and their sympathizers in Kashmir with an iron hand, where militants are already feeling the heat of stepped up anti-militancy operations by the forces. The US decision may, however, embolden India further as human rights violation in the Valley could now be overlooked by the West. Also Read: What is the Hizbul Mujahideen?

However, on ground in Kashmir, the US designation is not going to affect the militancy much, as has been seen in the case of Lashkar, which continued its lethal attacks against Indian forces in the Valley even after US ban. The Kashmiri militants who are fighting with Indian forces have never looked towards the US for help, nor they have any assets there or travel to US or other countries.

For common Kashmiris, who see their struggle as secular, legal and a fight for restoration of plebiscite rights as envisaged under UN resolutions, the US ban is going to serve more as a psychological setback as for decades people have been looking towards the US for its support and intervention in resolving Kashmir issue. After this decision, majority of people here may realize that US is, in no way, going to support any sort of armed struggle in Kashmir whether run by locals or foreign cadres of any militant outfit. Also Read: Hizbul Mujahideen: US designates Syed Salahuddin’s outfit as a foreign terrorist organisation

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Also, in Kashmir this decision is seen as a major shift in the US policy towards Pakistan and the Kashmir issue and also a favour to India.

Earlier, people here had pinned their hopes on the US considering Pakistan as its staunch ally. Many people here also see it as a diplomatic failure of Pakistan government in mobilising support for Kashmir’s indigenous struggle at the global level, especially when people are being killed and maimed in the Valley, with alleged human rights by the government forces on rise. Formed 28 years ago, Hizbul Mujahideen is one of the oldest indigenous militant outfits having presence in both parts of Kashmir, with a dedicated cadre and good network of over ground workers in every village and town of that has helped this organization to survive even the toughest military onslaught and killing of thousands of cadres and supporters over the years.

In Kashmir when militants were on run and numbers of both foreign and local militants were depleting, it was Hizbul Mujahideen that is credited with the resurgence of militancy, especially its operational commander, Burhan Muzaffar Wani who used social media to promote militancy and managed to draw fresh cadres from local youths towards this group.

After the killing of Wani last year when dozens of local boys joined militancy after many years, the number of local militants surpassed foreigners and Hizb again became a strong militancy group with a capability to strike anywhere in Kashmir. Unlike other militant groups operating in Kashmir, Hizb had no global agenda and it remained confined to Kashmir and India alone. Recently, Salahudin and its other senior commanders based in Valley have been constantly asking people to stay away from the influence of al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS), especially after former Hizbul Mujahideen militant and close aide of Burhan Wani, Zakir Musa who set up his own organization named as – Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind – believed to be linked with al Qaeda.

However, the fillip side of the US ban is that more and more Kashmiri youth may get attracted towards the radical militant organizations like al Qaeda or ISIS or may force Hizb to drop its opposition to the entry of these organisation into Kashmir Jihad.

In the past, Hizb and its political patrons like the Hurriyat Conference have been hoping on the intervention of western powers especially the United States for any resolution, however this could now change in the coming months and the US could be replaced with other powers like China and Russia.

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