Top leaders of the Hizbul Mujahideen are trying a patch-up with their former “Kashmir commander” Zakir Rashid Bhat who severed ties with the militant group a few days ago, intelligence agencies have said.
Bhat, better known by his alias Musa, released audio messages 10 days ago announcing his exit after the leadership criticised him for threatening to behead Hurriyat leaders for saying the “separatist movement” in the Valley was political and not religious in nature.
The goal of militants and separatists should be to establish Islamic rule, the 23-year-old engineering dropout had said.
The Kashmiri militant group is yet to name his successor.
Hizbul wants Musa back, yet to name Kashmir commander: Intelligence agencies
Jammu and Kashmir’s Intelligence agencies see the delay as a sign of his subordinates’ reluctance to take Bhat’s position, which would amount to picking sides in a feud between their former commander and senior leadership.
Sources in intelligence say Bhat’s departure was not because of ideological differences, as claimed by him. He and the Pakistan-based leadership didn’t agree on the group’s activities in the Valley.
“Inputs suggest that orders passed on to Zakir (Bhat) and his team were not implementable and strategies formulated by him were not entirely acceptable to Pakistan-based leaders,” a security official in Kashmir said.
These revelations, shared within the border state’s security establishment, are part of the intelligence agencies reading of the Hizbul feud.
Political murders and killings of those considered close to the establishment drove the two apart.
“The difference of opinion being whether intimidation and political killings are the best way to sustain militancy in the valley,” said a security official.
The other issue was funds.
Bhat wanted to step up activities and sought support from the outfit’s Pakistan-based leaders. “Owing to the tightening grip of security agencies, funding of militant groups has taken a major hit,” the official said.
The Kashmir Valley has seen a series of bank robberies in the last few months. Police have blamed them on Hizbul and Lashkar-e-Taiba, looking for funds to carry out attacks, buy weapons and pay informers.
A resident of Pulwama in south Kashmir, the hotbed of militancy, Bhat took over from Burhan Wani who was gunned down by security forces on July 8, 2016, triggering months of violence and street protests.
“Our intention should be that, we have to achieve azadi to establish Islamic rule and not for secular state. If we are fighting for secular state then my blood won’t be spilled for that purpose,” he said in an audio message on May 13, announcing his exit.
Intelligence community in Kashmir point to Wani and Bhat’s contrasting leadership styles. While Wani used social media to influence youth to join militancy, Bhat used the medium to project a hardened stand against local police and their so-called informers.
“Evoking Islam, jihad, Caliphate is not new to militant outfits in Kashmir. Insurgency here is also shaped by local realities such as shelter, funding, a network of informers,” the security official said.
Agencies are keeping a close watch on the situation.