Ostrich-like approach lets Zakir Naik thrive

Ostrich-like approach lets Zakir Naik thrive

By SHUBHABRATA BHA... | 16 July, 2016
Zakir Naik during a television appearance.
Politicians like Digvijaya Singh heaped praise on Naik during UPA rule. Vote bank politics let Zakir Naik have a free run for two decades.

Six years ago, on 18 June 2010, Britain stopped Zakir Naik from entering its shores due to his “unacceptable behaviour”. Cancelling Naik’s five-year visa a few hours before he was to board from Mumbai was one of the first acts of Theresa May, who had become UK’s Home Minister barely a month earlier. Mrs May, who is now Prime Minister, cited 11 speeches made by Naik since 1997 to justify her extreme step. In 2014, while assuring the Israel Parliament that UK was taking the right steps to stem terrorism, Prime Minister David Cameron said that his government had “excluded foreign preachers of hate”: among the three names he mentioned, one was Zakir Naik. These astounding facts have been researched by Hindustan Times’ London correspondent, Prasun Sonwalkar and published by him a few days ago. Apparently, all this was unknown to India’s security establishment, which seems to have woken up to Zakir Naik post the Dhaka massacre.

Caution on Zakir Naik had been available at home. Deoband’s Darul Uloom Islamic seminary is on record having issued seven fatwas against the televangelist, whose Peace TV was being aired in India sans a valid licence. Darul Uloom described Naik as a self-styled scholar and cautioned against his preaching. India’s security juggernaut, sans effective coordination, was myopic. Mumbai police apparently had raised a red flag in 2008, but it was ignored. Ruling party politicians like Digvijaya Singh heaped praise on Naik during UPA rule. Vote bank politics and ostrich-like intelligence gathering let Zakir Naik have a free run for two decades.

The situation in Kashmir valley following the encounter killing of Burhan Wani at Kokernag has caught international attention apart from triggering violence by youth on a magnitude which was last seen between 2008-2010. The security personnel should be lauded for gathering actionable intelligence and getting Burhan Wani, who eluded them over five years. No planning seems to have been done for the encounter’s aftermath. 13 July is observed as Martyrs’ Day in Kashmir to commemorate a 1931 firing on a popular movement by the then Maharaja’s troops. The possibility that 13 July could be a convenient day to whip up anti-establishment frenzy too was perhaps overlooked. Ruling PDP’s Baramulla MP, Muzaffar Baig, has questioned the encounter. He has also questioned the use of non-lethal pellets in dispersing the rioters. Doctors from AIIMS who were airlifted to treat the injured have also expressed concern about these pellets.

Kashmiris have not been anti-India traditionally. It needs to be recorded that when Mohammad Ali Jinnah visited Kashmir prior to Independence, the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, led by Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah gave him a grand reception but rejected the two-nation theory.

Retired Lt Gen Atta Hasnain, during whose tenure as the GOC of the 15th Corps in Srinagar, terrorism had been effectively handled with a gentle hand, has pointed out that intelligence on Burhan Wani had been available for a while and questioned if the action could have waited till the end of the Amarnath Yatra. The annual Yatra is not only a high point in the Hindu pilgrimage calendar. It is also an opportunity for many Kashmiri Muslims to earn by facilitating the yatris. July is also considered peak tourist season. The aftermath of the Kokernag episode has put paid to the earning ability of poor Kashmiris.

Videos of Kashmir violence have gone viral on social media. The policemen have an awesome task at hand. These videos, however, betray a lack of leadership and professionalism on the part of the forces. Terrorism in Kashmir is now two-decade old. Effective measures to stem the escalation of the alienation of the general public should have been in place.

Kashmiris have not been anti-India traditionally. It needs to be recorded that when Mohammad Ali Jinnah visited Kashmir prior to Independence, the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference, led by Sher-e-Kashmir Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah gave him a grand reception but rejected the two-nation theory. PTI’s legendary correspondent, P.N. Jalali had told me in an interview published in Sunday in 1981 that Abdullah made it abundantly clear that Pakistan was not an option that he was enamoured of. Young Jalali was the leader of the choir which sang at National Conference meetings, which traditionally began with the quaumi tarana “lehra-o-Kashhmir-ke-jhande”. Abdullah gestured at Jalali at the Pratap Park meeting in Srinagar and asked the choir to begin Jinnah’s greeting rally with Iqbal’s “sare jahan se achchha Hindustan hamara”. Jalali recalled on 9 September 1981 (Sheikh died on 8 September) with tears streaming down his cheek, “Sheikh Sahib wanted to make it abundantly clear where we Kashmiris stood.”

When marauding Kabalis were sent in by Pakistan in 1947 the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Militia offered stiff resistance. National Conference’s Maqbool Sherwani misled the Pakistani troops heading for Srinagar from Baramulla, facilitating India to land troops and secure the state capital. When discovered, Sherwani was executed by the Pakistanis: he shouted his party’s slogan, “Shere-Kashmir ka kya irshaad; Hindu-Muslim-Sikh ittehad.” Along with him, Somnath Bira and Pushkarnath Zadoo also were martyred in 1947. In 1965, Ayub Khan’s Operation Gibraltar was foiled when villagers in Tanmarg area alerted the Indian Army of the presence of Pakistani infiltrators. The dismissal of Farooq Abdullah’s elected government in 1984 and the massive rigging of elections in 1987 created a situation in which Kashmir came in the grip of Pakistani machinations.

Pakistani diplomat Hussain Haqqani observes in his book India versus Pakistan, that the Kashmir issue has not escalated in the United Nations in recent years despite Pakistan’s best effort. This has been borne out by India’s representative in UN, Syed Akbaruddin’s effective handling of the Pakistani diatribe earlier this week. Events in Kashmir had prompted the spokeswoman for UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon to tell the media that “the Secretary General is closely following the recent clashes in Kashmir”. Echoing Moon’s “concern”, Stephane Dujarric, the spokeswoman added that the Secretary General has appealed to “all parties to exercise maximum restraint”. This statement from the UN Headquarters is ominous, Syed Akabaruddin’s victory in the first round notwithstanding.

Shubhabrata Bhattacharya is a former Editor of Sunday and of National Herald.


There is 1 Comment

Just before leaving India in 1969, US ambassador Chestor Bowles had told Kuldip Nayyar that India would have won a plebiscite hands down in J&K if it was held before 1953. When the Pakistanis sent infiltrators across the cease fire line in August 1965 before the war, they were apprehended by local people and handed over to the Indian Army. But things have changed. Today if I walk down the streets of Srinagar, Baramula or Sopore and ask people as to who terrorise, Pakistani militants coming from across the border or the Indian security forces. The answer to that would be embarrassing for any Indian. I remember a student of the Economics department of Dhaka University was talking to me about her study trip to India in 1987 and she said that she was surprised to find people so pro-Pakistan in Kashmir and that Srinagar should have been a part of Pakistan as the people in hearts and minds are all Pakistanis. They were obsessed with their cricket team and hate to speak about India. I saw a CBC documentary on Kashmir conflict in Canada and it showed an Indian Army operation to recover arms from militants. A little girl walking past the troops giving them an unfriendly stare or a colonel shouting across to some people and reminding them of the presence of Indian Army and saying that it is 'their’ army and not Pakistan Army, gives a picture that a deep sense of alienation is running among the people. Wild jubilation rang out across the valley when Pakistan won the world T20 in 2009. A news reporter was surprised when he saw that almost everyone in a café supported Pakistan while watching a cricket match between India and Pakistan. Pakistan is one of the most dangerous place to live in the world with terrorists operating with impunity. But yet, the Kashmiris have a fascination about Pakistan and that has developed in the last thirty years or so and in spite of living in Indian democracy and liberalism. Looking at the state of Pakistan’s economy and given a choice a Kashmiri may not be willing to join Pakistan but he in his heart and mind, unlike any other Indian, would always have support and sympathy for Pakistan and when it comes to a cricket match he will definitely support Pakistan. This is the reality on the ground in Kashmir.

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