Graffiti and chalk markings welcoming the Taliban to Jammu and Kashmir have started cropping up in downtown Srinagar, worrying the Indian security establishment that already has its hands full in the Valley.
The graffiti is being seen as a message to India from Pakistan, which purportedly wants it to cut ties with Afghanistan after US forces pull out of the nation in 2014. The implication is that India would have to contend with the wrath of the Taliban if it continues its association with Afghanistan.
Government sources said the possibility of Taliban operatives entering the Valley post-2014 was first openly voiced by separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq when he returned to Srinagar after a visit to Pakistan last December.
The security agencies suspect the hand of Al-Umar Mujahideen commander Mushtaq Zargar alias Latram behind the markings. A former Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front militant, Latram is said to be close to the Pakistani security agency ISI. It is suspected that the ISI is deliberately trying to instill the fear of the Taliban in the Indian security forces in the Valley.
“We don’t expect Pakistan to escalate in Kashmir, particularly when the game is afoot in Afghanistan and the strength of the militant cadre in the Valley is under par. The chalk markings appear to be an ISI strategy to keep security forces on tenterhooks,” said a senior official.
Cross-border communication intercepts also indicate that Pakistan-based terror group are peeved that the anger after Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru’s hanging has begun dying down and life is returning to normal in the Valley. The graffiti may serve as a ploy to keep the situation volatile.
Inspector general police, Kashmir Range, AG Mir said the graffiti were the “handiwork of some miscreants” and added that Kashmir has had no Taliban presence up until now. Most markings have been erased or painted over.
(With inputs from Toufiq Rashid)