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Indian Muslims don’t need a certificate from terrorists

The government, civil society and the media should felicitate youngsters who’ve returned to the mainstream and unmasked non-State actors. Their stories will always prove useful to prevent youngsters from getting misled.

columns Updated: Jun 18, 2017 22:51 IST
Kashmir terrorists,Danish Ahmed,Kashmir terrorism
A militant, identified as Danish Ahmed, who was seen during the funeral procession of Hizbul commander Sabzar Bhat, has surrendered. (Waseem Andrabi/HT)

Do you know Danish Ahmed? If you don’t you should. He needs to be applauded. While studying at an engineering college in Dehradun, through social media he came in contact with some terrorists in south Kashmir. Hearing provocative statements and reading incendiary literature made him anxious. Leaving behind his happy dream to be an engineer, Ahmed decided to return to Kashmir and become a jihadi instead.

Once he returned to the Valley he realised that the jihad was just an eye wash. Many of the youngsters enrolled in his batch of jihadis were disillusioned and looking for ways to return to the mainstream. He also discovered that this was a battle being waged not by Islam but by Pakistan. Many of those who called themselves separatists were involved in extortion and loot. Not just this, disputes between villagers were being resolved at gunpoint and money being sought in return. He became disenchanted. Ahmed had returned to become a fighter, not a criminal.

When he discussed this with his associates he was shocked to realise that a majority of them were similarly disgruntled. They felt that they should be handling keyboards and not Kalashnikovs. But they were helpless in overcoming two obstacles: First, the police may harass them if they returned to the mainstream. Second, other terrorists may inflict harm on them and their loved ones.

Many such scary examples were fresh in their mind. For instance, the house of the south Kashmir family that the extremists suspected informed the armed forces about Burhan Wani before he was killed was set on fire. The young daughter was defamed and the family rendered homeless. Like Kashmiri Pandits, they are now forced to lead a life of nameless refugees in their own land.

The police and intelligence agencies were aware of this discontent. They were keeping a close watch on Ahmed and his associates. Gauging what was on his mind, the armed forces also took the initiative. He became part of the group of people who had returned to the correct path after being misled. Among the things that Ahmed told the armed forces was something that took them by surprise: Many of his associates had embarked on the path to militancy just to impress girls. The colourful tales of Burhan Wani’s life are something that fascinate the younger generation.

Before Ahmed, other youngsters had displayed similar courage. If you recall, a few youngsters from Mumbai had escaped from Isis terror camps. They had revealed that in these camps, jihadis from India are treated badly. They are fortunate if they get an opportunity to go to the frontline. Indians were assigned less significant tasks such as supplies and maintenance, where cleaning soiled toilets is considered an important job.

The government, civil society and the media should felicitate these youngsters who’ve returned to the mainstream and unmasked non-State actors. Their stories will always prove useful to prevent youngsters from getting misled. A matter of relief is that a large number of other youth are vying to join the army, the police and paramilitary forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Girls form music bands and students from the state compete to succeed in the country’s toughest exam for the civil services.

This is the best way to fight terror in a constructive fashion. It is a trend that should be welcomed as much as possible because guns can just hope to bring a temporary truce and not lasting peace. The road to peace always passes through prosperity. Fighting individual poverty and adverse circumstances, these youngsters are busy paving the way for others.

With the wind blowing in the other direction, the leaders of these militants are worried. In a recent video, dreaded militant Zakir Musa is heard calling Indian Muslims shameless, since they are not helping the terrorists in the siege of India. Youngsters such as Danish Ahmed have demonstrated that they don’t need a certificate of being Muslims from hollow and two-faced terrorists.

This is the quality that makes Indian Muslims stand out. It is for good reason that home minister Rajnath Singh keeps reiterating that our strongest partners in the fight against terror are Indian Muslims. We should appreciate and applaud them.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan

First Published: Jun 18, 2017 22:28 IST