Kashmir: Suspects in IS Flag-Waving Incident Identified

By Amin Ahmed

2015-06-22
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150622-IN-kashmir-620 A Kashmiri woman mourns during a funeral in Kulgam, June 22, 2015.
AFP

Police in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir say they have identified about a dozen youths who allegedly waved the flag of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group during a demonstration in Srinagar earlier this month.

In recent months IS flags have been raised during protests in different parts of Kashmir. As late as Friday, a masked youth waved an IS flag during a protest in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.

That protest was organized by Umati Islami, a religious group, to observe the death anniversary of Qazi Nisar Ahmad, a separatist leader, according to Zee News.

But while IS might have sympathizers in Kashmir, according to authorities there is no evidence that the group has a physical presence in the region.

“These youths raise flags that are similar to the Middle East terror group only for the sake of it. There is absolutely no connection between flag-waiving and presence of IS elements in Kashmir,” Rajendra Kumar, the state’s director general of police (DGP), told BenarNews last week.

On June 12, a group of masked youths waived a black IS flag while protesting the killing of a health worker in Srinagar after Friday prayers.

Authorities were able to identify the suspected youths in that flag-waving incident with help from footage from closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras, which are installed in parts of Srinagar, and intelligence reports.

“In the past also, we arrested youths who raised the flags of the banned terror group in Srinagar and elsewhere. They were dealt sternly under the law. Waving of such flags is not a serious matter as the terror group has no presence whatsoever in Kashmir,” Kumar added.  

‘Address growing discontent’

Analysts, however, cautioned that the authorities should not treat the flag-raising issue lightly as it reflects growing frustration among Kashmiri youths who tend to vent their anger in any way they can because of a lack of jobs and other opportunities available to them.

“The flag-hoisting of the Middle East militant group is the outcome of a certain mindset among a section of youths. This development should not be looked as a law and order issue,” Noor Mohammad Baba, a political science professor at Kashmir University, told BenarNews.

“A mindset is the beginning of an organizational set up to form roots or come into being. There may not be any organizational link to IS in Kashmir but the uncertain political situation, in which Kashmiri youths have been entangled for over two decades, could force them to follow or join the terror group,” he added.  

Irshad Ahmad, a jobless post-graduate from Budgam district, agreed.

“In the absence of ample job opportunities in the government and private sectors, jobless youths often resort to drugs and other illegal acts to do away with stress,” he told BenarNews.

“The best way to keep the disgruntled youths away from violence-related acts is to keep them mentally and physically engaged. This can be done only if the government creates ample job opportunities for them in this strife- torn region,” he added.

Three die in gun battle

On Monday, two alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants and a civilian were killed in a 13-hour encounter with Indian security forces in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district. Two army men were wounded in the encounter.  

According to an army spokesman, the encounter began on Sunday evening after the security forces raided an area in Redwani village in the district, where the militants were reported to be staying.

“An operation was launched by Rashtriya Rifles unit of the Army and Special Operation Group resulting in the killing of two militants,” Col. N.N. Joshi, an army spokesman based in Srinagar, said in a statement.

“Bodies of two militants were recovered from the site along with one AK 47 and one SLR [self-loading rifle], ammunition and other war-like stores.”

The alleged militants were identified as Javaid Ahmad, of Redwani village, and Idrees Nengroo, of Kulgam district.

“They were affiliated with Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit,” a police officer told BenarNews.

According to locals, army and police personnel fired on a group of protesters, who had gathered near the site of the encounter. The shots killed Asif Ahmad, a 23-year-old civilian, witnesses said.

“We were protesting in the area and the security forces used live ammunition, killing the innocent boy,” Habibullah, a local resident, told BenarNews.

Police, however, rejected the claim.

“We are investigating the matter. Preliminary investigations have revealed that the boy died after he was hit with a stray bullet,” Kulgam Superintendent of Police (SP) Mumtaz Ahmad told BenarNews.

“I have ordered an inquiry into the killing and the damage to the property due to the encounter,” said DGP Kumar.

Adeel Shah contributed to this report.

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