After the death of Zakir Musa last month in a brief encounter with the forces, agencies might have heaved a sigh of relief but what followed might be a much bigger worry.
Musa was replaced by Abdul Hameed Lone alias Hameed Lelhari as the head of Al-Qaeeda’s Kashmir unit. While Lone may not be as popular as Musa was, the worrying factor is he’s more pro-active and least concerned about publicity and propaganda.
29-year old Lone grew up in the village of Lelhar, hence Lelhari, in South Kashmir. His journey helps understand the generation of fighters who have emerged from the debris of two decades of incessant conflict.
Ever since 2017, Al-Qaeda’s south Asian leadership has been clear the energies of its Kashmir recruits ought be focused on the far enemy, India—not its forces in Kashmir. In December 2017, Usama Mehmood, the second-in-command of Al-Qaeda’s South Asia operations, argued that the key to victory in Kashmir lay in attacking Indian cities.
“India is already using 6,00,000 troops just to hold on to Kashmir,” Mehmood said in a statement.
“If it is attacked in Kolkata, Bengaluru and New Delhi, it will come to its senses and release its grip on Kashmir.”
This threat becomes all the more serious in view of New Delhi’s intransigent stand on Kashmir, especially its reluctance to initiate negotiations despite offers from Pakistan and the Kashmiri resistance leadership.
Al-Umar, which claimed Wednesday’s Anantnag fidayeen attack, is based in Muzaffarabad, and led by Mushtaq Zargar, who was released in the 1999 Indian Airlines hostages-for-prisoners swap. One of his associates was Azhar Masood, the Jaish Chief, whom Zargar also respects as a senior jihadi figure and a spiritual leader.
New Delhi’s tenacious and murderous policies have created such a bad situation in Kashmir that it may not find easy to grapple with. The telltale signs have already begun.
Even if Pakistan completely stops logistic support to the Kashmir cause, India’s hostile policy has already turned it into a global phenomenon that is impossible for even Pakistan to stop. A pro-active and stealthy Lelhari’s appointment as AGH chief should be seen in that context.
In the absence of genuine political outreach to stall the youth rage in Kashmir, the scenario will continue to remain grim and only get worse from here.
For each militant killed, there are dozens lining up, and this without any tangible support from Pakistan. And it is New Delhi, and only New Delhi, that has brought it to this point.