Kavita Suri

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Not so accidental death of a militant

Abdul Majid Dar was killed by his own men, because he had eschewed violence and chosen the path of reason, writes KAVITA SURI

Two summers ago in Kashmir, hundreds of journalists had gathered in famous Nehru Guest House, situated on the banks of picturesque Dal Lake near Cheshma Shahi Huts in Srinagar’s high security zone. After an endless wait of 7-8 hours in the beautiful two-storeyed bungalow which always remained the official residence of Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi whenever they visited Kashmir,  most of us jostled with each other to take a “byte” of the four Hizbul Mujahideen Commanders and their spokesman Fazal Haq Qureshi who had just entered into a dialogue with the representatives of Government of India led by the then Home Secretary Kamal Pandey. The occasion was a historic one. After all, for the first time in the past 11 years of armed insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir, valley’s largest militant group Hizbul Mujahideen had announced a unilateral cease-fire. On the instructions of Abdul Majid Dar, four top HM commanders had made their first contact with the Centre’s representatives in the Nehru Guest House to initiate Kashmir peace process. Abdul Majid Dar, former Chief operations commander of valley's largest formidable militant group Hizb-ul-Mujahadeen had shot into prominence during this period only when he announced a unilateral cease-fire by the militant group in July 2000.

Three years later, Abdul Majid Dar is no more. The man who dared to go against the ISI and PoK-based HM leadership was shot dead in Sopore town in Baramulla district in north Kashmir on 24 March last month. Dar, along with his mother and sister, had gone to Noorbagh locality in Sopore to supervise the construction of his house. As he was leaving the place, a group of unidentified militants opened fire on Dar's car, injuring all three. Dar was rushed to a hospital but succumbed to his injuries before aid could be administered.

With this assassination, the voice of moderates in the Hizbul Mujahideen who want a peaceful solution to the Kashmir dispute has been silenced. This brutal cold blood murder of this moderate face of Hizbul Mujahideen would also be a shot in the arm for those hard-liners of the outfit operating in the valley who were opposed to Dar’s style of functioning in the trouble-torn state.

Dar was associated with separatist movement since 1988. He formed Tehreek-e-Jehad-Islami in 1990. In 1992,he merged the outfit with Hizb-ul-Mujhadeen and became its district commander.

Known for his proximity to the Hizbul Mujahideen supreme commander Syed Salahuddin in the initial years, he quickly rose to the number two position in the outfit. He was the commander of the militant outfit's cadres in Jammu and Kashmir. In 1994 he was made division commander for north Kashmir and later went to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir for arms training. After he returned, he was made chief operations commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujhadeen. Dar had been to Afghanistan twice or thrice and had met Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, (Burhanuddin) Rabbani and others. 

All was well till the summer of 2000. Serious differences erupted between Pakistan-based "supreme commander" Salahuddin and Valley-based "chief commander operations" Majid Dar when the latter declared the unilateral cease-fire on July 24, 2000 but Salahuddin withdrew the same on August 8 on the pretext that New Delhi refused to involve Islamabad in any talks over Kashmir.

What really irked Salahuddin were the reports that since the 24 July unilateral cease-fire, Dar had  become close to the intelligence agencies. Besides, after 9/11 terrorists strikes on the United States, Hizbul Mujahideen maintained a total silence over the issue unlike other groups which had threatened to avenge attacks on Afghanistan.

Expelled in December 2001 by the Pakistan based supreme command council and replaced by Saif-ul-Islam, Dar’s pro-talks views had made him a suspect in the eyes of the Pakistan-based terrorist outfits. He had refused to participate in the recently held assembly election but he had not even opposed the same.( Incidentally, Saiful Islam also got killed in an encounter with the security forces early this week(2 April) in Nowgam, Srinagar. Saiful Islam’s killing is rated as the biggest achievement for Police and security forces after the death of the Hizb "deputy chief" Ali Mohammad Dar alias Burhan-ud-din Hijazi in August 1999.) 

However, immediately after Dar’s removal, a split in the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) came to the fore. Dar parted ways with Syed Salahuddin after he refused to follow ISI dictat to continue gun culture and oppose the electoral process in the State. Thus began the clashes between the moderates and the hard-liners.

Within less than 24-hours of Dar’s removal, two top Hizbul Mujahideen field commanders defied the decision of Salahuddin to expel him. Salahuddin’s decision received another severe blow when Abu Obed, the Divisional Commander of Hizbul Mujahideen for entire North Kashmir revolted against it while terming the decision to expel Dar and others as “totally unjustified.” Not only this, he warned the HM chief to review his decision which otherwise could bring out differences within the party to fore and could be proved dangerous.

Prior to that, two days ago only, two prominent HM field commanders- Abu Amir, Launching Chief and Asgar Ibn-e-Rehman, district commander Kupwara- operating in Kashmir valley had refused to accept Salahuddin’s decision. Hizb, they said, was not any commander’s property but the representative outfit of Kashmiri people and those whose sons gave the sacrifice of life for the organization and the movement. Even, when Dar was sacked in December 2000,Hizbul Mujahideen cadres in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir had also virtually raised a banner of revolt against his expulsion  by the Islamabad-based command of the outfit.

Considered to be a moderate leader, Dar had said that any positive outcome between India and Pakistan would help the group in shunning the path of violence. The Dar faction firmly supported the settlement of the Kashmir issue through negotiations and believes that the gun culture needs to be shunned to prevent further bloodshed. 

"I cannot become killer of Kashmiris. For the last thirteen years, I, at the risk of my life, struggling. How can it be that for personal benefits and facilities I can water the hopes and aspirations of Kashmiris", he was quoted saying. Dar had recently blamed the PoK-based leadership of the outfit responsible for derailment of the cease-fire in July 2000. 

The man who was bold enough to tell it in plain words to the militants wielding the guns that "gun is no solution to any problem and all the problems are resolved at the negotiating tables", also always urged New Delhi to understand that without fulfilling wishes and aspirations of Kashmiris India could not cool the volcano of Kashmir. He wanted India and Pakistan to adopt a realistic approach to pave the road for resolution of the Kashmir issue.

"It is important for the Kashmiri leadership also to adopt a realistic approach. Nobody should thrust solutions on Kashmir but the tragedy of Kashmir issue is that all the parties to the issue want to thrust their own solutions," he always said. 

Dar’s two most trusted commanders—Masood Tantray of Shopian and Farooq Amircha of Kupwara were part of the group that had met the Home Ministry delegation in Srinagar in the Nehru Guest House. Masood was later eliminated by Special Operations Group of J&K Police. He was lifted by SOG Pulwama from an acquaintance’s house in Pampore and later killed. Immediately after that, Farooq Ahmed Mircha disappeared mysteriously in Pattan area of north Kashmir, in August 2001. 

Gradually, all of these commanders who had participated in the negotiations between the Home ministry officials following the 24 July unilateral cease-fire, were eliminated one by one, allegedly on the instructions of HM supreme commander Syed Salahuddin. 

Majid Dar-the moderate HM chief in valley was also weakened by the death of his confidantes 
After a long silence since the mysterious disappearance of his trusted commander Farooq Mircha, the Hizbul Mujahideen field commanders had alleged that he was killed by HM only. Abu Amir, Hizbul Mujahideen Launching Chief in Kashmir had told CNS news agency in Kashmir that he had solid evidence that Mircha was killed by the HM men owing allegiance to Syed Salahuddin. 

The top security forces officials believe that Dar's Sunday's killing is a consequence of the personal enmity between two top leaders of Kashmir's biggest indigenous militant group. With this brutal assassination, not only the three year long period of mistrust and internecine fissures in Hizb-ul-Mujahideen has come to an end, but it would also serve as a warning to those Hizbul Mujahideen cadres-both in Jammu and Kashmir and across the border-who have realized after a bloody battle of 13 years, that gun is no solution to the problem. Infact, ,a considerable number of HM cadres are the followers of Dar. 

A proponent of a political settlement to the Kashmir problem,he was also reportedly planning to float a new outfit after having recognised the change in ground realities following the September 11 terrorists attacks on the United States. Hizb-ul- Mujahideen had indicated that it would float a political party of its own even as it expressed its willingness for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir issue. Dar was viewed as an intelligent, excellent organiser with a strong base in the south of the Kashmir Valley.

Political observers believe that though there won't be a major fallout in Kashmir with his killing, yet the voices advocated peace and dialogue might be silenced for some time.

"Yes, his death is certainly a warning to the those who support peace and dialogue. Besides, it would also strengthen Salahuddin's hold over his outfit and the men in his outfit who have supported to Dar all along would be further marginalised," said Professor Hari Om, political analyst and member ICHR.The analysts also believe that there could be an increase in violence in Kashmir. 
 

Born on 23 April 1954 in Armpora, Sopore,Abdul Majid Dar studied in Sopore college but could not study more because of his involvement in militancy. He left his graduation in arts midway. He has three brothers and four sisters. He married in 1978 and have three kids from that marriage. However, he divorced his first wife and married for the second time in 1993. It was a highly romanticised marriage as his doctor wife was from Pak-occupied-Kashmir. He however had confessed that his family life had been disturbed greatly due to his activities.

Section: Perspective 
Date: Apr 10, 2003
The Statesman

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