Kavita Suri

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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

Panun Kashmir

Milchar

Symbol of Unity

 
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A Kashmiri women terrorist --- Behind the Veil

In the autumn of 2001 in Kashmir when the whole world was still to recover from the shocks of 9/11 terrorist attack, just after attending a press conference at the All Party Hurriyat Conference Headquarters at Rajbagh in the heart of Srinagar city, a burqa-clad women standing outside the Hurriyat office, led most of the journalists present there to some unidentified destination. Winding past few lanes and bylanes, they were huddled to a beautiful house in the vicinity only where Asiya Andrabi- the militant chief of Dukhteran-e-Millat (Daughters of the Faith) had to address a press conference. Excitement was palpable among the scribes as the “burqa campaign” unleashed by a lesser known militant group Lashker-e-Jabbar and supported by DeM was at its peak. Besides, many of them had no knowledge about her briefing. But that’s how most of the time Asiya Andrabi - the media savvy Kashmir’s only women militant chief chooses the places for her press briefings – huddling journalists to some unknown destination, picking them up from various places,  treating them to pastries, tea, coffee or Kashmiri Kahwa and then delivering the “goods” in her excellent English.

Here only I met Asiya Andrabi, 39, the burqa-clad chief of the 16 year-old all women militant outfit for the first time. With a small bindi on my forehead, not adhering to the dress code “imposed” by her militant outfit for non-Muslim ladies (yellow dupatta), being the only female among dozens of local and foreign correspondents, butterflies ran in my stomach. However, my fears proved baseless when she did not comment on my dress and restricted herself to her agenda, supported Osama bin Laden and Taliban and then ultimately got into an heated argument with a foreign correspondent over 9/11 attack, justifying the act.

This was elusive Asiya Andrabi whom nobody has ever seen without a veil, except for a couple of female journalists. Recently, her organization Dukhtaran-e-Millat (DeM), a women’s secessionist group in Jammu and Kashmir, was declared as an "unlawful" organization under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. According to the gazette notification issued by the Home Ministry, the organization "is involved in terrorist activities and banned under POTA with immediate effect". 

An effective manhunt has already been launched to trace her who had been absconding ever since Imtiyaz Bazaz, editor and publisher of a Srinagar magazine Mountain Valley confessed that he had approached Dr Ayub Thakur, the London-based president of World Kashmir Freedom Movement for funneling Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) funds to the Dukhtaran-e-Millat chief. 

Imtiaz Bazaz had been arrested by the police for bringing in funds to the state. Andrabi, who denied any involvement, went into hiding immediately after the case came into light as Bazaz had claimed during interrogation that she was instrumental in introducing him to Thakur. 

Bazaz had confessed that he had taken money on earlier occasions from former PoK prime minister and Chairman of Pakistan’s Kashmir Committee Sardar Abdul Qayoom in early 90s.  The state police along with the central intelligence agencies has been able to seize Rs 50 million, besides arresting 20 people in this connection this year. 

The case against Andrabi is based on alleged intercepts of her phone conversation with Ayub Thakur. In the intercepts, Thakur and Andrabi were heard discussing ways to send money for the jihad in J&K. Cases have been registered under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) against Andrabi on charges of allegedly receiving money from the ISI through hawala channels. This followed the arrest of Syed Ali Shah Geelani, former chairman of the separatist alliance All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) on 9 June from Srinagar under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act, 1978 for allegedly receiving money from the ISI through Hawala channels and for later distributing the same to different terrorist groups, including the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM). 

As Andrabi's husband Qasim Faktu was the financial chief of Jamait-ul-Mujahideen (JuM), she reportedly started getting money from Ayub Thakur through Imtiaz Bazaz to provide finances to JuM as well as the DeM.

Asiya, for various reasons, has remained always in news while the other pro-separatists women organizations which surfaced in the initial years of insurgency in Kashmir valley vanished slowly and gradually. The hardcore radical Islamist that she is, Asiya always makes a good copy for any reporter. Be it her comments on her two young sons about not making them doctors or engineers but Osama bin Ladens , Saddam Husseins and Mujahideens (freedom fighters), or forcing her husband Qasim Fakhtu of Jamiait ul Mujahideen outfit to marry few widows of militants, she has always grabbed the headlines. 

Justifying her stand  on forcing her husband to marry widows of militants, she had told a foreign corespondent: "Allah says a man can marry one, two, three or four wives, but he must have the means to do justice to them all. The jihad against India has left so many widows and orphans. A man has a responsibility to look after them." 

What makes her an all-woman outfit, the Dukhtaraan-e-Millat (DeM) different from other militant groups operating in Kashmir valley is the fact that her cadres have never not taken to arms so far. However, they have always supported Jehad in Kashmir and have acted as couriers and messengers for them. In all these years, her cadres have been accused of carrying a parcel bomb to the BBC Kashmir office in Pratap Park Srinagar and delivering it there which resulted in the death of ANI videographer Mustaq Ali.

Set up in 1987, Asiya has always asserted that she formed Dukhteran-e-Millat for a social cause which is to help Kashmiri women fight for their rights. She wanted to help Kashmiri women regain their rights given to them by Islam. She tried to serve the cause by fighting for special reservations for women in buses, enforcing a social boycott of families who made dowry demands, marrying off poor girls, in many cases to Mujahideen also. Her own party’s general secretary Naheeda is also married to an Al Jehad militant. However for the first time she gained limelight in March 1987 when her outfit staged a rally against pornographic film posters, plastering black paint all over them. It was the time when foreign films were being screened in almost all the theatres of Srinagar city and posters were pasted all over the city. In those days, her cadres carried brushes and paint cans beneath their burqas blackening any advertisements or posters that show scantily dressed models or actresses. However, she invited the wrath of the government which seized her office and issued warrants against her.

With the outbreak of militancy in Kashmir in 1989, her cadres restricted themselves to staging rallies and making protest demonstrations against the excesses. Besides, she was active in organizing protests against Kashmiri women who did not adhere to the burqa (veil) system in 1990. Her outfit issued warnings to women in Srinagar in May 1993 not to venture outside their houses without wearing the veil. To terrorize Kashmiri women folks and thus enforcing the diktats, her cadres threw acid and paint on the faces of women who dared to defy them. 

After lying low for many years, she again was in limelight last year when she supported a new outfit named Lashkar-e-Jabbar (LeJ) whose activists reportedly threw acid on two women in Srinagar on 7 August as “they were not dressed in Islamic style.” LeJ threatened to use violence against Kashmir Muslims who were not dressed in their version of 'Islamic Dress Codes'. Asiya supported them saying that the current campaign was the "beginning of a comprehensive social reform movement based on true Islamic thought" She helped LeJ enforce the immensely unpopular campaign. She went a step further asking Kashmiri women to quit their job and stay at home as “women were to cater to kitchen while men were supposed to work”. Due to this, she once again became unpopular among Kashmiri women.

Dukhtaran- e- Millat had also opposed peace initiatives in the State rejecting the cease-fire declared by Prime Minister Vajpayee last year. She even urged militants groups to take action against senior leader of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), Abdul Ghani Lone for his remarks against foreign militant asking them leave valley. She warned Lone of dire consequences ``in case he did not rein in his tongue'' against ``foreign militants and Islam.'' 

Last year only, she had accused former Hizbul Mujahideen chief commander Abdul Majid Dar -- the man who announced the cease-fire last year - of being in league with the government of India.

Andrabi believes that Kashmir issue is primarily a religious issue and jehad is mandatory and supports accession of the Kashmir valley with Pakistan. Her outfit primarily operates in the Kashmir valley and its present strength is reported to be approximately 350. 

Founder of South Asia's only all-woman separatist group - the Dukhtaran-e-Millat was never like this. Her father was doctor who encouraged her to get a secular education. A brilliant student, she studied biochemistry, bacteriology and diet therapy at college in Srinagar. But when she wanted to get an advanced degree, her family refused to let her leave home. She felt as if her dreams were shattered and locked herself in her room. But then she stumbled upon a book “Khawateen Ki Dilon Ki Baatein” (Words from the hearts of women), a compilation of the writings of Islamic women revolutionaries, which changed her life. From that day she decided to live and die for Islam. She studied the Koran and encouraged other women to do the same. 

So much she got engrossed into Jehad in Kashmir that she told her father that she would get married to a Mujahideen (freedom fighter) only. And she did. She married Mohammad Qasim Faktu, a Mujahideen with the militant group Jamiat-ul-Mujahadeen in 1990 at the age 27 whom she met the wedding day only. 

Both militant husband-wife duo have been arrested many times. Her husband Qasim was arrested from the IGI airport a couple of years ago with Rs 50 lakhs-allegedly Hawala money and but released after few years .Not only her husband, her brother Dr Inayat Andrabi, was chief of the students' militant wing, the Jamaat-ul-Tulba- students wing of Jamaat-e-Islami. He later formed Mahaj-e-Islami after he developed difference with the Jamaat. Presently, he is on London. Besides, one of her uncles, Ghulam Mustafa Alvi, fled to Pakistan in 1965 to escape a death sentence, while another was a member of Al Fateh – valley first militant outfit formed in early 70’s.

With both police and intelligence agency frantically searching for Asiya who reportedly is changing her hideouts almost everyday to escape her arrest, she can open the lid from a number of such Hawala transactions if arrested, which have been taking place in Kashmir to fund various terrorists outfits. But how long she can evade her arrest, only time can tell. 

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