New Delhi:  Indians were shocked by the visuals on their television sets of a stone pelting ritual in Srinagar. An event generally played out after the Friday prayers, however this time occurring on a Tuesday. This not being the only difference, the stone pelters also waved Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) flags alongside a Pakistani flag.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, denied the presence of ISIS elements in the state. He stated that the waving of ISIS flag in the valley was just an act by “some idiots” that “unfortunately” caught the media’s attention.

I wonder if this could be taken so inconsequentially. But then on the downside of democracy, protracted apathy and inaction on the issue of security due to varied political compulsions is a reality.

The incident of October 14 should, therefore, not be viewed in isolation; rather it should be clubbed with the ideological dynamics of Islamic State and Al Qaeda.

It is not a mere coincidence that the fugitive Al-Qaeda commander Ayman al-Zawahari announced the formation of a new wing of the feared terrorist group dedicated to waging jihad in the Indian subcontinent just a month ago in September this year.
The new branch, he says is in particular “a message that we did not forget you, our Muslim brothers in India”. He says al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, “break all borders created by Britain in India”, and called on all Muslims in the region to “unite under the credo of the one god”.

Many would say it was a desperate attempt to revive the fading influence of Al Qaeda in face of the lightening gains of ISIS in the recent months. I tend to agree here to Muhamad Amir Rana, a commentator on strategic affairs from Pakistan who thinks that any analysis to suggest a decline of al Qaeda in the rise of ISIS, while analysing the recent developments happening in Iraq and Syria is a mistake.

He says, they may have differences over strategies but ultimately they will overcome these. Al Qaeda might feel stunned over the ‘victories’ of ISIS but now, instead of arguing with ISIS over strategies, they will prefer to develop a consensus over a model of caliphate.

For us Indians we need to understand and identify the cord that connects the ISIS to Al Qaeda and relevance of Kashmir in their concept of political Islam. Their intended aim they plan to achieve by convincing the innocent Muslim youth through their stylized interpretation of Ahadiths. It is only then we will realize that the Tuesday’s display of ISIS flags is not the handy work of a few idiots as claimed by Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir but far more than what meets the eye.

In these Ahadiths of Islamic Prophecies the reference of Khorasan is something that connects these organizations and establishes a links with the Kashmiris. To make this argument, we need to refer to three Ahadiths interpreted by Islamic scholars from Pakistan in trying to justify Islamic Caliphate.

One “Narrated by Abdur Rehman Al-Jarshi that I heard companion of Prophet (SAW), Hazrat Amr Bin Marra Al-Jamli (RA) that Prophet (SAW) said: Surely Black Flags will appear from the Khorasan until the people (under the leadership of this flag) will tie their horses with the Olive Trees between Bait-e-Lahya and Harasta. We asked are there any Olive trees between these places: He said, “If there isn’t then soon it will grow so that those people (of Khorasan) will come and tie their horses there.”

Two“Abu Huraira (RA) says that Rasul-Ullah (SAW) said: (Armies carrying) black flags will come from Khorasan, no power will be able to stop them and they will finally reach Eela (Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem) where they will erect their flags”

Three“Anas ibn Malik narrated that Allah’s Apostle (peace be upon him) said: The Dajjal would be followed by seventy thousand Jews of Isfahan wearing Persian shawls.”

Going by the analysis of these Islamic prophecies the territories of Khorasan that lay North of Hindukush in Afghanistan, Central Asia and Western Iran is that place indicated by the Prophet where Medhi will raise an army of believers and march across the Middle East to reclaim Israel. In these prophecies the Pathans living South of Hindukush and Kashmiris in the Valley are the displaced Khorasais who will form part of this army.

Now, from the interpretation above of three Ahadith, it is easy to understand the effort by the radicals in creating a link between the ISIS, Al Qaeda, Khorasan and Kashmir. As per them the army of Mehdi will consist of Muslims from Bani-Israel (NWFP in Pakistan and Kashmir Valley) and Khorasan holding the black flags. In their view no power in the world will be able to stop them till they reach Jerusalem and erect their black flags.

This analysis appeals to many youngsters practicing the Muslim faith. In absence of a credible counter analysis, they get easily convinced by the turn of events in the Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Kashmir. For them all this is happening as per the laid down script. The army under the black flag is ready. Bagdadi could be the Medhi and Zawahiri a general commanding the puritanical Khorasanis.

In this digitally interconnected world, regulation of information is far more difficult than was probably anticipated by inventors of internet. The radicals within the Islamic world appear to be exploiting World Wide Web to the fullest in furthering their nefarious designs. By their interpretations they appear to be challenging the very foundations of the states falling in the sphere of Khorasan.

It is no surprise that the youth from places like Pune and Hyderabad have also got influenced and joined the ISIS, since the fundamentalists have managed to make believe the feasibility of a victory predicted hundreds of years ago by the Prophet.  Therefore the youngsters of Kashmir should not be looked at differently. After all, to them, the Khorasani angle sounds logical.

Will it therefore be correct to say that the event in Srinagar on October 14 was just a manifestation of sheer state of despair arising out of corrupt and ineffective state administration as suggested by some political parties? Or it is the result of a vacuum created by the decadence of governance which is being exploited by the ISI and the Hurriyiat to revive the fading fervor of Kashmiri secessionism under the black flag.

I am hopeful that the Indian state’s protracted apathy and inaction on the issue of security due to varied political compulsions that has provided fundamentalists the spaces to grow and expand their influence will no more be the case under the present circumstances. The radicals have used these spaces not only to propagate their ideologies and narratives but also to establish a ‘virtual state within the state’.

The challenge needs to be addressed on the administrative, psychological and social fronts more aggressively alongside the military application to prevent a catastrophe in waiting.  Or otherwise the dangers ensconced in the mass appeal will see hoards of volunteers coming under the dreaded black flag.

The views expressed in the above article are that of Col. (Retired)  Danvir Singh, Associate Editor, Indian Defence Review.

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