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TRF, Pakistan’s IT cell for terror groups in Kashmir?

All the terror attacks in the last few months in Kashmir, according to counter-terrorism experts, have been perpetrated by the usual suspects like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen.

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New Delhi, May 9 : “We shall meet again, in Srinagar; by the gates of the Villa of Peace; our hands blossoming into fists; till the soldiers return the keys; and disappear.”

These descriptive lines are from Agha Shahid Ali’s poem ‘A Pastoral’, published in his poetry collection ‘The County Without a Post Office’. Shahid was an Indian American Kashmiri poet from an illustrious and influential family in Srinagar, who captured the loss and grief of Kashmiri people during the violent conflict in the Valley that began in 1989.

In his collection, he bemoaned the loss of Kashmir’s syncretic culture and plural traditions following the exodus of the indigenous minority, Kashmiri Pandits, from the Valley. He dedicated the poem to one of his Kashmiri Pandit friends based in the US.

Recently, Shahid’s lines were quoted by the newly formed ‘The Resistance Front’ (TRF, a group that has falsely claimed responsibility for almost every terror attack in Kashmir in the last few months) in its eulogy for Kashmir’s Hizbul Mujahideen chief, Riyaz Naikoo, who was killed by Indian security forces in an encounter earlier this week.

Even as it is ironic that the poetic sentiment was meant for a member of the community that was selectively targeted and driven out from Kashmir by two local terror groups, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), it is not without reason that the TRF used Shahid’s lines.

Though Shahid’s poetry was published in 1997, its appropriation began only after the September 11 terror attacks, when all Islamist insurgencies, including that in Kashmir, came under the scanner worldwide.

Drawing their own inferences about Shahid’s poetry, the intelligentsia in Kashmir projected him through several articles in local and foreign press as the poetic voice of the ‘resistance’, the euphemism and native name for Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

“The idea was to give the foreign-funded Islamist militancy in Kashmir a local face and project it as freedom struggle from India. For over a decade, the narrative of Kashmir’s ‘azadi’ (freedom) was built and popularised across Indian and foreign universities and institutions,” Kashmiri writer and cultural critic Sualeh Keen told IANS.

Since the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) in 2014, the discourse in Kashmir changed with many youth getting drawn towards its ideology and objective. Many masked boys were seen waving ISIS flags during violent protests in Srinagar.

Burhan Wani, who was killed by security forces in Kashmir in 2016, for example, employed the ISIS tactics like using social media for recruitment. Even though he was the commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, the terror group which seeks Kashmir’s merger with Pakistan, he was a vocal proponent of the Islamic Caliphate.

His aide Zakir Musa, who quit the Hizbul in 2017 and formed the provincial branch of al-Qaeda in Kashmir, Ansar-Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGuH), enjoyed substantial popularity among a section of youth in the Valley for his daredevil and radical statements. He threatened to slaughter pro-Pakistan and pro-Independence Kashmiri separatists if they created any hurdles in the path of turning Kashmir into an Islamic State.

“As a result, Pakistan-backed terrorism, which had for decades attempted to portray itself as an organic, local freedom movement in Kashmir, assumed pan-Islamic international characteristics,” a senior police officer said.

The discovery of an ISIS module in Kashmir in 2018 and the formal announcement of the formation of Islamic State of Jammu & Kashmir (ISJK) or Wilayat-al-Hind (WaH) in 2019 added to the global character of terror in Kashmir.

Following the killing of Kashmir’s most famous journalist-cum-peace activist Shujaat Bukhari by Pakistan-backed terrorists in Srinagar in June 2018, the Central government took several measures to crackdown on the terror network in the Valley.

While the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog for terror-funding, placed Pakistan in the ‘grey list’, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested politicians and businessmen for terror-funding, declared JKLF a terror group and banned the Islamist radical group Jamaat-e-Islami as well.

With all such measures and the government revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status by nullifying Article 370 on August 5 last year, Pakistan “lost ground and its hold in Kashmir dramatically,” an Army officer in Srinagar said.

However, as soon as the US-Taliban peace deal in Afghanistan came through in February this year, not only did terror activities in Kashmir increase, the TRF also began to appear everywhere on social media, even taking credit for the terror attacks that it did not launch.

Incidentally, in 1989, after the CIA-backed Afghan Mujahideen defeated Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the US had left the region at Pakistan’s mercy. Exactly around the same time, Pakistan’ ISI turned its attention to Kashmir, training and arming the Mujahideen against India.

Though Indian security agencies initially dismissed TRF as just another social media handle, after the arrest of six of its members and seizure of a huge cache of arms, they have been on a wild goose chase. On the ground, security agencies have found that TRF does not really exist as an organisation.

Defence security analysts believe that TRF is yet another attempt by Pakistan to project terrorism in Kashmir as an indigenous freedom movement, giving Pakistani banned terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad plausible deniability, and allowing Pakistan to evade international pressure.

“Since its surfacing on social media platforms, it has resorted to falsely claiming high traction acts and terrorists as its own. TRF has been holding to every thread there is to associate itself with any and every event. It is not a new tactic that the moment a group surfaces, it starts making a series of tall claims to set up and validate itself as the top rung among others,” a senior Army officer said.

What differentiates them from the others, he said, is the sheer planning and precision of execution. “Every claim they make is swiftly followed by an online barrage of tweets and telegrams. From nicely printed English announcements on a letterhead with serial numbering to professionally made videos of audio messages are the tools used for enhancing their image as an organised and ‘better’ outfit than others. It is an old marketing technique to establish your credibility in a new market,” he said.

TRF, incidentally, sounds like The Plebiscite Front (TPF) — a political group led by the aides of Kashmir’s most popular leader Sheikh Abdullah after he was arrested in 1953 on the directions of then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in a case related to sedition.

Also, in the last decade, the Kashmiri Muslim intelligentsia, its diaspora and the new generations backing Kashmir’s separation from India, have created and named multiple platforms across the world with the word ‘resistance’ in them.

“TRF is nothing but a bunch of Kashmiri Muslim separatists with some knowledge of media and literature like that of Agha Shahid Ali,” a counter-intelligence Kashmiri official said.

Cyber analysts, however, claim that TRF’s social media accounts, according to the internet protocol address, were being operated from Islamabad and that too, mostly from an iPhone.

“The connivance and support of Pakistan is clearly visible since Kashmir was still under a lockdown and the Internet had been snapped simultaneously for the very same reason when TRF accounts on social media began surfacing,” an official said.

All the terror attacks in the last few months in Kashmir, according to counter-terrorism experts, have been perpetrated by the usual suspects like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen.

“TRF is a front of Lashkar, by several assessments. Pakistan is sidelining Hizbul because it neither has strong leadership, nor the stamina to incite violence in Kashmir. So Lashkar and Jaish are likely to dominate the theatre, but TRF or some other neutrally named newbie will take the credit. Apart from using psychological operations as its biggest weapon, Pakistan is taking the well-established route in its hybrid war,” an intelligence officer said.

In his prognosis of ‘The New Rules of War’, Sean McFate described shadow wars as armed conflicts in which plausible deniability, not firepower, forms the centre of gravity. And in this information age, he said, plausible deniability is more decisive than firepower.

“This dynamic makes war epistemological: Telling what is real from fake will decide the winners and losers,” he wrote.

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Rithambara hails Bhumi Pujan, recalls Ram temple movement

When asked about L K Advani and M M Joshi who have now taken a back seat, Rithambara said, “They lit the spark to carry the movement forward.”

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Sadhvi Rithambara

Ayodhya, Aug 4 : A day before the Bhumi Pujan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the Ram temple in Ayodhya on Wednesday, firebrand Hindu leader Sadhvi Rithambara expressed happiness over the event. During the Ram temple movement, her riveting speeches had a deep impact on thousands of Ram devotees. They also gave a boost to the Sri Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

In a telephonic interview with IANS Rithambara said that she could not exress her happiness over the once in a lifetime event like the Bhumi Pujan in mere words. Rithambara is elated about the resurgence of self-respect for Indian culture that has come to the fore after nearly 500 years of struggle and shared that she is brimming with pride and boundless joy.

Asked how she got involved with the Ram temple movement, she said, “The attempt by foreign invaders to destroy our culture made me angry and I joined the movement. However, my role in this movement remained small just like a squirrel. Though I was involved in the movement with utmost devotion, Ram Lalla took me towards Ayodhya and I took a resolute stand by the banks of the sacred Saryu river. I spent my youth for Ram Janmabhoomi and the Hindu culture only with the blessings of Lord Ram. I was groomed under the able leadership of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader the late Ashok Singhal.”

Responding to a question, the Sadhvi said, “When the Ram temple movement was at its peak, there were various obstacles in the way. I spent most of my time in jungles, caves and among beggars. People were scared of sheltering us in their homes. We suffered a lot when we were struggling underground. But all the pain is forgotten on the achievement of our objective to build the Ram temple.”

Rithambara said during the Ram temple movement her speeches were recorded secretly. At that time there was such enthusiasm among the people that the Ram Mandir movement became a mass movement, it was not because of any institution or organisation and now the outcome will be witnessed on August 5.

When asked about L K Advani and M M Joshi who have now taken a back seat, Rithambara said, “They lit the spark to carry the movement forward.”

On the question of women being excluded from the Temple Trust, she said it is immaterial. “The Lord wanted us to get it done. There is no gender distinction here. The temple of God is being built, that’s what matters.”

On the question of the ‘mahurat’, she said Lord Ram’s work is always auspicious. Ramji himself has chosen his ‘mahurat’. The whole world is pleased with the construction of Lord Ram’s temple. Festivities are taking place in every house.

On the alleged caste discrimination, the Sadhvi dismissed it as a figment of the imagination, saying that a seer has no caste. A limited number of people have been invited for the Bhumi Pujan due to the corona pandemic, so it should not be taken otherwise, she added.

In response to another question, she said she did not know who all were invited. Those who are not able to be at the Bhumi Pujan, can go there any time as per their convenience.

On a Pakistani minister’s acerbic reaction to the Bhumi Pujan, she said that Pakistan should respect the sentiments of crores of Indians. This will promote harmony.

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People behind the Ayodhya movement: Known and unknown

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Babri Demolition

Ayodhya, Aug 4 : The movement for a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya over the years has seen many key players from time to time carrying forward the campaign. The known faces are the one that have received their share of fame and publicity but there are some who remain in the realms of oblivion.

One of the initiators of the temple movement was Mahant Raghubar Das who filed a petition in the Faizabad Court for permission to build a Ram temple adjacent to the Babri mosque.

Several saints in Ayodhya still give credit to Mahant Raghubar Das for initiating the legal battle that is culminating in the construction of the Ram temple. However, there are many who prefer that he remains unhonoured and unsung.

Then there was Gopal Singh Visharad who filed the first case on the temple dispute in Independent India in 1950.

Visharad was a resident of Balrampur district and the head of the Hindu Mahasabha in the district. He had been stopped by the police from going to the Ram Janmabhoomi and he submitted a petition seeking unhindered access to Hindus to the Janambhoomi.

K.K. Nair, a 1930 batch IAS officer, was district magistrate of Faizabad when the idol of Ram Lalla was placed in the disputed complex on the night of December 23, 1949.

Nair refused to get the idol removed even though he was asked to do so by the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and then Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Govind Ballabh Pant. Nair had told his political bosses that they would have to remove him before the idol could be removed.

A resident of Alleppey in Kerala, Nair opted for voluntary retirement in 1952 and was elected to the fourth Lok Sabha in 1967 from Bahraich on a Jan Sangh ticket. His wife, Shankuntala Nair was also elected twice from Kaiserganj Lok Sabha seat.

In 1949, Mahant Digvijay Nath, the chief priest of the Goraksh temple in Gorakhpur led the temple movement after the idol was placed in the disputed complex. The Mahant brought all saints and seers on one platform and drafted the blueprint for the movement which later spread across the country.

After his demise in 1969, his successor Mahant Avaidyanath played an important role in the temple movement. Mahant Avaidyanath’s successor is present Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who has also played a proactive role in the temple movement.

Then there are commoners, forgotten face of the Ayodhya movement. One such is ‘kar sevak’ Suresh Baghel, a resident of Vrindavan in Mathura. He made the first attempt to bring down the Babri mosque and faced police action, courted arrest and made several rounds of courts.

Baghel, who now works in a private company on a salary of Rs 6,000 per month, refuses to even talk on the temple issue. “Now no one remembers me and I remember nothing. Please leave me alone,” he said when attempts were made to contact him.

In the 1990s when the temple movement gained momentum, leading to the demolition of the Babri mosque, the then VHP leader Ashok Singhal became the chief architect of Hindutva.

His slogan “Ek dhakka aur do, babri masjid tod do”, created a frenzy and mobilised Hindus like never before. Singhal passed away in 2015 and did not live to see the Ram temple being constructed.

Parveen Togadia, then a senior VHP leader, was also known for his proactive role in the temple movement. He lost his clout after the demise of Ashok Singhal.

L.K. Advani and Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, then top BJP leaders, also played key role in the temple movement, giving it the much-needed political push with their party.

The BJP’s rise in India politics is directly linked to the temple movement and the role played by these two leaders.

Vinay Katiyar, a firebrand Hindu leader, was also the founder of the Bajrang Dal that gave a cutting edge to the temple movement. Katiyar went on to become a three-term MP from Ayodhya but later slid into political oblivion.

Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Kalyan Singh was another important player in the temple movement. He was UP chief minister when the Babri mosque was demolished and his government was dismissed the same day. Kalyan Singh was convicted for contempt of court because he had promised to protect the mosque.

Uma Bharti and Sadhvi Rithambhara led the women brigade in the temple movement. Both were known for their fiery speeches. Cassettes of Rithambhara’s fiery speeches were sold at a premium in the market and were enough to ignite communal violence.

Talking to IANS, a senior saint of Ayodhya who did not wish to be named, said, ‘All these people have contributed to the temple movement which has reached a stage where the temple construction is beginning. I feel we should have made it a point to invite all those who are still alive and should have felicitated them.”

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Ayodhya’s Lord Ram is Orchha’s Ram Raja

Orchha’s Ram Raja temple will also be decorated in a grand manner on the occasion of the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ in Ayodhya.

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Ram Raja temple MP

Niwari/Bhopal, Aug 3 : As Ayodhya is ushering in a new era with the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ for the Ram temple, about 500 km away in Madhya Pradesh’s Orchha, home to the Ram Raja temple, enthusiasm is quite discernible. The Ram Raja temple will be specially decorated on August 5, the day of the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ in Ayodhya.

It is believed that Lord Ram was enthroned here not as a God but as a King.

Orchha, also known as the ‘Ayodhya of Bundelkhand’, is a city with a 600-year-old relationship with Ayodhya. Lord Ram is given a salute by the policemen during the ‘aarti’ performed four times a day. It is said that the devotees do not see the idol of Ram with their eyes but only seek his blessings by touching his feet. ‘Paan’ (betel leaves) along with a perfumed wick is offered to the devotees as ‘prasad’.

Ancient documents reveal that King Madhukar Shah of the Orchha dynasty was a Krishna devotee and his wife Ganesh Kunwar was a Ram devotee. Arguments followed between the two regarding their devotion. When Madhukar Shah asked his queen to go to Vrindavan, she spoke about going to Ayodhya. The king sarcastically replied, “If your Ram really exists then bring him to Orchha from Ayodhya.”

It is said that Ganesh Kunwar went to Ayodhya from Orchha and meditated for 21 days, but when Ram did not appear she was disappointed and jumped into the Sarayu river where Ram was seen in her lap.

Ganesh Kunwar then urged Lord Ram to visit Orchha. Lord Ram placed three conditions before her — I will be enthroned as a king in Orchha, where once I sit down, I will not get up from there and will only go to Orchha on foot on an auspicious day. The queen accepted all three conditions laid down by Lord Ram.

Local expert Pandit Jagdish Tiwari says according to the legend, the construction of the grand temple was going on when Ganesh Kunwar reached Orchha from Ayodhya with Lord Ram. The queen placed Ram in the kitchen from where he did not get up, as laid down in the three conditions.

The kitchen premises were then converted into a temple. This is the place where Lord Ram is the king that is why no leader, minister or official comes into the four-walled area of Orchha in a vehicle. Only Lord Ram is given a salute here.

Tiwari says during the day Lord Ram stays here but goes to Ayodhya to sleep. That is why it is said that “Lord Ram has two special residences — in the day he resides in Orchha and in the night in Ayodhya.”

Orchha’s Ram Raja temple will also be decorated in a grand manner on the occasion of the ‘Bhoomi Pujan’ in Ayodhya.

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said, “Ram Raja ki Jai! Shri Ram Raja resides in Orchha, he is the king of the state. On August 4 and 5, Ram Raja temple will be specially decorated and special puja will be performed by the priests. To ensure the corona infection does not spread all residents in Orchha have been urged to stay at home and worship Ram Raja by lighting a small lamp on the pious occasion.”

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