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NEW DELHI: The terror tactic of beheading, which many associate with the viral video of the 2002 decapitation of the Wall Street Journal correspondent Daniel Pearl in Pakistan, and which first appeared in Kashmir in 1995, has chillingly returned to the valley after a while.
Terrorists last week abducted a Kashmir BJP official, Gowhar Hussain Bhat, 30, and slit his throat. Bhat’s body, with a deep slash on his jugular, was found in an orchard in Kiloora, Shopian district. In August, terrorists decapitated 30-year-old Muzaffar Natta of Parray Mohalla Hajin of north Kashmir’s Bandipora district. His headless body was recovered from the Jhelum, the video of which went viral in Kashmir, sending villagers into shock.
Police claimed that terrorists may have resorted to this brutality “to avenge the killing of Abu Musaib, nephew of top Lashkar leader Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.” The group suspected that Muzaffar was a police informer who got Musaib killed by the forces early this year, an official said.
Pakistan-sponsored cross-border proxy war is in full swing ever since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces last year in Kashmir. Over 340 terrorists and over 150 security personnel have been killed in Kashmir since 2016. Union home ministry estimates that last year more than 370 terrorists tried to infiltrate into the valley from Pakistan. Almost double the number of attempts were made in 2017 even as law and order improved and stone-pelting declined by three-fourths, an official said.
A senior police officer in Srinagar told TOI, “As we’ve been able to wrest control of the streets and scaled up our counter-insurgency operations, terror groups are frustrated. They’re trying to up the ante by turning more gruesome and creating fear to prevent locals from cooperating with security forces.”
An Army officer, however, claimed that the beheadings were likely being committed by a particular terror group for turf dominance.
“They’re all competing with each other ever since Wani’s successor Zakir Musa quit Hizbul and joined al Qaeda. Musa has been projecting himself as more brutal and Islamist than others through online propaganda. Long-term major jihadi groups, Hizbul, Lashkar and Jaish, cannot appear to be moderate, therefore. The most dreadful will get to dictate the terms eventually,” the officer said.
Another expert on terror said beheadings generate far more fear than shootings. Data points collected from newspaper reports reveal that around 150 people have been beheaded in J&K since 1995. The latest beheadings occurred after eight years, the last one being on May 15, 2009, when terrorists slit the throat of a forest guard in Kupwara.
In 1995, six foreign tourists were kidnapped by Al-Faran, an Islamist terror group, from Pahalgam, in south Kashmir. Of the six, five were killed while one escaped. One victim, a Norwegian, Hans Christian Ostro, was beheaded.
In April 1998 Prankote massacre, 26 Hindus were beheaded in Udhampur. Several mainstream political activists, cops, professionals and ordinary civilians have been decapitated since, by all three major terrorist groups: Hizbul, Lashkar and Jaish. Lashkar beheaded eight people in Rajouri in August 2002.
YouTube video recordings of gruesome decapitations by Islamic State since 2014 has evoked global outrage. “But the extremist Islamist sect, Wahhabism (as practised by the Saudi government) sanctions beheading. After weekly Friday prayer services, state-ordered beheadings are performed outside mosques in Saudi Arabian cities,” a religious scholar said.