“Listen RSS terrorists… we will avenge the martyrdom of every Muslim because now Hind will become Pakistan,” said a visibly geared-up 16-year-old Masab in a video posted by Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba on social media.
The IJT, which is the student wing of Pakistan’s right-wing Jamaat-e-Islami, released a video a few days ago, starring five children – three boys and two girls. The kids were all seen taunting the right-wing India for its prejudices against Muslims.
“We will eat Cow’s Kebab at the Delhi gate,” said another kid, referring to lynching of Muslims in India over consumption of cow meat.
Soon after the video went viral, the IJT and Jamaat-e-Islami were severely criticized on social networking sites and India’s mainstream media. Some even accused the group of “brainwashing” children.
“Indulged in hatred, Pakistan is all set to destroy its own new generation,” said an anchor on ABP News – an Indian news channel – as he showed the IJT video. The anchor even went to the limit of calling the children junior Masood Azhar and Hafiz Saeed. Azhar, the leader of proscribed Jaish-e-Muhammad, and Saeed are two of the most hated men in India.
He even called them “secret weapons” of the ISI. India had blamed Masood Azhar’s group for February 14 Pulwama attack that killed 40 Indian soldiers.
In response, Indian planes violated Pakistani airspace. A day later on February 27, Pakistan shot down two Indian planes. One plane crashed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and its pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan, was captured. However, in an attempt to de-escalate tensions, Pakistan returned the pilot to India as a “gesture of peace” and Prime Minister Imran Khan urged for talks.
Tensions between the two countries once against escalated after India revoked Kashmir’s autonomous status and imposed a curfew in the valley for an indefinite period of time.
The Pakistan government and political and religious groups have been protesting on the streets since then.
The Jamaat-e-Islami has been calling for Jihad in Indian-controlled Kashmir for decades with its leaders attending rallies with Kashmiri leaders, including Syed Salahuddin and Mast Gul.
The latest video by Jamaat-e-Islami’s student wing was another attempt to remind the people that Kashmir Jihad is still a priority for the party.
Suhaiba is a fourth grader. She is one of the children who appeared in the video. She doesn’t know much about the Kashmir issue and the Jamaat’s policy, and all she is doing is reading a script.
The 10-year-old wants to spend her vacations in Shimla.
SAMAA Digital sat down with the child and asked why she wants to visit Shimla? She repeated what she had already said in the video: “Shimla is a beautiful place. First, I will spend my vacations there, and then I will go to Goa.” She dreams that India will be hers after a victory.
Masab is her 16-year-old elder brother and the student of eighth grade. He has read news stories and seen videos about Kashmir on social media. Like his father, he is also a supporter of Jamaat-e-Islami because he thinks the religious group is highlighting Kashmir’s case.
He’s a student of Karachi’s Usman Public School and a firm believer that Jihad is the only way to resolve the Kashmir dispute.
“Kashmir is ours, now God willing we will also make Hind Pakistan,” Masab said. He wants Prime Minister Imran Khan to open borders and allow Pakistani youngsters to wage Jihad against Indian forces in Kashmir.
“If I were the prime minister, I would have sent the army to Kashmir after declaring Jihad against India,” Masab said as he warned Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi: “We can do anything. India should be ready for us.”
‘Soft and positive rebuttal’
Just days after the IJT’s video was released, India’s Zee News came up with a rebuttal. But it was very soft and positive.
“When on your side in Peshawar, terrorists killed children my mother cried that day,” said an Indian kid in the video.
Another kid asked Pakistani children to concentrate on their education.
“Dear friends, the people who are poisoning your brains… tell them to concentrate on your education and the country’s development. It would be great for you are your country’s future,” the kid said.
Using children to spread propaganda
The use of children is not peculiar to [the] JI as a number of Muslim and non-Muslim groups use them as pawns in their militant activities, Samina Yasmeen, a professor at the University of Western Australia and the author of ‘Jihad and Dawah’, told SAMAA Digital.
“My understanding is that the groups affiliated with the JI have participated in jihadi activities even if it’s just in the realm of propagating the ideas,” she said.
Commenting on the video, Professor Yasmeen said that “encouraging children to think or speak like that does run the risk of desensitizing them to conflict.”
Man behind the IJT video
Suhaib Jamal – a former member of the IJT who runs an advertising agency in Karachi – is the brain behind the video. He has written political satires and dramas in the past.
Jamal said the IJT wanted a promo for their Kashmir rally and he thought they should do something “out of the box”.
The idea was to convey a message [to India] from “our weakest” but their “spirit” should be high, Jamal said while sitting at the JI’s office in Karachi. “Children are weak but they are very courageous,” he added.
“When I wrote the first line… I said this voice will be heard in India and that’s what exactly happened,” he said, referring to Indian media’s reaction to his video. “It was pre-planned.”
“Our children have a history,” Jamal said as he gives an example of Muhammad bin Qasim. “He was just 17 years old when he conquered Deebal… He defeated a power like Raja Dahir… He was only 17.”
“The child who is saying ‘listen RSS goons… terrorists’ [in the video]… he is 16-year-old, remember, he might become a Sipah-e-Salar (commander) next year.”
Shaping young minds
Although the IJT denies brainwashing children but one of its office-bearers in Karachi has admitted to “shaping” minds of the new generation.
Abdul Ahad Talha, the IJT’s information secretary in Karachi and a student at the University of Karachi’s Islamic Learning department, told SAMAA Digital that their aim is to “make up and prepare” the minds of children. “The aim behind this campaign was to invoke the passion for Jihad.”
The IJT office-bearer said that PM Khan delivered a very good speech at the UNGA last month but he didn’t take any practical steps.
“India… they are coward people,” Talha said. “Our army has a passion for Jihad. They leave their homes to go to borders. Passion is there… there is a need to give it a push.”
Is Jihad in Kashmir even possible?
Experts, however, believe that waging Jihad in India-controlled Kashmir is not possible for either Jamaat-e-Islami or any other religious group.
Zahid Hussain, a veteran reporter and an analyst, told SAMAA Digital that several workers of Jamaat-e-Islami had participated in Kashmir Jihad in the 1990’s. Their workers had worked with Hizbul Mujahideen and Al-Badr, he added.
“But today is different,” the analyst said, adding that religious groups had the state’s support back then.
“Terrorism is a big issue,” Hussain said. “Any attempt to wage Jihad in there [India-controlled Kashmir] would sabotage the Kashmir issue.”