We all know of white collar crime, a term coined by the American sociologist Edwin Sutherland in 1939 that’s broadly defined as a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status during the course of their occupation. White collar crime typically differs from blue collar crime on the basis of the social class of the offender. While a blue-collar criminal would typically commit crimes such as burglary, theft, sex crimes, assault or drug abuse, a white collar criminal, to the same affect, would commit crimes such as wire fraud, forgery, money laundering, fund embezzlement or more. I explain this as preset to the recent emergence of ‘white collar terrorism’ in Kashmir — a variance of the term.
White collar terrorism in vogue today in Kashmir refers to the numerous examples of white collared individuals operating in and out of the valley. They have done well for themselves and their children, by acting as obedient mouthpieces for their cross-border handlers in Pakistan.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani, an Islamist, pro-Pakistan, separatist leader in Jammu and Kashmir, who founded the Geelani faction of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, was commonly known for inciting violence and working as off-shoot of Pakistan is one such example. His son, Nayeem and his wife are both doctors, while his other son, Naseem, works as a professor at SKUAST, Kashmir. Geelani’s grandson is a crew member in a private airline in India, while his daughter, Farhat is a teacher in Saudi Arabia. His grandson was appointed as a research assistant in a department of state government through backdoor in 2016, when the valley erupted in violent protests after Burhan Wani the militant commander was killed in a shoot-out. Ruwa Shah, daughter of Altaf Ahmad Shah, Geelani’s son-in-law, is a journalist and has worked with leading organizations such as Al Jazeera, IANS and The Indian Express.
Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his well-to-do family is just one example. Various others have conveniently escaped the spotlight, as they sit comfortably in their homes and incite violence in Kashmir while peddling hatred against the nation with the sole motive of keeping the conflict alive in the valley. Asiya Andrabi, founding leader of “Dukhtaran-e-Millat”, was one of the leading separatist women in the valley. She married Qasim Faktoo, founding member of Hizbul Mujahideen in 1990 who is better known for supporting Masarat Alam in the 2010 stone pelting rallies. She hoisted the Pakistan flag and sang the Pakistani national anthem in Kashmir on March 25, 2015. She sent her son to Malaysia for higher education and even managed to arrange a passport for him. Asiya was taken into custody on July 6, 2018 by the National Investigation Agency for waging war against India.
Apart from these high profiled ‘white collared terrorists’, there are numerous others in the Kashmir society. Iqbal Wani from Hajin, an average lower middle-class family, instigated youth into stone pelting, found favour of Pakistani ISI and terrorist organisation handlers. He was tasked to recruit terrorists. Saleem Parrey and Nisar Ahmad Dar were his prodigies. Money flowed for Iqbal Wani. One fine day, out of the blue, one of his brothers opened a multi-million carpet business. The other brother has a fleet of pick-up trucks. The family is now rich. As of now, while Saleem Parrey is on the run and Nisar Ahmad Dar is languishing in jail, the future of many boys instigated by them into pelting stones is destroyed.
The unaddressed issue at hand today in Kashmir, is the exploitation of the “have-nots” by a handful of “haves”. The Geelanis and Asiyas who carved a comfortable life for themselves, kept inciting the Kashmiri youth to Jihad and “fight for freedom” against India, whilst their own children are safely tucked away in foreign lands availing education and other perks. The duality adopted by such white collared terrorists escapes the eyes of those held against the wall by extreme poverty, illiteracy, inaccessibility and religious fundamentalism.
Then, there is an emergence of ISI-sponsored diaspora majorly set up in the United States, London, Turkey and other countries like in parts of Europe and UAE. These ISI-sponsored cells are a part of bigger propaganda machinery and mostly comprises of people who have thrived on brewing the conflict in Kashmir. Gulam Nabi Fai who spearheaded this diaspora was eventually arrested by FBI in 2011 for concealing funds to the tune of US$ 3 million received from ISI Pakistan and subsequently, he pleaded guilty to the charge and was imprisoned. This turned out to be the tip of the iceberg. In following years, Pakistan’s ISI enrolled more Kashmiris and provided them with perks, privileges, money and scholarships in other foreign countries with the sole agenda of running anti-India narrative and preaching jihad, primarily through social media channels. They massively funded these white collared terrorists to keep the killing factories in Kashmir operative.
Prominent among them is Muzamil Ayub Thakur, whose father, Ayub Thakur, was a known money launderer who used to fund terror activities in Kashmir valley while safely operating out of UK, where he amassed a luxurious life for himself and his family. His son has now taken over father’s money laundering business for ISI and spearheads the anti-India narrative by inciting youth of Kashmir towards violence against Indian civil society from London.
Another Kashmiri, Asif Dar, who originally hailed from Sopore, and presently keeps shuttling between UAE and Turkey, was initially associated with pro-Indian mainstream political parties like Janta Dal United and Peoples Conference. In Sopore and adjoining areas, there are many people who accused him of duping innocent youth of lakhs of rupees by promising jobs. He subsequently ran away from Kashmir and joined the ISI bandwagon for greener pastures he envisioned for himself. His duplicity came recently to the fore when in one of Twitter spaces, he was inciting people of Kashmir to perpetrate violence, while in the same breath accepted that had he known for sure that freedom will be attained he would have sacrificed his own life, but since it’s not happening soon, he would stay away from that violent path. Instead, he wanted the gullible youth in the valley to die senselessly so that his coffers abroad could be filled.
The vicious circle formed by the hatred fuelled by such white collared terrorists and the under privileged youth who fall prey to their agenda and pick up arms against the state is a carcinogenic phenomenon which has consumed the lives of vast number of youth of Kashmir.
Although efforts are in progress by the government of India through its agencies operating in the valley to realign the youth with the national mainstream; these efforts shall not yield optimum results till the time the people of Kashmir realise the hidden agenda of these white-collar terrorists.
Another major menace facing the youth in Kashmir today is the narco-terrorism which, again, cannot thrive without the involvement of the white collared terrorists who have the wherewithal to sustain such a major and expensive source of terror funding. As per reports from de-addiction centre at Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Srinagar, drug abuse in the Kashmir valley has increased by 1500% in the past three years of 2018-2020. The expenditure on opioids in the districts of Anantnag and Srinagar, two of the worst affected districts, is a whopping Rs 3.75 crore.
A hardened white-collar terrorist who works as an over ground worker (OGW), in addition to furthering the cross-border agenda of terrorism by recruiting or inciting youth for terrorism, also facilitates the safe keep of the terrorists, both local and foreign, in hinterland by providing for all necessities. Be it hard cash, food, medicine supplies or even hideouts, such OGWs are often well to do, well established and technically empowered individuals who assist the terrorists with critical technical infrastructure required for maintaining cross border contact, mapping of sensitive areas, targeting pro-India populace and escaping the vigilant gaze of the security forces of the country. Thus, an OGW operating under the garb of a white collared individual is far more radicalised, motivated and geared to work for the failed cause of terrorism and is therefore way more dangerous than an actual terrorist who picks up a weapon and propagates terror.
These white collared individuals are hiding in plain sight and only come out to feed off the facilities being provided by the ISI. They may be teachers, doctors, businessmen, local shopkeepers, or even prominent personalities, with whom the local populace could be interacting on a daily basis. Such white collared terrorists are forever on the lookout for potential innocent targets whom they can cling onto either on the pretext of financial assistance, religious indoctrination, regional or religious rivalry.
It is thus important for the people of Kashmir to identify such dangerous black sheep amongst their community and shun their vile agenda by exposing them to the community and the administration to save the future of Kashmir. The onus lies in the hands of each parent, teacher, moulvi and even peers to ensure that someone known to them does not fall prey to such specimens of duality.