Abdul Rashid Dar
How Jamaat e Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen propped up Dar to insulate them against state action
Abdul Rashid Dar, former MLA of Sopore, has maintained strong relations with the top leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen in Pakistan for nearly 30 years now.Abdul Rashid Dar is a resident of Danger Pora, Sopore, and a senior leader of Congress. He entered active politics with the blessings and active support of the top leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen and the Jamaat e Islami leadership, and with the approval of Syed Ali Geelani. Dar entered Kashmir’s political fray with the Assembly elections held in 2002 and won the election, courtesy this strong backing.
For Dar, becoming an MLA was like being catapulted from the bottom rung to the top. Dar had studied only till Class 8. What worked for him was his close friendship with Naseem Geelani, son of Syed Ali Geelani. Dar’s native village is at a distance of approximately one kilometer from Dooru, the native village of Syed Ali Geelani. By 2002, this area had been dominated by militancy for about two decades. On account of the stiff resistance to elections and the democratic process in this area, it was very difficult for anyone to enter the political fray from here. Rashid Dar was working as an over-ground worker for Hizbul Mujahideen. He had (and continues to have) close ties with Naseem Geelani. Naseem Geelani is the owner of a school named Unique Educational Institute. This school is constructed over about 100 kanals of state land, which has been grabbed by Naseem Geelani. Unique Educational Institute is considered as a basic office for the leaders of Jamaat e Islami and its establishment. This area has been dominated by Jamaat e Islami since one of the top JEI leaders Syed Ali Geelani hailed from this area.
Rashid Dar was asked to join a national political party
Some people who have been close to Rashid Dar told me that there was serious discussion that Jamaat e Islam and its militant arm Hizbul Mujahideen should have their man in the political establishment of Kashmir. The top leadership of Hizbul Mujahideen in Pakistan was privy to this discussion and was in agreement that they must have their own man in the political establishment of the state.
Naseem Geelani trusted Rashid Dar. He knew that Dar was a committed over-ground worker for Hizbul Mujahideen. He would always be a loyalist and would continue to do their bidding. Hence Dar was chosen to be the political face for Jamaat e Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen. It was decided that Dar would join a national political party. Jamaat e Islami and the Hizbul Mujahideen leadership in Pakistan were aware that all policies targeting terrorist organizations in Kashmir are made by policy makers in Kashmir. Hence their own man in the political establishment would be a useful tool to always defend and protect them from severe state action. Naseem Gilani also had deep personal interest in installing a man in the political establishment.
Individuals close to Naseem Geelani and Rashid Dar told me that JEI decided that Dar would also be very useful in case action was initiated against Unique Educational Institute for grabbing state land. As part of these discussions, a meeting was arranged. Syed Ali Geelani, some top JEI leaders, some fruit merchants, Naseem Geelani and Abdul Rashid Dar attended the meeting. It was unanimously decided to install Rashid Dar in active politics. It was decided that Rashid Dar would get the party ticket from a national party like the Congress. His major task would be to safeguard the interests of Jamaat e Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen in Sopore.
At this time, Sopore had emerged as the major support base for Hizbul Mujahideen and other militant organizations. All major security agencies were trying to consolidate their base in Sopore so that they would be privy to any upheaval happening here, which would impact the rest of Kashmir. This had compelled the security agencies to have some JEI leaders of Sopore in their network. JEI and Hizbul Mujahideen provided a strong local mechanism to ensure that Rashid Dar would win from the area as the Congress candidate. Anybody who was familiar with the area knew that it was beyond anyone’s imagination that a Congress candidate could win the election from here. The area was in the total grip of militancy. Passions rose high higher because this was the birthplace of Syed Ali Geelani. Other top JEI leaders hailed from here. Nobody knew that securing the candidature of Rashid Dar was the conspiracy of Hizbul Mujahideen and Jamaat e Islami to secure and safeguard their interest. They wanted their own man who would enable them to get access to the state administration.
J&K Assembly Elections of 2002: JEI and HM elections to ensure Rashid Dar Won
With a strong reach or JEI in the Congress, Rashid Dar got the party ticket for Sopore for the 2002 Assembly election. Jamaat e Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen decided to do everything possible to ensure that their man was elected. Local militants were directed that the call to boycott the election must be successful in those villages where Kashmiris were likely to vote for National Conference. Militants were also directed that in all the villages where National Conference did not have a support base, the locals must be directed to vote. The PDP ticket was given to one Gulam Rasool Shah, a social activist from Hardshiva. Shah was forced and threatened to withdraw his nomination papers for the election. Hizbul Mujahideen and Jamaat e Islami put in their entire effort to ensure that Rashid Dar won the election. Naseem Geelani also spoke to Syed Salahudin in Pakistan to get the green signal from the Hizbul Mujahideen command for complete assistance here before that camp. One Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Harvan Sopore was the divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. Jamaat e Islalmi recommended to Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin that he should be given the charge to fulfil this political project.
Rashid Dar was fortunate that he got Nazir Ahmad to push for his election. Nazir is closely related to Rashid Dar. He is the brother of Rashid Dar’s son-in-law. Nazir later moved to Pakistan. Rashid Dar won the election. After becoming MLA, Rashid Dar was used as a tool by the Geelani family, by Jamaat e Islami and by Hizbul Mujahideen to serve their interests in the region. Whenever any JEI leader got arrested in Sopore for pushing anti-national activities, Dar was at the forefront to get him released.
Jamaat e Islami and Mufti Mohd Sayeed were closely aligned by this time. Hence Mufti was asked to take personal care of Rashid Dar. A sarpanch of Hardshiva told me: “Once I and other eminent people of the area went to GA Mir, the president of J&K Congress Committee. We complained to him to please replace this illiterate person Rashid Dar. Mir refused. He said that we are helpless in this matter and cannot take any action regarding Rashid Dar. If we think of any action against him, we will need the approval of Geelani Sahab. There is a group of JEI leaders in Zaingeer area of Sopore. They looked after all the programs of Geelani Sahab under the patronage of Abdul Rashid Dar. Among them is Bashir Ahmad Beigh, former president of Fruit Mandi, Sopore and Chairman, Awqaaf Committee, Dooru. Beigh holds a key position in the trust of Unique Educational Institute, the property of Naseem Geelani. Bashir Ahmad beigh is also a close relative of Rashid Dar. Bashir’s sister is married to the younger brother of Rashid Dar.
After Rashid Dar, Bashir Ahmad Beigh is the second in command in the area to look after all programs to be executed by Naseem Geelani. Bashir is the Awqaaf Chairman because he is the choice of Naseem Geelani. Mohammad Subhan Wani, a Hurriyat leader, is a resident of Tujjar Shareef, Sopore. He is a close friend of Abdul Rashid Dar. Whenever Subhan was called to the police station for some untoward activity as a Hurriyat leader, Rashid Dar would quickly intervene and always got him released. A police officer told me, “Ghulam Hassan Shah, a Hurriyat leader of Bumai, Sopore, is now in jail. He was also part of this group. He is still in jail because J&K is a UT now, and Abdul Rashid Dar does not have any say in the Administration. Otherwise Ghulam Hassan Shah would have been released or maybe he would not have been arrested. Rashid Dar was always influencing the Adminstration to favour all these JEI leaders.”
A local sarpanch, Ashraf Bhat, told me it is a mere accident that Abdul Rashid Dar was the MLA for their constituency. “His being the MLA was a great setback to the residents of this area. He had no idea of development. Our area is lacking in all major aspects like education infrastructure, provision of proper electricity, roads, health sector. Rashid Dar won the election in 2002 and again in 2014 because he was the choice of Geelani Sahab. He did not win because we wanted to vote for him. The government must constitute a committee and send it to our area to prepare a report on the kind of life we are living here. We do not have safe drinking water. Communicable diseases easily spread here. Our area is in such a bad shape because our representative did not have any idea of development. His only focus was to look out for any adverse action against members of Jamaat e Islami, Hizbul Mujahideen or the Hurriyat, and try to prevent any such action.”
Why Rashid Dar Lost The 2008 Assembly Election
Rashid Dar won the Assembly election in 2002. He also won the election in 2014. What went wrong that he lost the election from Sopore in 2008?
In the 2008 Assembly election, National Conference played a trick. It was commonly known that the people in Sopore do not boycott the election because they come out to vote for Rashid Dar. NC fielded a candidate named Haji Ashraf from the village from which Rashid Dar hailed – Danger Pora. This village is the biggest locality in the area with a large population of voters. Haji Ashraf has a large clan of relatives in Danger Pora. All of them voted for him and influenced other voters too. In this way, Haji Ashraf won the election from Danger Pora in 2008 by a thin margin. After Feb 2013, there was strong anger all over Sopore against National Conference (NC) and the Congress. The people of Sopore regarded both these parties as equally responsible for the hanging of Afzal Guru. Afzal was from Mazbugh village. This is close to the same area that Rashid Dar hailed, and was contesting from. Because of Afzal Guru, people of this area had decided not to vote in favour of either the Congress or the National Conference. Accordingly, people of this area did not vote for National Conference in the Assembly elections held in 2014. But the conspiracy of Jamaat e Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen to make Rashid Dar win the election played a deep role. Jamaat e Islami and the Hizbul Mujahideen militants strongly influenced voters to vote for Rashid Dar. People came to know only later of this conspiracy of JEI and HM to push votes in favour of Rashid Dar.
Jamaat e Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen militants ensured Rashid Dar victory despite public anger against Afzal Guru hanging
After Feb 2013, there was strong anger all over Sopore against National Conference and the Congress. The people of Sopore regarded both these parties as equally responsible for the hanging of Afzal Guru. Afzal was from Mazbugh village. This is close to the same area that Rashid Dar hailed, and was contesting from. Because of Afzal Guru, people of this area had decided not to vote in favour of either the Congress or the National Conference. Accordingly, people of this area did not vote for National Conference in the Assembly elections held in 2014. But following the conspiracy of Jamaat e Islami and Hizbul Mujahideen, the Jamaat and the militants strongly influenced voters to vote for Rashid Dar. People came to know only later of this conspiracy of JEI and HM to push votes in favour of Rashid Dar.