SRINAGAR: Throwing an open challenge to the security forces, the proscribed Hizbul Mujahideen outfit is purportedly holding a meeting of the ‘Command Council’ on November 21 in the summer capital Srinagar of Kashmir after a gap of nearly two decades.

“We by the grace of God are challenging India and its stooges to stop us. The command council will hold deliberations on various issues and future course of action. Some of the minutes of the meeting will be made public after the successful completion of meeting,” reads the letter issued in the name of Hizbul Mujahideen’s field operations commander.

This is for the first time that the militant outfit has announced the date for such a meeting in advance which has been attended in past by top commanders and decision makers of the outfit. The letter has sent shockwaves within the security establishment while the security deployment has been stepped up in Srinagar.

“This year the meeting will be presided over by our senior member from Shopian,” reads the letter issued under the name of Muhammad Bin Qasim, the Hizb’s field operational commander. The letter has gone viral on social media and it comes barely a day after two civilians, one of whom was described as an “informer” of security forces by the Hizb chief Riyaz Naikoo, were killed in Shopian.

A senior police officer said such meetings have taken place in past also, especially in rural areas, “But what makes it interesting as well as challenging this time around is that November 21 night is Eid-e-Milad (the birthday of Prophet Mohammad) when devotees observe night-long vigil and late-night prayers are organised at prominent places of worship,” the police officer said, wishing not to be named.

“This shows the desperation (of militants) to glamourise militancy at a time when the public support for violence is fading and top commanders of the Hizb have been eliminated in encounters,” the officer added.

Hizb is the largest militant group operating in Kashmir Valley with its chief, Syed Salahuddin, also heading the United Jihad Council, a conglomerate of nearly two dozen militant outfits fighting the Indian security forces in the conflict wracked region.

(Cover Photograph Basit Zargar)