Hizbul Mujahideen's supreme commander Syed Salahuddin said the US decision to designate him as “global terrorist” will not make any difference to the “legitimate” struggle he led for “freedom” in India-held Kashmir.
Salahuddin, the chief of the largest and mainly indigenous militant group that fights against security forces in India-held Kashmir, was reacting to the US State Department's announcement of designating him as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT), at a press conference on Saturday at the Central Press Club in Muzaffarabad.
Earlier, he received a warm welcome in the city and at many spots people showered rose petals on his vehicle. He, in his traditional appearance, rose out of the sunroof of his vehicle and waved to the crowd and made victory signs.
At the presser, he termed the Donald Trump administration’s move as “idiotic” taken to “please and satisfy” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi “without any reasoning and grounds.”
He was designated as global terrorists hours ahead of a meeting between Modi and US President Donald Trump.
“We have slapped this idiotic step back on the face of both leaders to make the world understand that this foolishness can neither weaken our resolve, nor stop the freedom struggle and the target-oriented actions by the freedom fighters,” he said at the crowded press conference.
“Wars are fought with courage and spirit that makes you use even a stone as an atomic bomb,” he said, referring to the stone pelting by unarmed youth in the held Kashmir that has been giving a tough time to the entire occupation machinery.
He said the US and India could not quote a single incident to prove that the Kashmiri freedom fighters were terrorists. “This decision will cast no effect on our determination. Rather it has already strengthened our resolve,” he added.
Salahuddin claimed that even the American laws themselves did not support Trump administration’s decision. “It does not meet a single of the conditions for designating anyone as a global terrorist,” he said, while reading these conditions from his cell phone.
“This is a challenge from Syed Salahuddin,” he said thrice and added: You cannot quote a single example, which can be defined as an act of terrorism which I have myself committed or ordered to be committed during the last 27 years of the uprising.”
Salahuddin claimed that Kashmiri militants did possess the ability to hit Indian interests anywhere in India, but “we exercised restraint, so that India does not get an opportunity to gain favour of the international community and brand our legitimate and lawful struggle as terrorism.”
“A struggle backed by the UN Charter as well as 18 resolutions of the Security Council, still pending on the agenda, can never be categorised as a terrorist movement,” he asserted.
Quoting excerpts from the speech of the US’ permanent representative to the UN in June 1962 and pledges of the first Indian prime minister Jwahar Lal Nehru, he said: “We are justified to say that the ongoing armed struggle is legitimate… It is a morally justified struggle. Every freedom fighter is a legitimate freedom fighter and not a terrorist.”
It was the Indian army that was committing terrorism in Kashmir, he said, citing, “killing of youth during the crackdowns, arson of settlements and molestation of women by the Indian army.”
Salahuddin, a designated a terrorist "under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (EO) 13224, which imposes sanctions on foreign persons who have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals" or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States, said a release issued from the US State Department earlier this week.
The action bars US persons from financial transactions with Hizbul Mujahideen supreme leader Syed Salahuddin.
The department says that in September 2016, Salahuddin vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict. He threatened to train Kashmiri suicide bombers and turn the Kashmir valley “into a graveyard for Indian forces.”
The US says the militant group has claimed responsibility for several attacks.