Ever since the ongoing armed violence started in the Kashmir Valley, Indian intelligence agencies have been worried about the growing influence of the strait-laced interpretation of Islam propagated through 'Wahhabism'.
The fast-growing influence of this particular interpretation of Islam in Kashmir, especially during the last 30 years, is attributed to huge funding by the Saudi government and other Gulf countries ostensibly for construction of mosques and setting up of seminaries.
"The Wahhabi influence is not new to Kashmir as followers of this Islamic practice have been there since the last 100 years. But the phenomenal growth in their influence and their far and wide reach now can be attributed only to the funding the local 'Ahle Hadith' have got from Saudi Arabia in the last 30 years," said a senior intelligence officer here.
Asked to quantify the amount of Saudi and Gulf funding in Kashmir since military erupted in 1989 for propagation of Wahhabism, the officer said: "Millions. Perhaps more than you can count."
Security forces have been saying that they keep a close eye on the increasing number of mosques coming up in the Kashmir Valley because of the pumping in of oil money and the growing influence of Wahhabism among the local youths.
For over two centuries, Wahhabism has been Saudi Arabia's dominant faith, an austere form of Islam that insists on a literal interpretation of the Quran.
Strict Wahhabis believe that all those who don't believe and practice this form of Islam are enemies.
The Saudi ruling class has applauded Wahhabism for adherence to its original practices of Islam and the movement's vehement opposition to the Shia branch of Islam.
"It does not take a microscope to see how fast the Wahhabi groups are growing with their influence among the local youth," said the officer.
"Leave aside major cities and towns in Kashmir, there is hardly a village in the hinterland where you do not have a mosque where Wahhabi practice of offering the 'Namaz' and the peculiar dress style of Wahhabis is not seen among the young," said a senior Army officer.
According to sources in the intelligence agencies, the 'Ahle Hadith' -- as the followers of the Wahhabi practices are called in the Valley -- control over 2,000 mosques.
"The problem is not just the construction of these mosques. The real problem is that an increasing number of local youth prefer these mosques over the already existing traditional ones in cities, towns and villages where messages of co-existence and moderation were delivered," said another intelligence officer.
"The funding of these mosques is so lavish that these are constructed in a grand style to attract the youth."
The officer said that it was basically because of the growing influence of Wahhabism in Kashmir that the narrative of the armed struggle was changing over the years from independence to the establishment of an Islamic Caliphate.
India accuses Pakistan of financing, arming and training militant groups trying to secede Jammu and Kashmir. Increasingly, Pakistani members of terrorist outfits have fought the Indian troops in the state. The separatist hardliners prefer the Wahhabi ideology.
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