Despite being condemned by the senior most separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, every Friday a bunch of boys display the Islamic State (ISIS or IS) flags near the Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar.
The youths have been doing it almost every week, ever since the flags first appeared during a protest a year ago, worrying many that the dreaded group should find a stronghold in the Valley. But the security forces are not worried at all.
Top police officials say there is hardly any presence of the IS on the ground in the Valley and that the youths hoist the flags “just to annoy the security forces”. “In the past one year, 9 or 10 boys were arrested for raising the IS flags, but during interrogation it was found that they were doing it just for adventure and there was no real connection,” says a senior police official on condition of anonymity.
The officer said the Pakistani flags thar are being raised have been a common sight ever since militancy began in the Valley in the early ‘90s, and are no longer getting the media attention they used to.
“Even those who were detained have no idea what the (IS) ideology is. It is just that the flag has a verse from holy Quran written on it and they think it represents Islam,” the police officer added.
The boys hoisting these flags are mostly students that have been involved in stone pelting in the past as well. The flags are made with cloth purchased from local vendors. The cloth is later cut up “secretly” at home.
“The same cloth used for Pakistani flags is used for IS or (militant group) Lashkar-e-Toiba flags as well,” a source said.The source added that the religious couplets on the flags are stitched either by a trusted tailor or by the boys themselves, with a portable sewing machine hidden in a “quite corner” of their homes.
The sources, who know the youths, admit that the boys have sympathy for the IS, but even they deny that there is any external hand involved in the hoisting of flags.