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Force Magazine

In the Wrong Direction

Kashmiri young men are joining militancy at a higher rate than seen in two decades

By Fayaz Bukhari

The newly formed People’s Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janata Party (PDP-BJP) government in Jammu and Kashmir has a tough task on hand that needs immediate attention. It has to stop young men from joining militant groups in the Kashmir Valley – the last one year has seen an alarming increase in the number of youngsters taking up the gun, thus becoming a major impediment in the process of peace.

The Indian Army statistics suggest that at least 63 Kashmiri youth, in the age group 17-25 years, joined militancy last year. The majority of them, 46, belonged to south Kashmir, 13 were from north Kashmir and four were from central Kashmir district of Budgam. In 2013, 31 local youth joined the militancy. There are, however, no statistics to prove locals joining militancy pre-2010 summer agitation. Militant organisations like Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad had recruited mostly foreign cadres, maximum being Pakistanis who infiltrated into Kashmir by crossing the Line of Control (LC) during the summer months.

Youngsters joining militant groups are a recent phenomenon and it is considered to be a fall-out of the 2010 summer agitation in the Valley that left over 112 people, mostly young boys, dead in an alleged police firing. A cycle of violent protests broke out in 2010 after two men were killed by the army in an allegedly fake encounter in Macchil sector of Kupwara. Also, police arrested hundreds of boys on charges of stone pelting against whom cases are registered in police stations across Kashmir.

Lt Gen. Subrata Saha, GOC Chinar Corps estimates that presently there are nearly 200 militants operating in Kashmir Valley. As per security agencies foreign and local representation in these groups is almost equal. Before 2010, however, the number of local recruits was around 25 per cent.

What is indeed surprising is that not a single youth, as per the army’s statistics, was from Srinagar which saw maximum summer violence in 2010. However, experts don’t rule out recruitments from Srinagar and say that security agencies lack information about it. “Srinagar can’t be an exception with zero per cent recruitment rate when 46 have joined militancy last year from adjacent Pulwama district. There is lack of information and those who might be working with militants might be leading a normal life,” said a security official.

Out of 63 young men who joined militancy last year, 17 were killed in various operations, 12 were apprehended and two surrendered. This year at least 14 have joined militancy in first two months. These include a police man, Naseer Ahmad Pandith of 11th battalion of Jammu and Kashmir Armed Police (JKAP), who was posted at the house of minister for roads and buildings, Altaf Bukhari. He fled along with two rifles and ammunition from the minister’s Sheikh Bagh residence in Srinagar on March 28.

Unrest on the streets
Unrest on the streets The summer-long protests in 2010 seems to have been a turning point for the Kashmiri youth

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