Since New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s limited autonomy in August 2019, too many locals are still joining the militant ranks despite an increase in gunfights, and it has become a huge concern for the government forces operating in Kashmir, reported NDTV, quoting unnamed home ministry officials.
The ministry’s data shows that in the first seven months of this year, ninety locals have joined various militant groups. Of them, forty-five joined Hizbul Mujahideen, twenty Lashkar-e-Taiba, fourteen Jaish-e Mohammad, seven Al Badr, two Ansar Ghazwat ul Hind and one joined ISJK.
Officials say the young people are getting alienated faster because of the coronavirus-induced lockdown. “Youth related activities have come to a halt due to Covid. Schools and colleges are closed. Shambled internet connectivity and no recreation have led to lot of bitterness,” another officer told NDTV, adding that scarce employment opportunities are adding to the resentment.
Another concern among the forces, reported NDTV, was that the numbers might be more than expected. Unlike earlier, when the government forces were informed by the family or neighbours or even social media posts if a man went missing and joined the militants, “now no posts are also going online nor are families coming forward,” said a senior officer in charge of operations.
In fact, more than 90 per cent of militants killed in gunfights are Kashmiris, officials said.
“Of the 136 terrorists killed in Valley in the first seven months of this year, 121 were locals and only 15 were foreigners. In 2019, of the 152 terrorists killed, 119 were locals,” said a senior officer in North Block. “Anger is palpable in Kashmir Valley. That’s why no matter how many terrorists are killed, their number doesn’t come down.”
In South Kashmir’s Kulgam, 24 militants have been killed but 23 local young men have joined the militants. “Of the ninety locals who were recruited by various terror outfits between June and August, we have managed to eliminate thirty-eight and arrest fifteen. So in real terms, only thirty-seven are still operating,” said Vijay Kumar, the Inspector General of Kashmir.
Home ministry data also shows that 216 locals have also been arrested for providing shelter or abetting militants.