With protests in the Valley crossing 100 days, police in J&K fear that the unrest triggered by the killing of militant Burhan Wani in July may have prompted a fresh batch of youths to join the militancy from south Kashmir.
Police sources say more than 80 youngsters have joined militant ranks from south Kashmir since the protests began three months ago. This trend, they say, is evident in the rising number of incidents of police stations being attacked and weapons taken away in the region.
In contrast, sources said, the militancy in north Kashmir is fuelled by those infiltrating from across the border who focus on attacks such as the one on the Army camp in Uri last month in which 18 soldiers died.
“The situation is still not clear but initial reports suggest that more than 80 boys have joined the militants after the protests began. There are reports of large-scale recruitment in south Kashmir, especially Kulgam. There are chances that some of these youths may return to their homes once the situation normalises,” says a top police officer in the state, on condition of anonymity.
J&K Police records, accessed by The Indian Express, show that less than 70 local militants were active in south Kashmir before the protests began. The number has doubled in three months, records show.
When contacted, DIG (South Kashmir) Nitish Kumar said he did not agree with the assessment that the protests have fuelled militancy in the Valley. “I don’t think so. The people of Kashmir are very intelligent,” said Kumar.
However, last month witnessed more than seven attacks on police posts in south Kashmir, with militants snatching at least 28 weapons, mostly Kalashnikov guns.
“They are desperately looking for weapons for their new recruits. That’s why they are taking advantage of these protests and attacking police posts,” says a police officer posted in south Kashmir, on condition of anonymity.
The officer says that while militants linked to the Hizbul Mujahideen, which forms the bulk of militants operating in south Kashmir, take any weapon they can lay their hands on, the Lashkar-e-Taiba “are choosy”.
“In one case, Lashkar militants fled with four AK rifles but handed back an Insas rifle to policemen. These militants have ammunition for AK rifles,” said the officer.
The trend is also reflected in the language used by youths in some villages in south Kashmir, especially words like “activate” while referring to those joining the militancy. “When they (militants) need the active services of someone, they activate him and he goes underground,” says a 22-year-old man from Khudwani village of Kulgam.
Police sources say that at least three youths from Srinagar are active militants in Kulgam while another militant commander from central Kashmir, too, has shifted base to this district.
One of the faces behind this resurgence, police sources say, is a Hizbul Mujahideen commander identified as Sheikh Abass, a resident of Rampur, who returned to militancy after completing a seven-year jail term three years ago.
Abass is the father of two daughters and two sons, whose two brothers and a nephew were killed in encounters with security forces. Another nephew of Abass is believed to be an active militant operating in south Kashmir, said sources.
“There are around 80 youngsters in our village. At least 40 of them are ready to become mujahids. They just need a nod and a weapon,” says a 26-year-old resident of Rampur village of Kulgam.
“The new generation has witnessed it all, they will not forget what has been done,” says a 30-year-old resident of Redwani village in Kulgam.
Detailing the big picture, police sources said that more than 150 militants may have infiltrated in the past three months from across the border in north Kashmir, especially in the Uri and Kupwara sectors, said sources.
Some of these militants have moved to Srinagar and its surrounding areas, said sources. And this, they say, is reflected in increased militant activity in north Kashmir, where militants have stormed the Army camp in Uri, attacked a battalion HQ in Baramulla and another camp in Langate. Security convoys in Baramulla and Handwara have been attacked, too.
Seven attacks, guns taken
Aug 31, Kulgam: 4 rifles taken from house of PDP RS MP Nazir Ahmad Laway
Sept 5, Kulgam: 1 rifle snatched guards of CPM leader Ali Mohamad Koka
Sept 8, Kulgam: 4 rifles stolen from guard room of NC leader Abdul Rashid Khanday
Sept 18, Anantnag: 4 rifles taken from policemen guarding PDP leader Javed Sheikh
Oct 3, Kulgam: 5 rifles snatched from police post
Oct 8, Pulwama: 2 rifles taken from police post
Oct 17, Anantnag: 5 rifles snatched from policemen at TV transmission tower