VERY YOUNG and quite educated — from a 15-year-old school student to graduates, post-graduates, techies, an M Phil degree holder and even a doctorate. That’s the profile of many of those who have joined the renewed indigenous militancy in the Valley, fuelled by the life and death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani and what followed in its wake.
According to data compiled by security agencies, 67 local recruits have joined the militancy in the Valley since Wani’s killing in an encounter last July. Of them, 50 are from south Kashmir, Wani’s native region; 63 are below the age of 30, including two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old; and, only three are “recycled militants”, or those who went back to militancy after being jailed.
The data reveals that in South Kashmir, nine are from Pulwama district, nine from Awantipora (including Tral), 13 from Kulgam, 11 from Shopian, eight from Anantnag. Eight fresh recruits have joined militancy in north Kashmir: two from Kupwara, one from Handwara, three from Bandipore and two from Sopore. In Central Kashmir, there are five such new recruits – three in Budgam and two in Srinagar.
Security agencies reveal that 47 among these new local recruits have joined Hizbul Mujahideen, 18 are with Lashkar and the allegiance of two is unknown. Ten among them have already been killed in different encounters while four have been arrested.
What’s striking is the educational profile of these recruits. Apart from a PhD, an M Phil and two post-graduates, there are six graduates and five who were pursuing engineering and technical courses: two B Tech, one BE (Computer Science), one Polytechnic student and one diploma student in computer science.
Then there are eight who were pursuing a Bachelor’s degree. Ten others have cleared Class 12; 12 have completed Class 10; three are madrassa students, including a Hafiz/Imam; and, the rest have studied until high school.
Of the new recruits, only three have never been to school: Shabir Ahmad Dar (22) of Aghanjipora Awantipora, who joined LeT on March 19; Fayaz Ahmad Hamal (31) of Dokan Sangeen in Khankah Srinagar, a printing press employee who joined militancy on March 1; and, Manzoor Ahmad Ganie (22) of Nowpora in Pulwama, a blacksmith who joined the Hizb on January 16. Dar and Hamal are active in south Kashmir, Ganie was arrested in Nowpora Payeen Lassipora on February 3.
Doctorate in Arabic, killed in encounter
The one doctorate in this group is Azhar-ud-din Khan, a 27-year-old from Trusso Kandi Kupwara, who was killed in a police operation on February 4, 2017, along with another Hizbul Mujahideen militant at Amargarh in Sopore.
According to police records, Azhar completed his PhD in Arabic and was a lecturer on contract at a higher secondary school in Handwara, when he went “underground” in April last year. Azhar also held a post-graduate degree in Kashmiri.
“Earlier, he was with the Jamiat-e-Tulba (the student wing of Jamat). But one of his neighbours was killed during protests in Handwara. That affected him deeply and he left home the next day,’’ says a friend of Azhar, who is also a neighbour.
MPhil, double MA
Police records show that Sabzar Ahmad Sofi, a 29-year-old from Gund Baba Khalil (Naina) in Anantnag who joined the LeT on August 21, 2016, has an M Phil degree.
Then there’s 25-year-old Mohammad Younis Lone from Hawoorah Qaimoh, who holds two Master’s degrees (Sociology and Islamic Studies) and joined Hizbul Mujahideen in February 2017. He was killed within a month in an encounter at Yaripora.
Mohammad Ashraf Dar, a 21-year-old from Bagh Trich Pulwama, completed his MA and has joined LeT on September 14, 2016.
On May 24, photographs appeared on social networking sites of Mir Tufail, a 19-year-old undergraduate student, wearing military fatigues and holding a rifle. Tufail, who had been missing from his home in Qamarwari Srinagar for over a week, is believed to have joined Hizbul Mujahideen.
A BE student in Computer Sciences, 22-year-old Asif Nazir Dar of Panzgam Awantipora joined Hizbul Mujahideen on January 4 this year. Mohammad Qasim Shah, 23, was a final-year B.Tech student in Ambala, Punjab, when he joined Hizbul Mujahideen on March 3. He is a resident of Shah Mohalla Midoora Tral.
Rayees Ahmad Dar (21) of Dangar Mohalla Kakpora Pulwama had completed his B.Tech when he joined LeT on October 7, 2016. He was killed in an encounter at Beigum Bagh Kakapora on November 20, 2016.
Basit Rasool Dar (22) of Magraypora Marhama, Bijbehara was pursuing a BE in Civil Engineering when he joined the militancy on October 21, 2016. He was a militant for 53 days when he was killed in an encounter last December.
On June 30, 2016, Basit had posted a blog in which he wrote about “atrocities committed by men in uniform” and questioned why residents were asked to prove their identities inside their own home by security forces. Basit’s father Ghulam Rasool Dar, a bank manager, sources said, had unsuccessfully tried to contact and persuade him to return home.
The youngest among the new crop of militants is Sajad Ahmad Wani, a 15-year-old Class 9 student from Braripora Bonkote in Bandipore, who went missing on October 17, 2016. Police say he has joined the militancy. The oldest is Bilal Ahmad Mohand of Heff Zainpora Shopian, a 36-year-old daily-wage labourer in the state public health engineering department, who joined Hizbul Mujahideen on October 22, 2016. There are 40 of these new local militants with age between 20 to 25 years, 15 are 18-19 years old, two are 16 years old, seven are 25-30 years old, three are older than 30 years.
Among the three “recycled militants” is Mohammad Ashraf Khan (36) of Tangpawa, Kokernag in Anantnag, who rejoined the militancy on September 9 last year.
Showkat Ahmad Dar, a 29-year-old final-year BA student from Panzgam Awantipora, rejoined militancy on September 6, 2016. Police say Khan and Dar are with the LeT.
Farooq Ahmad Hurra, a 25-year-old from Nazneenpora Shopian, joined Hizbul Mujahideen on October 31, 2016. He was killed in an encounter on March 26, 2017.