Three years since the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, recruitment into militant ranks remains a cause of concern for the security apparatus in the Union Territory.
Since 2019, more than 690 militants have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir, 132 of them this year. In the same period, 527 individuals joined militant ranks.
In an interview to The Indian Express, J&K Director General of Police Dibag Singh attributed the recruitment numbers in large measure to “social media and internet-based propaganda” while raising concern that the recruitment age had been lowered to include school dropouts.
The recruitment figure was 143 for 2019, rose to 172 in 2020 before falling again to 136 in 2021. For 2022, till July 31, 76 individuals have joined the militancy.
Senior security officials said about half the militant recruits are “uncategorised”. As such, security forces “sometimes find out that an individual has joined an outfit only after an incident,” said an official. So, they cannot be referenced against any existing database.
But law-and-order as well as terror-related incidents have been coming down in number as well as intensity since 2019.
As per government data, law-and-order incidents fell from 584 in 2019 to 147 in 2020 and 77 in 2021. This year, the number stands at 20. And in the case of terror-related incidents, the data show a slow but steady decline from 255 in 2019 to 244 in 2020 and 228 in 2021. The number of such incidents so far this year is 81.
The security establishment now views the situation in the Valley as “almost normal”.
At least 29 top militant commanders were killed in operations in 2022. In 2021, at least 44 militant commanders from different militant outfits were killed.
Flagging a strategic shift in militant recruitment, DGP Singh said the modus operandi of handlers has changed. “They immediately ask them (terror recruits) to commit an act of terror violence — throw a grenade, fire at somebody, or kill someone. Once they are involved, it becomes a way of preventing their return to society.”
He added that with the individual not being “missing for too long” before perpetrating an act, and then “you find that someone who was missing today has committed a crime tomorrow, fired at someone or such activity. So, that is blocking their return to their homes.”
Meanwhile, anti-militancy operations have been expanded — widespread detentions under security laws, enforcement and tax raids to break alleged funding networks and crackdowns on overground worker networks and their linkages. This has contributed to a decline in terror incidents and law and order cases, as per senior security officials. The constitution of the multi-agency Terror Monitoring Group and the State Investigation Agency by the J&K administration is also part of the same effort.
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Also part of this clampdown are the arrests under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA), and Public Safety Act, 1978 (PSA). Between 2019 and 2021, the number of cases under UAPA went from 437 in 2019 to 557 in 2020 and 528 in 2021. The number of persons booked under these cases over the last three years is over 2,700.
In 2022, until July 31, the number of cases filed under UAPA is at 389. Meanwhile, the number of cases filed under PSA have already risen to 463 so far in 2022 from the previous year’s 277.
In the period between 2019 and 2022, at least 136 civilians have been killed across J&K. 146 security personnel and at least 57 officials of the J&K police also lost their lives in the same period.