Seventy young men have joined militancy in the past seven months this year with most of the recruits from three districts in south Kashmir, according to a senior official. The new recruits mostly belong to Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts in south Kashmir, which has become the hub of tech-savvy militants. “As many as 70 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in the Valley in seven months period this year,” the senior security officer told PTI quoting official statistics.
The officer claimed 88 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in 2016. Since 2014, there has been a constant rise in the number of people joining militancy. As many as 66 youths joined militancy in Kashmir in 2015 and 53 in 2014, according to data compiled by security agencies. In 2010, 54 youths joined militancy and in 2011, the number came down to 23. It further dipped to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013, it said. The Pulwama-Shopian-Kulgam region has become a hotbed of homegrown terrorists, the officials said.
Security officials say Pulwama, which has of-late emerged as the terror epicenter, is strategically important as it is the central point to connect Srinagar, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Budgam districts of central Kashmir. “The areas have seen the highest number of encounters and attacks,” the officer added. The topography of Pulwama, with its vast orchards and fields ringed by dense forests, also provide a perfect shelter and operating cover to militants.
Pulwama was home to Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter with security forces in July last year. It was also the base of slain Abu Dujana, commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in the Kashmir Valley, Abu Musa and dozens of other militants. Security forces have also foiled attempts by dozen others to cross over to the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for arms training, the officer said.
In 2017, as many as 54 men were stopped from joining the ranks of militants, the officer said. 132 terrorists have been killed in encounters with police and security forces in Kashmir Valley in over 7 months period this year, security officials said. While 115 militants have been killed till July end this year, 17 militants have been killed till August 9, as per official statistics.
While 38 militants belonging to LeT were killed in over 7 months till 9 August, it was followed by killing of 37 militants of Hizb and 3 militants belonging to Musa Group of Al-Qeada followed by killing of 54 unidentified militants mostly along the LoC. Out of them, six top commanders of Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) were killed in encounters in Kashmir during the period.
As per the data, the number of terrorists killed in the past over 6 months is the highest in the past 7 years. In 2010, 156 militants were killed in the first 7 months period of the year followed by 102 in 2017, 77 in 2016, 61 in 2011, 51 each in 2014 and 2015 respectively, the data showed. Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has asked the police to try to bring back to mainstream youths who have fled their homes to join militancy.
DGP S P Vaid has said that,”Going beyond its mandate of normal policing, J&K Police is transforming hearts and minds by instilling national pride in the youth of the Valley”.