THERE HAS been a spike in the recruitment of local youths by militant groups in Kashmir following the end of the Ramzan ceasefire. According to data compiled by J&K’s Multi-Agency Centre (MAC), the month of June saw 27 youths from the Valley — mainly from the districts of Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam in South Kashmir — joining militancy.
“The increase in the number of local youths picking the gun last month came after June 16, which was Eid, when the ceasefire ended and the security forces decided to undertake operations,” said a Srinagar-based security official.
After an all-time high of 28 in April, militant recruitment in the Valley had dropped to 14 in May.
The data (till June-end) shows that 82 local youths have joined militancy since the beginning of the year, raising fears in the security establishment that this could be the worst year ever in terms of local recruitment of militants in the Valley. In 2017, 128 local youths were reported to have joined militancy, up from 84 in 2016, 83 in 2015 and 63 in 2014.
Of the 82 who joined militancy this year, 38 joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, 18 joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba and 19 joined the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
According to security officials, the spike in April followed the Army’s operation on April 1, when 13 militants were killed in the Valley. Their funerals, said security officials, led to a fresh wave of recruitment of local youths into militancy.
Security officials in Srinagar told The Indian Express that the data is a cause for concern as it shows the need for increased efforts at deradicalisation, to wean away the youth from picking the gun.
“These local boys are not trained in fighting or handling weapons and have a very short life as militants, as we have seen in the recent past. More than a security challenge, this is a political and social challenge for us. Every death and every funeral leads to greater recruitment. It is a vicious cycle,” said the Srinagar-based security official.
“There are more local youths willing to join militancy than there are guns available. They try to snatch weapons from police and become a militant. It is not a healthy situation,” said an Army officer from South Kashmir.