Kashmir last year saw a 44 per cent jump in local youths joining militancy from 2016, J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti informed the state assembly on Tuesday. Mufti said 126 youths joined extremist groups in 2017, 38 more than the previous year. Her version, however, contradicts the statement of J&K police chief S P Vaid, who last month downplayed Home Ministry reports that there had been a sharp spike in the number of young Kashmiris joining militant groups in 2017.
Going by Mufti’s data, 2017 has emerged as the year of highest recruitment of youth in various militant groups in the last seven years. Such data is available from 2010. “As many as 66 youths joined militancy in 2015, 88 in 2016 and 126 in 2017,” the CM said while replying to a written question by National Conference leader Ali Mohammed Sagar.
Ever since security agencies gunned down Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, there has been a marked increase in the number of Kashmiri youths joining terrorist organisations. According to data placed before Parliament in March last year, there has been a steady increase in the number of youths taking up arms in the Valley from 2014 onwards – as compared to 2011, 2012 and 2013.
In 2010, 54 youths joined militancy. This dipped to 23 in 2011 and slipped further to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013. In 2014, the number shot up to 53 and went up to 66 in 2015 before touching 88 in 2016, according to the data. Security officials feel there is a difference between present day militants and those of the early 1990s. The ideological conviction of the present lot is stronger than that of the terror groups during the early days, they said.
While a majority of the missing boys mainly belong to the average middle class, being described as the new face of terrorism in Kashmir, militants like Owais Ahmed Shah from Kokernag in south Kashmir and Eisa Fazli hailing from Soura in Srinagar show a trend that literate students from well-to-do families are also picking up arms.
There is concern that the Valley is witnessing a trend of ‘pan-Islamisation’, where young boys are opting for terrorism knowing full well that they are at the risk of being killed, the officials said.
(With inputs from PTI)