The surge in terrorist activity in Jammu & Kashmir in recent weeks coincides with an increasing number of local youth joining the ranks of the militants, say the Army and the state police.
Seen with the evidence of extensive support for terrorists which helped Lashkar terrorist Naved and his accomplices remain undetected for several days, and which can help terror sleeper cells in future, this points to new level of support in the Valley for the jihadi message.
An intelligence source told TOI that foreign mercenaries in 2010 formed around 60% of the militant forces whereas today, although their absolute numbers have since then reduced, the ratio is 60:40 in favor of local terrorists. The number of terrorists has risen from a low of 105 in the last year or so.
Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba are luring the state’s youth in bigger numbers now, said Mujtaba Gilani, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range. He told TOI, “There has definitely been a rise in local recruitment since last year,” Gilani said.
Police sources add there is far greater coordination between foreign mercenaries and local militants, with mercenaries using the influence of local youth to increase their numbers.
Seeing a definite pattern in the rise in local recruitment by militant outfits and the increasing attempts at infiltration from across the border, DGP of Jammu and Kashmir K Rajendra Kumar said these clearly point towards a serious effort to intensify separatist violence in the state.
The police have also noted that moles within the ranks of the state police are getting active. For instance, Naseer Ahmad Pandit, a police constable assigned to guard duty at the house of minister for public works Altaf Bukhari, deserted with two AK-47 rifles four months ago. He was traced late in June through a Facebook picture in the company of nearly a dozen Hizbul Mujahideen militants.
The Facebook post also showed Burhan Muzaffar Wani, who the police believes now leads this new Hizbul unit. Wani, 21, had left his home in Sahrifabad Tral, to join the militants after his elder brother was killed in police action during street violence in 2010. With a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head, Wani has been long sought by the security forces for his involvement in several terrorist attacks.
But, unlike the Army, which believes that mostly unemployed youth are being lured into militancy, the ruling People’s Democratic Party feels even government employees and educated youth are joining militant groups.
Last week, the police busted a Hizbul sleeper cell headed by a UK-based Kashmiri physiotherapist Mohammad Shaheen Baba alias Zaid-bin Tariq. A resident of Chadoor in Budgam district, Baba was nabbed with three other family members on his way to the airport, from where all of whom were to leave for the UK and join the militants.
Lt-Gen Subrata Saha, General Officer Commanding of the Kashmir-based 15 Corps, says that though unemployed youth are targeted by militant organisations, there are “multiple reasons” why many young people are opting to take up the gun.
“We’re concerned and trying our best to stop this trend. We want to engage the youth in various activities besides taking initiatives in their empowerment and employment,” the general said.
Therefore, despite claiming zero infiltration across the LoC in a snow-free season that traditionally sees increased cross-border activity, the Army and the police are not quite resting on their laurels.