Militant groups continue to attract youth in South Kashmir

Srinagar: Even after killing of over 200 militants this year, reports of local boys joining the militant ranks are continuing. Police says that many youth have been recruited into the militant ranks.

Officials say nearly a dozen youth joined militant ranks in past two months, a move that seems to be worrying the security agencies.

Aetimad Fayaz Malik of south Kashmir’s Shopian district is one of such youth who picked up arms. Malik was pursuing M.Phil in Urdu from the University of Hyderabad.

Family sources say Aetimad went missing on November 3, 2017 and after few days his picture in which he was carrying a gun, went viral on social media.

As per police records, Aetimad has no history of participating in any major street protests and was never arrested in any case of stone pelting either. Locals said he was known to be a studious and religious person.

However, he left his studies and is now part of militant outfit Hizb ul Mujahideen.

Aetimad, is first of the four siblings and belongs to one of the richest and educated family in Shopian.

“We are surprised why he left his worldly comfort and took the path where death is certain,” they  said.

Like Malik, police data reveals that around 10 local youth join the militant ranks every month in the Valley.

A science student, Umar Ganai of the Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora in south Kashmir, an engineering student from the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University Eisha Fazili, Subzar Ahmad Bhat, a Ph.D student of Jamia Milia are recent recruits and continue to elude the security forces.

Security agencies are worried by the fresh recruitments among the militant groups. As per police records about 115 local youth joined the militants this year and over 150 locals continue to remain active, mainly in south Kashmir.

The number of militants remains by and large the same as in May when forces launched the operation to curtail the number of militants, officials said.

The new recruits mostly belong to Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts in south Kashmir, says a senior police officer, wishing not to be named.

As per official records around 90 local militants are active only in Pulwama and Shopian districts. Police records further said that 88 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in 2016.

Since 2014, there has been a constant rise in the number of people joining the militant ranks.

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.

Security officials say Pulwama, which was the epicenter of 2016 uprising, is strategically important as it is the central point to connect Srinagar, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Budgam districts of central Kashmir.

“South Kashmir has seen the highest number of encounters and attacks,” the officer said.

Notably, the topography of Pulwama, with its vast orchards and fields encircled by dense forests also provides 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 2016.

The district was also the base used by slain Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abu Dujana, Abu Musa and dozens of other militants.

Interestingly, forces have also foiled attempts by some youth to cross over to the Pakistan for arms training, the officer said.

He said that number of militants killed in current year is the highest compared to 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.

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