Seven others killed since 2016
SOPORE: Even though the focus of militant activities has of late shifted to south Kashmir, the security grid has been keeping an eye on “growing militancy” in Sopore.
More than a dozen militants have been killed in the last two years from villages of Brath, Bomai, Duroo and other hamlets. Seven of them have come from Brath village alone.
After the killing of popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani in 2016, observers say, a trend to take up arms started in the area. As youth started disappearing and subsequently getting killed in gunfights, more and more young men joined militant ranks.
In the last few months, at least five men have left their homes in Brath village to join militant ranks.
One of the very few old villages in the area, Brath is located three kilometres from Sopore town on the Sopore-Kupwara highway. It is divided into two sections, Gund Brath (Chota Brath) and Brath Kalan (Bada Brath). Most of the 500 to 600 households eke out their livelihood from farming and labour.
Presently, there are about seven active militants from the village, while seven has already been killed in the last two years.
Abdul Gaffar (name changed), whose nephew is an active militant, told Kashmir Reader that the harassment from government forces was pushing youth towards arms.
“There are some six to eight youth behind bars on charges of involvement in militant activities. They are in one way or the other related to slain or active militants,” Gaffar said.
“The youth harassed by government forces picked up arms and were killed later in different encounters but their families were still not let to live a normal life even after their dear ones were killed. Government forces than started to harass their brothers, cousins and friends, some of whom then turn to militancy to fight this daily oppression, so the chain of becoming militants continues in our village, all credit goes to government forces oppression.”
Another local resident, who did not want to be identified, is a neighbour of a slain militant Aijaz Ahmad. He told Kashmir Reader that every second day police used to raid Aijaz’s house or asked him to report to police station.
“It was hard for him to live a normal life, so one day he went missing and later we came to know that he has joined militant ranks and was killed in June last year,” the villager said.
“Aijaz was a Master’s student in Arabic and was pursuing LLB to become a lawyer but fate has some other plan for him,” he said adding that Aijaz’s brother has been lodged in jail now.
A senior police official from Sopore said there are around 13 local active militants in the Sopore area and, of them seven are from Brath village.
He, however, denied allegations of harassment from government forces.
“There are thousands of people living in Brath village, we don’t go to everyone, it’s the few who are involved in one way or the other with militant activities, so before they take a big step, we arrest them, lodge them in jail or do counseling, that’s the only best way to stop more recruitment of young boys into different militant outfits,” the official said.
He said that as Brath village already has some militants, “so it’s easy for them to recruit more militants from this village than in other villages”.
On Friday, two militants were killed in a fierce gunfight at Drusoo village of Sopore. One of them hailed from Sopore town and another from Pulwama. An army soldier was also killed in the gunfight. Both the men had joined militant ranks just a few days back.
The police official said that Sopore may be relatively calm, but “we cannot ignore the fact that this region has more militants active on the ground than the south Kashmir”.