Srinagar: Militancy in Jammu and Kashmir is on the cusp of a transition as it has lost the “glamour” that was once associated with it, Army commander Lt Gen D P Pandey said, adding “white collar terrorists” are now desperately trying to lure into their ranks adolescents who may not yet have the maturity to judge right from wrong.
Lt Gen Pandey, the General Officer Commanding (GoC) of Kashmir-based XV Corps, said those aged between 20 and 25 have understood that “violence leads to nowhere” and thus the number of new recruits is nearing an all-time low. In addition, 330 militants were killed or surrendered since January last year, he said.
People in general are fed up with militancy, the Army commander said and expressed hope that the day is not far when the remaining support to militants in Kashmir Valley will vanish as well.
“Security forces have been working on a two-pronged strategy — bringing down the recruitment of local youths and ensuring depletion in militant cadres. We have been able to bring down the local recruitment by one-third during 2021,” Lt Gen Pandey told PTI in an interview.
Sharing data of counter-insurgency operations, he said 330 militants have been killed or have surrendered since January last year — the highest in a decade-and-a-half.
The number is significant when seen in the backdrop of falling recruitment and infiltration from across the border in the last four years. Only 142 people joined militant ranks in 2021.
“As many as 171 militants — 151 locals and 20 Pakistanis — were killed in 2021, while 45 militants, including 10 Pakistanis, have been eliminated till now this year. As many as 87 militants were apprehended or surrendered in 2021 and 27 militants this year,” he said.
“The killing of militants of late has been possible because of human intelligence…people are fed up with militancy,” he said.
Lt Gen Pandey referred to the killing of SPO Ishfaq Ahmad and his brother Umer Jan by militants at Chattabugh village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district on March 27 and said “a sea of people participated in their funeral procession”.
The Army commander, who is set to relinquish the post in June this year, had visited the bereaved family to express his condolences and assured the family that the security forces would soon arrest those involved in the dastardly attack.
“The massive participation of people at the funeral of the SPO and his brother is the change. It is increasing by the day and people have also been asking ‘akhir kabtak’ (how long). The voices may be few today but I am sure that it will snowball into a big movement against militancy,” the Army officer said.
Lt Gen Pandey surprised many by visiting north Kashmir’s Sopore town — once a hotbed of militancy — on Monday and wished citizens on Ramzan.
While interacting with people, Lt Gen Pandey mentioned that Kashmir is on the cusp of a positive change. He prodded the youth to follow the right path leading to an upright life and inspire others to join the path of peace and progress.
During his visit to Sopore, the Chinar Corps commander also met with former militants and appealed to them to visit homes of active militants, speak to their parents and urge them to get their children back to the mainstream and onto the right path.
“The time is not far when militants will be shamed by the society in Kashmir,” Lt Gen Pandey said.
He, however, said it is time for the society in Kashmir to think how long they will maintain silence while militancy consumes their teenaged children. “Security forces have stopped live encounters at times to ensure that these young men are brought back to the national mainstream,” he said.
“One needs to continue maintaining pressure on over ground workers (OGWs), especially from the banned Jamaat-e-Islami group, who have been instrumental in brainwashing the youth,” the officer said.