Local militancy on revival route in Kashmir
Jammu, September 18
Here hangs a tale. Two local militants, Aqib Rashid Sofi and Bilal Ahmad Bhat — who were killed in an encounter with security forces in Bandipore district in north Kashmir on Tuesday evening — are part of the emerging narrative in Kashmir that local youth are once again picking up guns and grenades. They were not the first ones nor can they be counted as the last in the series of locals who have started rejoining the ranks of militant outfits to give an outlet to their frustration. The assessment by the police and other agencies reveals that locals are getting attracted to militancy because of multiple reasons - the biggest being disillusionment with the system and radicalisation.
here are plenty of Aqibs and Bilals roaming across the Valley. Some of them are students, others are job-seekers. Many others are looking for money. The story doesn’t stop here. They are also addicted to websites and the preaching of Imams who have come from madrasas outside state like Uttar Pradesh whose stress is on “ jihad.” The same role is being played by a large number of overground workers (OGWs).
During the wave of violence in 2010 in Kashmir, the youth realised that despite heavy casualties, their voice remained unheard. The government just stuck to fire-fighting measures. There was non-implementation of reports that were aimed at cooling the tempers and giving birth to hope.
An atmosphere of radicalisation prevails in the Valley and some parts of Jammu region. Fuelling the crisis is the unhindered flow of money from across the border. Pakistan remains the favourite “hawala” route. New sources of money such as the Gulf have also come up.
Militant outfits have no dearth of arms and ammunition. Official sources say there were dumps of arms and ammunition known only to the militant outfits. These weapons were stockpiled during the peak of militancy . It has emboldened the terror outfits and they are getting radical recruits and a lot of money too to run their campaign to get the youth willing to fight and die. These recruits pick up guns and dare to take on security forces with equal amount of ferocity as foreign militants. Foreign militants continue to come from across the Line of Control (LoC). The rising number of infiltration bids and ceasefire violations are proof of it.
The local element is growing in the militant ranks. Ironically, this trend is picking up simultaneously with many other youths working hard to get into the civil services. Earlier, foreign militants used to display their “special” skills by mounting fidayeen attacks or fighting security forces for days together. Now, local militants are doing the same. Statistics speak for themselves. The casualties so far in militant attacks this year is the highest in the last eight years. In 16 major attacks this year, militants have killed 33 security personnel — 13 Army soldiers, six CRPF men and 13 policemen.
The background of these local militants is different: they were born and brought up amid the gun and grenade culture. Unlike their elders, they did not see peaceful Kashmir. They had dreams and wanted to make it big in life. They were studying to qualify for decent jobs and live an honourable life. But their dreams got quashed by rampant corruption and government indifference. Distraught, they tried to turn their helplessness into power by picking up guns. “No one took care of these youth, whose age group ranges from 18 to 30,” said sources.
Militancy reached its peak in Kashmir in the mid-1990s when foreign militants from Pakistan to Sudan gave it a big push. That was the time when the Valley witnessed daily attacks and foreign militants, especially drawn from Lashkar-e-Toiba and Harkat-ul- Ansar, later rechristened as Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, were in the lead.
After the release of Azhar Masood, one of the three militants who were released in exchange of IC-814 passengers, Jaish-e-Mohammad was born. The high-profile terror acts such as the attack on the state Legislative Assembly and Parliament were committed by foreign militants. Local outfits such as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were made to take the responsibility in a bid to give an impression that everything was being done by local militants. That was then. Now, deadly attacks by local militants have become a reality.
(With inputs from Majid Jahangir in Srinagar)