Image for representational use only. Image Courtesy: Rediff.com
Just two days after eight civilians were killed near a encounter site in Southern Kashmir, on October 23, 2018, Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh visited Kashmir. While speaking with the reporters, Singh said, “The situation in Kashmir is getting better, militant recruitment is decreasing.”
However, the data revealed by former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti in the Assembly shows a different picture. “As many as 66 (local) youths joined militancy in 2015 while the number increased to 88 in 2016 and reached 126 last year,” Mufti had said, while replying to a written question by National Conference MLA Ali Mohammed Sagar in the legislative assembly on February 6, 2018.
The data provided by a police official (who wished to remain anonymous) revealed a slight variation to what Mufti had cited. According to the official, 164 youth have joined militant ranks in the past 10 months (2018) but the rest of the figures remain the same.
Rise in Recruitment Linked to Increased State Repression?
This recruitment can be seen to be in direct correlation to the number of militants being killed. The Crime Investigation Department (CID) had issued an advisory in 2015, after a large number of the people had joined in the last rites of Pakistani militant Abu Qasim.
Abu Qasim, a de facto operational chief of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) was the mastermind behind major strikes in the valley as well as outside. He was killed by government forces in 2015 which was considered as a big achievement for the state. His funeral was attended by thousands. Seeing this, the CID had raised an alarm and warned the authorities against allowing such large funeral processions, as this indicated the scale of local support for such militants.
After the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani in 2016, local recruitment by militants reached 88, which was a big jump from 2010. Wani was popular and had an appeal among some Kashmiris due to his activity on social media. He had managed to garner a fairly large support from local youth, especially in South Kashmir. His funeral was attended by an estimated 2,00,000 people.
The subsequent years have seen a further increase in the recruitment of local youth. According to the police official, 126 people (mostly youth) joined the militant ranks in 2017.
From 2010 to 2015, the militant ranks were mostly dominated and controlled by Pakistani militants, with very few local names. The only other period when there were more local militants was at the time of its commencement in the early nineties.
However, recent police reports reveal that there are as many as one youth joining militant ranks every third day.
A report published by Hindustan Times said that the numbers signing up for militancy could likely cross 200 before the year ends, according to security agencies. This year’s recruits would lead to the swelling of ranks of 350-400 militants who are already operating in the valley.
“There are several reasons why more youths are joining militant groups. The debate over Article 35A and the splintering of the alliance between the Peoples’ Democratic Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party has contributed to the growing tension in the state,” said a senior official in the security establishment, who did not want to be named, Hindustan Times had cited.