The stillness of the huge mountainous expanse of Doda district in the Jammu region, encircled by dense forests and the meandering Chenab, speak of an impending doom. In hushed tones, locals talk about the signs of re-emergence of militancy in the forbidding hilly terrain, contiguous to the southern part of Kashmir, Anantnag (or as locals call it Islamabad). Recently, the Doda district of Jammu region was alarmed after boy from the Ghat village, Haroon Abbas (30), joined the Hizbul Mujahideen. Known by the code name, Moin-ul- Islam, Abbas was the second youth from Doda district to pick up the gun in 2018.
It has been four months since Abbas joined the militant ranks, but his mother Shamma Begum is still appealing to him to return home. As per his family members, the news of his joining the militant ranks was unexpected as their son had not faced any such atrocities which are usually attributed to the rise of militancy in the region, neither did they have any close connections in Kashmir.
But in 2013, Abbas had lived in Kashmir for nine months and they believe that he must have undergone some changes during that period. “We learnt about his joining on September 3. It was my marriage on September 5. We were expecting him to be at home. The news came like a whirlwind. Everyone was shattered and couldn’t figure out the reason behind this huge step. He was an intelligent and well-qualified guy. He earned well. And we as a family had no close connections in Kashmir,” his elder brother Yawar told NewsClick.
Abbas had completed his MBA (Master of Business Administration from Sri Mata Vashino Devi University (SMVDU) and was working as a medical representative at a pharmaceutical company in Jammu. “He was an introvert. He didn’t talk much and had a limited circle of friends. He used to read the Quran and offer Namaz five times every day. There was no reason for him to join militancy. I wait for him every day. For me, he is still in Jammu,” said Shamma Begum.
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Soon after joining the militant ranks, a photo of Abbas had gone viral on Facebook, where he could be seen holding a gun. In keeping with the trend, the picture was an announcement of his joining. As per the family, the last call they received from their son was on August 31, after which there has been no communication.
Earlier, Abid Hussain Bhat, a labourer from Sazan village of Doda district had joined militancy. However, he was killed in an encounter with security forces in Anantnag.
This is not the first time that militancy has struck Doda. The region had witnessed years of insurgency during the 1990s when militancy was on the rise in Kashmir.
1990s’ Militancy and Doda
As militancy gripped the Kashmir valley in late 1989 and the early 1990s, it didn’t remain confined to the Valley but extended to the different districts of Jammu. Doda was one such district of Jammu where militancy was at its peak. Researchers see Doda as a “socio-cultural and political extension of the valley. With 57% Kashmiri speaking Muslim population, as per the 1981 census, the region is ethno-linguistically similar to Kashmir. Similarly, militancy had made inroads in other districts like Poonch, Rajouri and few areas of Udhampur.
After Kashmir, Doda was seen as the hub of militancy, where umpteen outfits were operating, including Hizbul Mujahideen, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, Al-Jehad, Al-Umar, Muslim and Jaanbaz Force. These outfits had established a stronghold in the region. As per a report by The Times of India, nearly “250 youth from Doda had crossed over to Pakistan for training in the 1990s.”
“While we talk about militancy in Kashmir, we forget to mention Chenab valley (Doda) which was the hub of militancy. There are signs of militancy revival and I attribute it to the recent joining of the youth. People here connect with Kashmir as we share the same language and culture. The pain is the same. The state has been atrocious towards Kashmiris. In the 1990s, the wave was strong in Doda. Currently, the situation is simmering and it can erupt anytime. The sentiments here are raging,” said advocate Hanief Hashmi of Doda.
Time and again, the region had observed shutdowns to protest against the civilian killings in Kashmir. “It is the failure of the Indian state which has been unable to prevent locals from joining militancy,” a local hailing from Doda said on condition of anonymity.
As per intelligence agencies quoted by The Tribune in its recent report, “The active militants are mostly locals and are on a mission to revive militancy in the region.”
In 2011, the government had officially declared the region as militancy free but the region was kept under a strong vigil. For locals, the recent incidents of two youth joining the militant ranks are the initial rumblings of the upcoming imbroglio.