Kashmir: After A Pause, Youths Return to Militancy

Mohammad Amin Pirzada
150720-IN-militants-620 Suspected Kashmiri militants pose for the camera in a Facebook video.

In recent months Kashmir has seen more youths – including educated ones with post-graduate degrees and PhDs – joining local militant groups, posing a new challenge to regional security, officials say.

A video posted on Facebook recently, which showed nearly a dozen new recruits donning combat fatigues and brandishing AK-47s, went viral on the social networking site, grabbing the attention of law enforcement and intelligence agencies across the valley.

Authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir blocked the Facebook page but, less than two weeks later, the first-of-its-kind video reappeared online on July 13.

According to one analyst, the recruitment trend is being fueled by rising anger among families of young men who have gone missing, been caught up with militant groups or been killed due to the insurgency in the Himalayan region, which is contested between India and Pakistan.

“A family of a jailed militant is harassed so much so that the members, especially his brother, is feeling great insecurity [for] his life. Army and police officials often summon the detainee’s brother and harass him on different pretexts,” Kashmir University sociology professor Peerzada Mohammad Amin told BenarNews, quoting a family he visited on Saturday.

“Excesses by security agencies against the families of alleged militants, who are alive or dead, must stop as it will only add to their alienation and anger,” Amin added.

Relatives or friends of local militants mostly tend to join the insurgency – not youths in general –Jammu & Kashmir Inspector General of Police Javid Mujtaba Gilani told BenarNews.

“Following a specific [intelligence report], we brought back four young boys from north Kashmir’s Handwara town recently, who were planning to join the militants in local forests there,” he said. “Just a few dozen boys have joined militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) this year.

But “the situation is not alarming,” he added.

That said, while no official data on the number of new recruits exists, unofficial figures point to at least 80 youths having joined militant groups – mostly HM and LeT – within the past six months.

Educated recruits

The latest online video shows local militants cracking jokes while strolling at an undisclosed location in southern Kashmir.

Naseer Ahmad, a 35-year-old former J&K state policeman who used to be assigned to a detail protecting a state minister, is believed to be among the men in the video.

According to news reports, the new recruits include educated youths as well.

Ishaq Ahmad, a 24-year-old who hails from Tral, a hotbed of militant activity in south Kashmir, also is said to be in the video. He was among the top of his class for the Class X Board exam in 2011.

“Educated youths turning to the militancy is more disturbing and apparently a cause of concern,” Lt. Gen. Subrata Saha, of the Srinagar-based 15 Corps, told Reuters recently.

According to data released by the army earlier this year, two of the new recruits have doctorates and eight are post-graduates.

In the case of Burhan Muzaffar Wani – who also hails from Tral – barely two weeks before his Class X exam in October 2010, he vanished from his home and allegedly joined the HM, news reports said.

Now he is a top commander for HM, which has lured more young men to join militant groups, according to local media reports.

Wani is among those who appeared in the video. In the photo above, he is seated in the center of the middle row with his head tilted slightly to his left, according to one of his relatives who requested anonymity.

In the 1990s, local youths in large numbers turned to militancy in their fight against Indian rule, but over the years the trend waned.

‘Resolution of conflict a must’

Some analysts argue that without addressing the real cause of anger among the youths, it will be hard to fight the insurgency.

“Due to absence of any viable economic and career opportunities over the past two decades, Kashmiri youths are left with little option but to turn to militancy in a state of desperation” NoorMohammad Baba, a professor of political science at Kashmir University, told BenarNews.

“Initiation of a meaningful peace process aimed at a resolution of Kashmir conflict, coupled with creation of more job opportunities, could help solve the problem permanently.”


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