Police devising strategy to keep youth away from militancy

  • Abid Bashir
  • Publish Date: Aug 26 2018 9:34PM
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  • Updated Date: Aug 26 2018 9:34PM
Police devising strategy to keep youth away from militancy

In May 2017, security agencies in Kashmir were seen in a huddle to frame a joint strategy to deal with the rising graph of local boys joining militant ranks. And after a week-long deliberations at the army’s Srinagar-based headquarters, Operation All-out was launched with a clear message of wiping out militancy in Kashmir.

And the security agencies, police, army and the paramilitary CRPF launched an all-out war against militants in southern Kashmir and also in north Kashmir areas. Official records suggest that 220 militants were killed from June 2017 to September 2017 which included 20 top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Even after killing a record number of militants, the major worry that haunts the security grid of Kashmir is a steep rise in local boys joining various militant ranks across Kashmir. Police records suggest that at present 280 militants are active in Kashmir that includes 160 locals. The police has however, nailed some major reasons as to what pushes youth towards armed insurgency. A preliminary report has also been prepared in this regard to find out the counter remedies to keep youth away from the gun and to involve them in the mainstream activities.

The internal and the confidential report, the broad contours of which were accessed by the Kashmir Ink, has identified social media, peer pressure, the impact of the neighbourhood and passion—as the four main reasons that are driving youth in Kashmir towards militancy.

The report lays its emphasis that the new age militancy buttressed by new recruits is a “cause of concern.”

The report says a series of measures are already in place to stem the flow of new recruitment, but the number of local boys who have already joined militancy is a worrying development.

The Ramadhan ceasefire, the report says, had emerged a silver lining on the otherwise gloomy horizons of swelling militant ranks. It says the ceasefire helped dissuade potential militants from joining the militancy.

“From January 1 to May 17, 2018, 50 local boys joined militant ranks,” the report reveals. “Fifteen youth joined militants in the one month before the operations were suspended.” 

It highlights the number of militants active in Kashmir as 280 of which 160 are locals. “In northern Kashmir 30 militants are active, six of them are new recruits,'' the report says.

The number of active militants in Kashmir is 280 despite the killing of 220 militants under Operation All-out in 2017 and the killing of 74 militants this year so far.

Elaborating on the major reasons for recruitment, a senior security official said earlier militants used to release videos showing them moving around in groups posing for pictures. “Now they post a gun-wielding militant's picture on the social networking sites to announce the arrival of the newcomers. Then they avoid posting any photos or videos,” the official said. “Since social media is a vibrant tool to spread information, a picture of gun-wielding militant has a potential to attract other as well.”

He said that doing away with the practice of posting videos suggests the militants are not staying in groups.

The report stresses that when a boy joins militancy it impacts the psyche of his neighbourhood. “After the news becomes public, others in his neighbourhood get enticed to follow suit,” the report says.

The report cites the example of Zahid Nazir Bhat, cousin brother of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sameer ‘Tiger,’ who joined militancy a month after the killing of Tiger. Zahid's picture with an AK-47 went viral on social networking sites a few weeks ago. The police are worried that it could attract others to militant fold.

The peer pressure, according to the report, is also another major reason for the youth to pick up arms. “Being part of a militant friend’s funeral and witnessing the gun salutes also contributes to the making of a new militant in Kashmir,” report reveals. Interestingly, a CID report framed two months ago had stated that multiple funerals for slain militants and gun salutes are luring youth to militancy in Kashmir.

On the impact of highly educated youth joining militant ranks - that include Abdul Manan, who was a PhD scholar in Aligargh Muslim University; Junaid Sehrai, a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) pass out from Kashmir University; Eisa Fazili a B.Tech from Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University; and the latest KU Professor Muhammad Rafi - the report states that the number of highly educated youth joining militant ranks is less. “But yes, it also lures some youth,” it says.

A top police officer also confirmed peer pressure, neighbourhood influence and social media are primary reasons for new age militancy in Kashmir. “Our efforts are on to bring these youth back from the path of violence and to help them join the mainstream,” he said, wishing not to be quoted by name.

A source in the police also said that they are in touch with the families of new recruits in a bid to ensure “boys who have deserted their families, may return on their parent’s call.” “In certain cases, we have succeeded, and in some cases, we didn’t. But our efforts are on,” he said.

Another senior police official said that new militants can’t be as lethal as the ones who are in the field since long. “We are trying to contain it (recruitment) and steps are already afoot. Local militants primarily rely on the support of foreign militants. Since foreign militants are finding it difficult to sneak in, we expect recruitment to come down,” he said. However, the recent move of Hizbul Mujahideen on the second anniversary of its slain commander Burhan Wani, wherein at least 25 photographs of youth wielding guns (new recruits) were released on social media has set the alarm bells ringing in the security apparatus of Kashmir.

A former police officer of the rank of Inspector General said that the ultimate solution to the problem lies in political intervention and dialogue. “Recruitment, counter-recruitment steps will continue. The need of the hour is political intervention at the higher level,” he suggested.