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After Biggest Strike on Militants in a Decade, Largest Number of Kashmiri Youth Pick up Guns in a Month

That militancy has been on the rise in South Kashmir is known. But what could be a troubling sign for the security forces is that militancy is finding new takers in other major districts of Kashmir as well.

Sheikh Saaliq | News18.com@sheikh_saaliq

Updated:April 30, 2018, 5:08 PM IST
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After Biggest Strike on Militants in a Decade, Largest Number of Kashmiri Youth Pick up Guns in a Month
More than 20 young men from south Kashmir are said to have joined militancy in April.
New Delhi: On April 1, security forces in Jammu and Kashmir killed 13 militants — all locals — in what was said to be the biggest anti-militancy operation mounted in a single day in the Valley since 2010.

Hours after the three separate encounters, XV Corps Commander Lt Gen Anil Kumar Bhatt had said it was probably the “biggest strike on militants in a decade”.

A top police official also told reporters that it was a “major setback” to militants. “We will see fewer youth join their (militant) ranks now.”

Contrary to this hope, however, more than 20 young men from south Kashmir are said to have joined militancy in April since the operation — the largest number in recent years, a senior police officer said.

“We thought that Kachidoora and Dragadh encounters will make youth re-think of joining any militant organisation, but everything has backfired,” the senior police official was quoted as saying by local media.

New Battlefields

That militancy has been on the rise in South Kashmir is known. But what could be a troubling sign for the security forces is that militancy is finding new takers in other major districts of Kashmir as well.

Capital Srinagar, perceived to be a militancy-free district, has again shown signs of tilting towards the gun.

As many as 12 youths are said to have joined militancy from Srinagar in the last two years. Four of them have died in different gunfights with security forces.

One of them was Mohammad Eisa Fazili, an engineering student from Ahmednagar. He went missing from his hostel room in Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah University on August 17 last year. The other three militants from Srinagar killed since last year include Mughees from Parimpora, Sajad Gilkar from Srinagar’s downtown in Nowhatta and Sajad Bhat alias Shadak from Zewan.

According to the police, other active militants from Srinagar are Junaid Sehrai (Baghat, Srinagar), Fahad Waza (Khanyar, Srinagar), Mehrajud Din Bangroo (Fateh Kadal, Srinagar), Dawood Sofi (Zainakote, Srinagar) and Fayaz Hamal Bhat (Nawakadal, Srinagar). All of them are believed to have moved to South Kashmir to join other militants.

“This is a worrying trend,” a senior police officer, who deals with counter-insurgency in Kashmir, said. “If Srinagar starts to witness scenes like South Kashmir and the city youth join militant ranks in huge numbers, it could create big problems for us. We are already worried about the small number joining militants in Srinagar.”

Another district where militancy is starting to gain ground is the central district of Budgam. In the last one year, more than 12 militants have been killed in different encounters in the district. While most of the militants in Budgam are from South Kashmir, security forces are worried that, like Srinagar, some youth from this district might also join militancy.

“Budgam can become a fertile ground for militants given the district’s proximity to Srinagar and South Kashmir. We are taking no chances,” a police official said.

On April 26, suspected militants snatched four rifles from policemen guarding the Goripora police post in Hyderpora area in Budgam district. Official sources said that a group of militants barged inside the police post, which is situated outside a temple in the area, and snatched all rifles from the four policemen manning the post.

A police official, who is privy to the case, confirmed that the militants were from Budgam.

The incident came only a day after a policeman decamped with his service rifle in the district.

“Rifle snatching was routine in South Kashmir. Now it has been witnessed in other parts as well like Budgam. The signs are there,” a police official working on the case said.

Another challenge for security forces in Kashmir is the town of Baramulla.

The police had in the past claimed that most militants operating in Baramulla were foreigners and the number of local militants also remained miniscule compared to those in southern areas.

However, during the past two months, around a dozen youth from several areas of Baramulla district, including four from the main Baramulla town, have gone missing. All of them are believed to have joined militancy.

One of them, 25-year-old Nasir Amin Darzi, son of the late Mohammad Amin Darzi of Jamia Mohalla, Baramulla had left home on December 2 to attend a court hearing in Srinagar.

He never returned but a picture of him holding an AK-47 went viral on social media. With him was another youth from Baramulla.

The town, like Srinagar, was believed to be militancy-free for many years, but with the killing of a local militant last year, Baramulla, too, is looking at a summer of uncertainty.

In August last year, one of the three militants killed by the security forces in Sopore was Javed Ahmad Dar of Khanpora. A kilometre from the main town Baramulla, this village is again in news after another youngster, Suhaib Akhoon, was believed to have joined militants.

Interestingly, 18-year-old Suhaib had visited Pakistan in August last year and acquired arms training in a Lashkar-e-Toiba camp. The police officials in Baramulla said Suhaib had crossed over to Pakistan on a legal visa and returned as a militant.

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| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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