A religious school in Shopian district of South Kashmir has come under the scanner of investigating agencies after 13 of its students were found to have joined terror groups, officials said here. The institution's students include Sajjad Bhat, an accused in the February 2019 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama that left 40 personnel dead.
The school's students mainly hail from Kulgam, Pulwama and Anantnag districts of South Kashmir, considered by intelligence agencies to be the hotbeds of militancy and breeding grounds for recruitment of locals into various terror groups, officials said. It also had outstation students from Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Telangana, but their number dropped to almost nil after abrogation of Article 370 last year, the officials said.
According to an official, since most students and faculty at the school hail from the terror-hit districts of Shopian and Pulwama, the ideology of terrorism may be flourishing there and in turn affecting the students belonging to other places too. He feels at the same time, the outside environment, local population, terror-related activities and regular encounters of militants also play an effective role in propagating the ideology of terrorism.
During investigation of the ghastly attack of February 14 last year when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a CRPF convoy killing 40 personnel, the intelligence agencies found that Bhat, whose vehicle was used used in the attack, had done his schooling from this same religious institute in Shopian district. The list of the institute's students involved in terrorism started expanding with the death of Zubair Nengroo, a so-called commander of the banned Al-Badr terror organisation, in August this year. Nengroo too was a student of the same religious school.
According to an internal report, there are at least 13 listed terrorists and hundreds of over ground workers (OGWs) who are either students or alumni of this institute. Recently a youth from Baramulla went missing while returning to the school from his home after vacations. It was later found that he had joined the terrorist ranks. "Most of these 13 terrorists are natives of Shopian and Pulwama," the report said.
Besides Bhat and Nengroo, the list of 13 alumni also includes Hizbul Mujahideen militant Nazim Nazir Dar, and Aijaz Ahmad Paul who was gunned down by security forces in an encounter on August 4 in Shopian. The officials feel that institutions such as this school become breeding grounds for recruitment into terrorist outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al-Badr and Lashker-e-Taiba as stories of killed terrorists depicting them as heroes are spread around through various means. "These factors leave a strong print in the minds of the students and when influenced by the society and friends lead them to joining terrorist ranks. It has been found in certain cases that the education of these kinds of religious institutions is encouraging the students to join terrorist ranks," said an official.
The report pointed out that many day scholar students have been found to be involved in stone pelting, agitations and law and order situations against the security forces. "These students may spread the message of separatist ideology, hate against the government while glorifying the acts of terrorists," it said.