Sameer Showkin Lone
Srinagar: The killing of top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani-the poster boy of the present age militancy, has literally changed the narrative in south Kashmir.
Earlier, when Wani was alive, militants used to look for boys to recruit them, as there were few willing, but post Wani’s killing, there are dozens in the line and this time militants are selective in new recruitments, police sources said.
Sources say sizable numbers of youths are in a line lobbying and using their sources to join militancy. But it is being said that militants seem quite reserved as “they don’t want another Tariq Pandit in their ranks”.
Tariq Pandit was a close aide of Burhan Wani. Pandit’s arrest continues to be a puzzle stumping one and all; if he was arrested or he surrendered. Pandit’s catch later helped forces to expose several key hideouts of militants where a large cache of ammunition was also recovered.
“With Pandit’s case in mind, militants are not recruiting every willing person. There might be some passion (junoon) among teenagers to become militants, but militant commanders seem quite selective when it comes to new recruitments. During the three months of unrest, only a few number of youths have been recruited,” they added.
According to sources, around two dozen youth in the whole of south Kashmir have been absconding since July 8, but it is not clear if all of them have joined militancy.
However, police refuses to buy the argument of two dozen youths missing since July 8.
A top police officer said during the early days of this uprising, it seemed like over 100 youths might join militancy, but off late the trend has decreased.
In Pulwama district, as per police records, only two youths are missing. Sources say one youth, a former militant, has recently re-joined, besides around six youths are absconding.
SP Kulgam Shridhar Patel said, “We have only three missing reports. But we aren’t sure if they have joined militancy,” he said.
In the police district of Awantipora which includes Tral also, the home town of Burhan Wani, three youths have joined militancy. “Three boys have joined militancy in Awantipora police district,” said a top police officer, adding, it is not clear which outfit they have joined.
He, however, said the two boys belong to the prone militant areas, but the third one hails from Pampore area—which has seen no militant recruitment in the recent past years. This recruitment from Pampore has taken place only after Wani’s killing.
In Anantnag district, police said they don’t have any such records. “I am not in a position to tell about the figures. We are still collecting the details,” said a top police officer.
Wani’s killing on the evening of July 8 in a very brief encounter with government forces at a village in Anantnag district has not only fuelled unrest in Kashmir, but gave the militants all the breathing space they were looking for.
During this period of unrest, which is still continuing, militants have successfully reorganized their structure and made some strategic changes in their ranks. “Besides both LeT and Hizb now operate together,” police sources said.
With prevailing unrest entering into its fourth month and shows visible signs of fatigue in other parts of Valley, but south Kashmir continues to paint radically a different picture.
According to some national media reports, there are some 50 foreign militants, who have successfully infiltrated and have set up their base in south Kashmir. Sources also confirmed that the movement of militants comprising both locals and foreigners (mostly from Pakistani administered Kashmir) has significantly increased.
“The LeT and Hizb now operate together. The militants have also reorganized and have been able to make some key changes in their ranks. The top commander Zakir Musa who replaced Burhan Wani, seems to have been given a task to focus more on new recruitments rather than focusing on operations,” police sources said.
The other worry for the security agencies has become the growing number of gun-snatching incidents, which have witnessed a significant increase during the unrest.
According to reports, 62 rifles have been snatched in south Kashmir since the unrest began. Out of these 25 rifles are still missing.
A senior police officer said that during snatching incidents, the militants are accompanied by the new recruits. “We believe that these weapons are mostly being provided to the new recruits,” he said.
The latest incident of weapon snatching took place on October 4, when suspected militants snatched five weapons from security guards at a picket in Samnoo area of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
According to sources in Jammu and Kashmir Police, all those who have snatched weapons or stolen in recent years have ended up with militant group Hizbul Mujahideen, whose cadre largely comprises local Kashmiri militants. (PTK)