SRINAGAR: With 11 encounters taking place in the first 25 days of June, there has been a surge in encounters in the Kashmir Valley. While an Army Major and several jawans have lost their lives, security forces have also seen success, with 21 militants being eliminated so far.
But many question if the high kill rate can be termed a success at all. This is because of the 21 militants killed, 17 were locals, underlining the fact that recruitment of local youths is taking place with worrisome regularity.
It is estimated that over 60 youth have joined militancy this year, a dozen this month itself. Even on Tuesday, a gun-wielding photograph of a youth, Rafiq Ahmad Drangay of Bijbehara in Anantnag district, went viral on social media. He announced that he had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Of the 12 youth who turned militants this month, two belonged to north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, which was declared a militancy-free district in January this year. Another belonged to north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. The rest hailed from south Kashmir.
A security official said encounters and militant killings have increased as the security forces are conducting intelligence-based anti-militancy operations.
“The intelligence grid has been strengthened. Now we have human and technical assets on the ground, which provide correct and accurate information,” he said.
Consider the encounters this month, it is clear that many locals picked up the gun only recently:
Firdous Ahmad Bhat and Sajad Ahmad, both residents of Kulgam, were killed by security forces when they attempted to jump a check-point at Mool Chitergam in Shopian.
Joined militancy: Firdous turned a militant on April 5 this year.
Four local Jaish-e-Mohammed militants, including two Special Police Officers-turned-militants, were killed in Panjran, Pulwama.
The SPOs, Mohammad Salman Khan of Shopian and Shabir Ahmad Dar of Pulwama, had deserted the police with their service rifles a day before and joined the Jaish.
The other two militants who were gunned down were Ashiq Hussain Ganaie, a college dropout, of Pulwama, and Imran Ahmad Bhat, a Class XII student.
Joined militancy: While Shabir and Salman became militants only on June 6, Ashiq joined militancy on May 11, 2018. Imran joined the militant ranks on January 16, 2019.
Iqbal Ahmad of Nowpora, Anantnag, was killed in a gunfight at Nowgam, Anantnag. Ahmad, 36, had two stints as a militant. He was first associated with the Harkatul Mujahideen in the early years of militancy. Later he joined the Jaish ranks.
Joined militancy: Ahmad became a militant some eight months ago.
Two IS-inspired militants were killed in a gunfight at Awneera, Shopian. They were Sayar Ahmad Bhat, a graduate, of Kulgam and Shakir Ahmad Wagay of Shopian.
Joined militancy: While Bhat went missing about three months ago and was believed to have turned a militant, Shakir joined the militant ranks on January 4, 2019.
Two Lashkar-e-Tayebba militants, Tasaduk Amin Shah and Irfan Ahmad, were killed in Awantipora, Pulwama. While Tasaduk was working as the area manager of a company selling iron and steel, Irfan was a college dropout.
Joined militancy: Tasaduk is believed to have turned a militant this month itself as he went missing after his name figured in a police investigation in the killing of a civilian. Irfan turned a militant on July 12, 2018.
Two Jaish militants, Sajad Ahmad Bhat and Tawseef Ahmad Bhat, were killed in a gunfight at the Marhama area of Anantnag. Sajad was a Class XII student and the police said the vehicle used in the suicide attack on a CRPF bus at Lethpora, Pulwama, belonged to him. Tawseef was a B.A. third year student.
Joined militancy: Sajad joined militancy on February 25, two days after the NIA raided his house. Tawseef had joined Jaish in March this year.
Four local militants, Showkat Ahmad Mir, Azad Ahmad Khanday, Suhail Yousuf Bhat and Rafee Hassan Mir, were killed in an early morning gunfight in Shopian.
Joined militancy: While Showkat joined militancy in 2015, Azad turned to guns in April this year. Suhail was a postgraduate in Business Administration and Management and Rafee was a postgraduate and had even pursued B.Ed. Both took up arms on June 21.