‘After revocation of Article 370, more locals turning to militancy’

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NEW DELHI — The New Delhi’s move, to bring development and healing touch to Jammu and Kashmir after revocation of the special status and bifurcating it into two Union Territories, has not improved the security situation in the Kashmir Valley. Too many locals are still joining the ranks of militants despite the growing number of encounters, becoming a huge concern for security forces operating in Kashmir, home ministry officials have said, according to national news channel NDTV.

A fact sheet from the ministry shows that in the first seven months of this year, 90 locals have joined various militant groups. Of them, 45 joined Hizbul Mujahideen, 20 Lashkar-e-Taiba, 14 Jaish-e Mohammad, seven Al Badr, two Ansar Ghazwat ul Hind and one joined ISJK, a militant group inspired by the Islamic State.

What is causing further concern is that the numbers might be more than expected. Earlier, security forces were informed by the family or neighbours or even social media posts if a young man went missing and joined the militants. “But now, no posts are going online nor are families coming forward,” said a senior officer in charge of operations, according to NDTV.

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Identification of the militants who are dying in encounters shows most of them are locals. In fact, more than 90 per cent of militants killed in encounters are Kashmiri locals, officials said.

“Of the 136 militants killed in Valley in the first seven months of this year, 121 were locals and only 15 were foreigners. In 2019, of the 152 militants killed, 119 were locals,” said a senior officer in North Block.

“Anger is palpable in Kashmir Valley. That’s why no matter how many militants are killed, their number doesn’t come down,” he added.

In south Kashmir’s Kulgam, 24 militants have been killed but 23 local young men have joined the militants. In Shopian, a young man who joined the militants on August 10 was killed in an encounter on August 19, the official said.

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“Of the 90 locals who were recruited by various militant outfits between June and August, we have managed to eliminate 38 and arrest 15. So in real terms, only 37 are still operating,” said Vijay Kumar, the Inspector General of Kashmir.

Home ministry data also shows that 216 locals have also been arrested for providing shelter or abetting terrorists.

Officials say the young people are getting alienated faster because of the coronavirus-induced lockdown. “Youth related activities have come to a halt due to COVID-19. Schools and colleges are closed. Shambled internet connectivity and no recreation have led to lot of bitterness,” said another officer, adding that scarce employment opportunities are adding to the resentment.

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