The government Tuesday revealed that 145 militants were active in Kashmir out of which 91 are locals and 54 foreigners. The figures are eerily similar to 2015 when an almost identical number of the militants were active in Valley with a similar ratio between the local recruits and the foreigners. One fact that stands out is that the local militants now dominate the foreigners. This trend began last year and still holds.
State Government has also resurrected the rehabilitation policy for the Kashmiri youth stranded in Pakistan Administered Kashmir. The figures revealed in the Assembly put the number of the youth who had crossed the Line of Control for arms training at 4587 and among them only 489 youth along with their families had returned through Nepal border ever since rehabilitation policy was announced in 2003. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who holds the Home department portfolio said that the government had sanctioned the policy and procedure for rehabilitation of misguided youth, who have crossed to Pakistan part of Kashmir but had given up insurgent activities due to change of heart and were willing to return to the state.
However, this still doesnt solve the problem of the new militancy in Kashmir. While, on one hand, government is facilitating the return of the youth from PaK, in Kashmir a new generation is picking up gun and willing to die for Azadi. This paradox has puzzled many. The new militancy in Kashmir is predominantly South Kashmir phenomenon. This is happening at a time when the militancy in North Kashmir has diminished and its former bastions like the apple town of Sopore are now by and large peaceful.
There is so far little understanding of what has caused the youth in South to join militancy in greater numbers. Geographically, South Kashmir is located far away from Line of Control unlike Kupwara and Baramulla districts. This rules out easier accessibility to PaK either for crossing over for the arms training or for getting the arms. Also given the strengthened fencing of LoC, it is not easy to send across arms from PaK.
But despite these issues, youth in South Kashmir have chosen the path of militancy and died by scores in the process. According to police figures, around 113 militants died in encounters in 2015, a majority of them from South Kashmir areas of Pulwama, Tral and Shopian. The new recruits get precious little arms training, possess little ammunition and fewer guns, some of them snatched from the police men. One worrying factor for the security establishment is the ever-growing number of the people attending the militant funerals. This has created an explosive situation. Each funeral touches off an outpouring of emotion and grief, leading to a groundswell of support for the militancy. And each funeral inspires more youth to take up gun. And each funeral thus spawns many more future funerals.
Along the way the nature of militancy has also changed. There is a drastic change in the tactics in the way the militants operate in the state. A lesser number of highly trained and motivated militants on the ground who are also difficult to detect are able to launch high-profile strikes in places where these get the maximum attention. In the process they create a perception of militancy that is disproportionate to their number.
What is the solution to this situation? Certainly not the one being advanced by the government, which sees the youth taking up the gun a result of the ill-defined and catch-all radicalization and forgets the troubled political context under which the Valley operates. So the jobs, economic prosperity will hardly address the problem. What will address is the political solution to the festering political issue that Kashmir is and has been for the past almost 70 years.
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