SRINAGAR: Following a mass uprising that consumed most of the 2016, there has been a sharp rise in militant activities in the year 2017, so far.
The surge in encounters between militants and the government forces during first 45 days of the year have left 19 militants and six army soldiers, including a Major, dead.
Of the 19 slain militants, according to the official sources, 10 were local Kashmiris.
Well placed security sources told the Kashmir Observer, that during the latter half of the previous year, almost hundred (100) local youth have joined the militant ranks.
This was further acknowledged by J&K police chief, Dr SP Vaid. “It is matter of concern,” he told the Kashmir Observer. “We're trying to change their minds.”
It was in October 2016, that chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, expressed concern about it while urging police to try to arrest the trend.
In this context, sources revealed that the death of militant commander, Burhan Wani on July 08 last year in a police encounter gave birth to this new trend.
The data about encounters since start of 2017 reveals that of the 19 militants killed in the Valley, 10 were Kashmiris while six were foreigners and three remain unidentified.
The last three encounters have turned deadly for Indian army which lost six of its men while over 15 were injured, some critically.
A top police official, on the condition of anonymity, said that the security forces have managed to arrest six militants alive.
The official informed that there were 88 local militants operating in Kashmir Valley in 2015 while as another 54 were foreign militants (mostly from Pakistani Kashmir). “There was an increase in the number of local youth picking up the gun in the following year,” he said.
In 2015, he added, 108 militants were killed and 39 others arrested.
In 2016, the number of local militants grew to 91 “while the number of foreign militants remained same”, the official said.
The data further showed that 56 militants were killed in 2016.
“Most of them belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen,” he informed.
Pertinently, government forces paid little heed to chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti's instructions that local militants be dealt with a soft glove.
Mehbooba had told a police passing out parade at Zewan in October 2016, that "those who have taken up arms or those who have not but are missing from their homes and want to join militancy, they are local boys”.
"I request the police to try to bring them back to their homes. Instead of they being killed in encounters, if it is possible to bring them back, make them a part of the mainstream, give them bats, balls and good education, instead of guns," Mehbooba had said, “such youth needed hand-holding.”
On the question as why the number of killings of local militants has risen despite directions from chief minister, the police chief, Dr Vaid avoided a direct answer. “This is their (youth's) own choice as well. We cannot stop our operations.”
DGP, however said, “we are trying our best to change their minds. It is also the responsibility of the parents and society to guide their children,” he added,
On Thursday, a day after Indian army chief, Gen Bipin Rawat, said that people of Kashmir don’t support them during anti-militancy operations, Dr Vaid took to micro-blogging social media site, Twitter, and wrote, “going beyond its mandate of normal policing, J&K Police transforming hearts and minds by instilling national pride in the youth of valley.”
Vaid also posted a video which showed the children, dressed in Pakistan's green-and-white and holding a Pakistani flag, marching past a life size hoarding of slain Burhan Wani at Nagbal in Shopian district on August 14 last year.
"We have identified the children vulnerable to inimical propaganda and started counselling them in small groups so that these kids do not fall prey to militancy," Vaid said. It is believed that these children who marched past the hoarding of Wani were participants at this year’s January 26 function in South Kashmir.