Shopian School Under Radar After 13 Students Join Militant Groups

Representational Photo

Shopian- A religious school in Shopian district of South Kashmir has come under the scanner of investigating agencies after 13 of its students were found to have joined militant groups, officials said here.

The institution’s students include Sajjad Bhat, an accused in the February 2019 suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama that left 40 personnel dead.

The school’s students mainly hail from Kulgam, Pulwama and Anantnag districts of South Kashmir, considered by intelligence agencies to be the hotbeds of militancy and breeding grounds for recruitment of locals into various militant groups, officials said.

It also had outstation students from Uttar Pradesh, Kerala and Telangana, but their number dropped to almost nil after abrogation of Article 370 last year, the officials said.

According to an official, since most students and faculty at the school hail from districts of Shopian and Pulwama, the ideology of militancy may be flourishing there and in turn affecting the students belonging to other places too.

He feels at the same time, the outside environment, local population, militancy-related activities and regular encounters of militants also play an effective role in propagating the ideology of militancy.

During investigation of the ghastly attack of February 14 last year when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a CRPF convoy killing 40 personnel, the intelligence agencies found that Bhat, whose vehicle was used used in the attack, had done his schooling from this same religious institute in Shopian district.

The list of the institute’s students involved in militancy started expanding with the death of Zubair Nengroo, a commander of the banned Al-Badr organisation, in August this year. Nengroo too was a student of the same religious school.

According to an internal report, there are at least 13 listed militants and hundreds of over ground workers (OGWs) who are either students or alumni of this institute.

Recently a youth from Baramulla went missing while returning to the school from his home after vacations. It was later found that he had joined the militant ranks.

“Most of these 13 militants are natives of Shopian and Pulwama,” the report said.

Besides Bhat and Nengroo, the list of 13 alumni also includes Hizbul Mujahideen militant Nazim Nazir Dar, and Aijaz Ahmad Paul who was killed by state forces in an encounter on August 4 in Shopian.

The officials feel that “institutions such as this school become breeding grounds for recruitment into militant outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Al-Badr and Lashker-e-Taiba as stories of killed militants depicting them as heroes are spread around through various means.”

“These factors leave a strong print in the minds of the students and when influenced by the society and friends lead them to joining militant ranks. It has been found in certain cases that the education of these kinds of religious institutions is encouraging the students to join militant ranks,” said an official.

The report pointed out that many day scholar students have been found to be involved in stone pelting, agitations and law and order situations against the state forces. “These students may spread the message of separatist ideology, hate against the government while glorifying the acts of militants,” it said.

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