Mufti, who also heads the state's home department, said that 126 youth joined militancy in 2017, 88 in 2016 and 66 in 2015 in the Valley.
A spurt in Kashmiri youths picking up the gun after Burhan Muzaffar Wani’s killing in 2016 has been officially confirmed. Nearly 280 youths have joined militancy since 2015 and 200 of these did so after Wani’s death.
SRINAGAR: The worst fears of a spurt in Kashmiri youths picking up the gun, specially after the slaying of Burhan Muzaffar Wani in 2016, have got an official confirmation.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, while replying to a query in the state Assembly earlier this week, admitted to 280 Kashmiri youths joining the militants' ranks during the past three years.
Out of these, 200 joined militancy after the killing of Wani, a militant commander who had became youth icon mainly due to his activity on social media. Wani, along with two other Hizbul Mujahideen militants, was killed during a military operation in Kokernag area of southern Anantnag on July 8, 2016.
Ms Mufti, who also heads the state's home department, said that 126 youth joined militancy in 2017, 88 in 2016 and 66 in 2015 in the Valley.
Wani's killing had sparked deadly protests and a widespread public unrest in the Valley and parts of the state's Jammu region which continued for six months. More than eighty people died and thousands others were injured. As per official statistics, the year 2016 also saw 9,235 security personnel getting injured in stone-pelting, the highest figure for the last three years. The total number of injured security personnel in 4,736 stone-pelting incidents in the last three years is 11,566.
The security forces' officials make no bones about Wani's killing and the resultant turbulence proving a huge catalyst for militant outfits, mainly the Hizb and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), to attract the local youth. Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) also made a comeback recently and has rapidly expanded in size and capability. Its cadres reintroduced use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to target the security forces and the same was termed by the Valley top cop Munir Ahmad Khan as "a new challenge making the security forces to rethink their strategy in tackling it".
After four policemen were killed in one such strike in northwestern town of Sopore, Mr Khan had said, "The IED blasts had almost stopped. It seems there is a new hand who is an expert in this (IED planting). We will have to think about how to deal with it and chalk out some new strategy. We will put our heads together and think."
Post-Burhan killing, the Hizb and the LeT have recruited heavily mainly in southern districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Shopian whereas the JeM has succeeded in influencing many young boys elsewhere in the Valley too.
Lt. Gen. D.S. Hooda, who was the Northern Army Commander when Wani was killed and who monitored closely the resultant unrest and the impetus the militant outfits were receiving as a dividend, had publicly described it as "disquieting trend".
Voicing his concern and that of the governments in New Delhi and Srinagar, he had said "Everyone is worried be it the Central government, the state government, the security forces or the Army… There are no easy answers that we will do this or that which will stop it."
The trend has continued, sending alarm bells ringing in the corridors of power. Equally worried are the security forces' higher-ups. Officials say that the Hizb and the LeT actually seized the rage set off by Wani's death and each civilian killing that took place in the security forces' action during the unrest to puff up their ranks. A visible feeling of revenge and despair among the youth pushed them into the militant ranks.
But if, on the one hand, the ranks of militant outfits have swelled, on the other, the security forces have been able to "neutralise" a record number of militants during the past three years.
It was in view of the militant outfits getting stronger that the security forces in the spring of 2017 launched a coordinated military action called "Operation All-Out" against them. The tough campaign was only intensified towards the last quarter of the year during which some top commanders of the Hizb, the LeT and the JeM were killed.
It was for the time in past seven years that more than 200 militants were killed in 2017 and 97 were also arrested in 2017.
Director general of police Shesh Paul Ved termed it "great success" and attributed the same to "collective efforts" put in by the J&K police, the Army and the CRPF.
Before launching the operation, the security forces had "identified" 258 militants from a clutch of outfits including the Hizb, the LeT, the JeM and Al-Badr Mujahedin for "as-soon-as-possible elimination". Of these, 128 were foreigners, mainly Pakistanis.
"Most of them are delisted now. We have sent them where they wanted to," said a security force official.
While 213 militants were neutralized in 2017, 150 militants were killed in 2016.