Srinagar, Dec 24: There has been a sharp spike in the number of young Kashmiris joining militant groups this year, with the number crossing 100 for the first time since such data started being collated in 2010, officials said here Sunday.
The figure, which stood at 88 in 2016, has already reached 117 by the end of November this year with south Kashmir emerging as one of the main hubs which provides cadres to militant groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashker-e- Toiba, reports of security agencies said.
According to the reports, the number of local youths who joined various militant groups this year include 12 from Anantnag, 45 from Pulwama and Awantipora, 24 from Shopian and 10 from Kulgam.
The figures for north Kashmir are — four youths joined militant groups from Kupwara, six from Baramulla and Sopore, and seven from Bandipore, according to the reports.
From central Kashmir, Srinagar district accounted for disappearance of five youths while Budgam for four.
The reports are based on technical and human intelligence besides interrogation reports of militants arrested during various counter-insurgency operations in the Valley.
The reports have put the number of those joining the militants this year as high as 117, but Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police S P Vaid contends that the numbers are much lesser.
However, a senior security officer said the figures of the police only take into account the cases registered in the police stations whereas the actual figures are always on the higher side as many parents do not report the matter to the law enforcing agencies due to fear.
Comparing the figures with previous years, 2017 has emerged as the year of highest recruitment of youth in various militant groups in last seven years. Such data is available from 2010.
According to the data laid on the floor of Parliament in March this year, there has been a steady increase in the number of youth taking up arms in the Valley from 2014 onwards as compared to 2011, 2012, and 2013.
In 2010, 54 youths joined militancy while in 2011, the number came down to 23 and further dipped to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013.
In 2014, the number shot up to 53 and in 2015, it reached 66 before touching the highest mark of 88 in 2016, the data showed.
The spurt in locals joining militancy began after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s poster boy Burhan Wani in an encounter in south Kashmir on July 8 last year.
Security officials feel that there is a difference between the present day militants compared to those of early 1990s. The ideological conviction of the present lot of militants is far more superior than that of the militant groups during the early days.
The worrying trend in the Valley is that it is witnessing a trend where young boys are opting for the path of militancy knowing fully well that they are at the risk of being killed, the officials said.
Militants infiltrating from Pakistan are equally distributed among the various local militant groups who make them aware of the topography and escape routes besides providing them the mobile numbers of overground workers in the region.
While a majority of the missing boys mainly belong to the average middle class and described as the new face of militancy in Kashmir, militants like Owais Ahmed Shah from Kokernag in south Kashmir and Eisa Fazli hailing from Soura in Srinagar show a trend that literate students from well-to-do families are also picking up arms with conviction.
Both Shah and Fazli were extremely brilliant in their studies, an official said, adding that if such people were also brainwashed, then there is a need to revisit the drawing board and examine policies of the state government at the earliest.