In Jammu and Kashmir, funerals of militants and social media are fertile recruiting grounds for terrorists

Yawar Hussain Wagay, a teenager newly recruited by the Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed in an encounter with Kashmir security forces on Thursday.

Representational image. PTI

Representational image. PTI

He had been a militant for around a fortnight. His family knew that he was going to join the militants — he'd told a cousin — he'd been in touch with militants.

One day, he went for evening prayers and never returned.

Yawar had been booked for stone-pelting and would frequent the funerals of militants, where he was recruited. After that he made his choice: The gun.

Militants are, more and more, appearing at the funerals of their comrades. This has become their new hunting ground. According to the police, they also recruit youth through social networking sites and through friends who may have joined their cause.

Police say that they have seen an increase in the number of youth joining the militancy. They say that youth are moving to the militancy-infested areas of Tral and Shopian in south Kashmir to develop contacts with the militants. In Kupwara, the police stopped at least a dozen youth from joining the ranks of the militants.

But none of Yawar's friends was a militant. His cousin Arshad Ahmad says Yawar was the first Shirpora local to join the militants in a decade.

“He told me that he would join the militancy," Arshad says. "It was hard to stop him. He'd made up his mind."

Yawar had been taking part in stone-pelting since he was 10. When the police would raid his house, he would hide. His father Nisar, a store keeper in the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) department, says he was detained by the Anantnag police for 14 days for merely asking about the whereabouts of his son.

In Yawar's case, his friends and family noticed a change. He had become ultra-religious. He'd offer prayers five times a day. He'd been sent to prison for two months for stone-pelting. His mother Suraya Banoo says after his release, he'd began spending hours at the local mosque. Suraya blames the police and their "excesses" for sending Yawar down the path of no return.

Nisar agrees. Police harassment forced his son to become a militant, he alleges. He admits that Yawar had participated in stone-pelting but insists that he wanted to study. He could not continue his education due to police harassment, Nisar claims. Yawar's family allege they had to bribe the police Rs 1.7 lakh simply to secure his release in several cases of stone-pelting.

Police say that since they have improved their intelligence gathering, militants have been wary of new recruits. Most of those who are allowed to join have multiple cases of stone-pelting lodged against them — as Yawar did — or have snatched away weapons from government forces.

Most youth are first inducted as over ground workers (OGWs) before they are inducted into the ranks, police say. A senior police official says that three OGWs arrested by the police on Saturday were given the task of “ identifying’’ the places where police frequently patrol and the bunkers of security forces before they carry out the attacks and grab weapons from police.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kupwara, Shamsher Hussain, says: “We rescued at least 12 youth and prevented them from joining the militancy after their parents lodged a missing person report. Eight boys were rescued near the Line of Control, while four others were intercepted from Tral and Shopian.’’ He says that it is the local militants who make efforts to draw in youth and that foreign militants usually avoid contact with locals.

A police official admitted that, on occasion, personnel go too far during anti-militancy operations, which could push the youth to join the militants.


Updated Date: Aug 07, 2017 07:27 AM

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