Kashmir again sees its young joining militancy

Kashmir

WHEN bodies were identified after an encounter in Pattan in Kashmir last month, the police were in for a shock. The bodies were of Mohammad Ibrahim Janwari and Nisar Ahmad, two local boys in their early 20s. The encounter confirmed what the authorities have been afraid of for some time now that the Valley may be seeing a new breed of local teenage militants who were born after 1990 or were just kids when unrest erupted in Kashmir.

Police sources say they are increasingly seeing this in Kashmir, especially in militant hotbeds such as Sopore in the north and Pulwama and Tral in the south. Most of them join the Hizbul Mujahideen or Lashkar-e-Toiba two key militant outfits operating in the Valley now.

After the late '90s, Kashmiri boys had virtually shunned militancy. While some youths were known to act as overground workers for militant groups, they largely stayed away from directly taking up the gun. The trigger for the local boys joining militants again may be the 2008 and 2010 uprisings where civilian protesters were killed in firing by police and paramilitary forces.

Police sources put the number of Kashmiri men to have taken up the gun in the past one year at more than 40, including those who lost their near ones in the 2008, 2010 violence. Most of them are in their late teens or early 20s. Recently, the state police claimed to have busted a Lashkar module in Sopore by arresting seven militants, all of whom were in their early 20s.

Known to his neighbours as a shy and reticent boy, Janwari was born in 1990 and, from all accounts, joined militant ranks only a couple of months before he was killed. His acquaintances said they had no knowledge of his links. "When I heard about his death, I was shocked," said neighbour Javed Ahmad. "I had no idea that he had become a militant. He had gone missing after police raided his house."

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