SRINAGAR — Even as guns have fallen silent at the Line of Control (LoC) following a ceasefire with Pakistan, militant recruitment in Kashmir continues despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown.
According to sources in the security establishment, at least 40 youths have joined militant ranks this year while 50 are “missing”.
Several of those “missing” are suspected to have joined militant groups but have not been included in the official count by the police and security forces as the recruitment is not established yet.
“This year there have been around 40 who have joined militant groups, basically the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Al-Badr. However, around 50 are still missing,” a senior-level source told ThePrint.
This continuing trend of recruitment was also confirmed by another arm of the defence and security establishment, which is involved in counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism operations.
“Yes, we have not been able to arrest this recruitment trend. The trend in numbers is around the same as 2020 and that is a worry,” a source said.
Meanwhile, several new groups with different names have cropped up in Kashmir to provide a front to traditional militant organisations. This will allegedly allow the country to claim deniability on these terror groups.
Most of the recent recruits have joined The Resistance Front (TRF), which is a front for LeT. Another front for the LeT is the People’s Anti Fascist Front.
Similarly, the infamous 313 Brigade of the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen has converted into what is now known as the Jammu and Kashmir Ghaznavi Force.
The Lashkar-e-Mustafa is a front for JeM, which came into the spotlight following the Pulwama attack in 2019.
Meanwhile, the operations and recruitment for militant group Hizbul Mujahideen has declined. One of the earliest militant groups in the region, Hizbul Mujahideen is largely believed to be indigenous since it was formed in 1989.
Even if there is no spike in recruitment, sources in the security establishment noted that the continued recruitment is still a cause for worry.
“These recruits don’t even have arms initially and many of them after two weeks or so get pistols. In many encounters since last year, pistols have been recovered from the dead militants. The fact that many of these boys preferred to fight to death with pistols than surrender like in many other cases, shows the level of brainwashing that is happening,” a source said.
According to another source, measuring success based on how many militants are killed needs to change, instead the focus should be on ensuring that recruitment comes down.
“This kill based grading system needs to change,” the source said.
According to official statistics, 131 Kashmiri youth had joined militant groups in 2020 till early October. This was higher than the 117 recruitments in 2019.
The highest recruitment in the last few years happened in 2018 with 214 youngsters joining militant groups. — (THE PRINT)