SRINAGAR, FEB 13:
In a bid to wean away local youths from militancy, Jammu and Kashmir police is assuring parents of those who are believed to have joined various militant groups that a lenient view will be taken if their kin decide to surrender.
The police decided to take the initiative of meeting the parents amid a spate of intelligence reports about local youths having joined terror groups after the killing of poster-boy for Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit Burhan Wani in July last year.
As the unrest left the police force almost non-functional in many parts of the South Kashmir last summer and autumn, an
estimated 80 youths had gone missing from various parts of the Kashmir Valley and were believed to have joined militant outfits either as an active cadre or an over ground worker.
This issue was flagged before S P Vaid, who took over as the Director General of the Police on January one, after which a plan to educate the parents was undertaken.
“We won’t like to harm our own children. We are reaching out to the parents and requesting them to convince their children for shunning the path of violence. In few cases, we have achieved success also. We want that our children should fight in debates, competitive exams and not with guns.
“I have made appeals through my district Superintendents of Police and conveyed that all missing cases need to be verified on ground and corrective steps to be taken. Our first attempt is always humanitarian so that we can bring misguided children back. We have given an assurance that a lenient view will be taken in case the youths surrender voluntarily,” Vaid said on Monday.
However, he refused to divulge the details and said that a “course correction” was already underway and discussing the issue would be premature.
The statement came a day after four local militants were gunned down in a joint operation by police, army and the CRPF.
The four were Muddasir Ahmed Tantray and Wakeel Ahmed Thokar (Lashkar-e-Taiba) and Farooq Ahmed Bhatt and Mohameed Younis Lone of Hizbul Mujahideen.
While Tantray was an active militant since August 2014, Thokar had joined LeT in September last year. Lone had been recruited in Hizbul Mujahideen only in January this year, while Bhatt was with the outfit since June 2015. All of them hailed from South Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir Police was focusing on four districts — Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag, which have witnessed unrest after Wani was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8 last year, in the light of intelligence reports claiming that around 50 youths from these areas might have disappeared.
According to the intelligence reports, the youths were believed to be mainly moving towards the Hizbul Mujahideen with a few attracted to the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The security forces, including army, are strengthening their positions in South Kashmir, which has been the most politically sensitive area in the Valley and the epicentre of the agitation, after “re-claiming” the lost ground from the agitators and bringing some semblance of rule of law.
Sources said the idea is to cut cadre supply for militants from South Kashmir, a traditional bastion of ruling PDP which is having an alliance government with the BJP.
The area has virtually turned out to be breeding ground for militant groups.
In 2015, out of the 90 youths, who had joined militant groups, 80 per cent of them hailed from various districts of South Kashmir.
The worst-hit areas are Heff-Shrimal in Shopian district; Lillahar, Samboora, Pulwama town and Tral of Pulwama district; Qaimooh and Redhwani in Kulgam district; and Redhwani in Anantnag district.
These areas are dotted with apple orchards which lead to dense forests where militants as well as new recruits take refuge, officials said, adding that in case the security forces mount pressure on one side, they escape and mingle with the local population on the other.
The adjoining jungles which are dotted with poplar and pine trees provide a platform for terrorists to train new recruits, they said.
Having a population of over 23 lakh, South Kashmir, which has been politically quite active, is also considered the bastion of Jamaat-e-Islamia group and has been traditionally voting for PDP.
The defunct Muslim United Front (MUF) in the late 1980s, many of whose sympathisers had picked up guns in 1990s following the alleged rigging in 1987 elections, had its roots in South Kashmir.