The truth behind report that says encounters fuel militant hiring in Kashmir

Kashmiris are unwilling to believe that their own brethren across the border are treated worse than second-class citizens.

 |  5-minute read |   02-06-2018
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A report in The Indian Express on May 30, quoting a study ordered by the police authorities on militancy and recruitment of militants in Jammu and Kashmir, says that almost half the recruitment into militant ranks, post the elimination of Burhan Wani, came from within 10km of the residences of killed militants or encounter sites and these recruitments took place within 40 days of the encounter.

The report was based on a study of 43 encounters spread between November 2016 and April this year.

The study stated that each encounter set a surge in recruitments and new inductions, which exceeded the number of militants eliminated. Hence, there is a correlation between area of recruitment and militants killed in the same area. For the J&K Police, local recruitment was the "biggest challenge". 

burhanfb-body_071116_060218063337.jpg21-year-old Burhan Wani, along with two of his comrades-in-arms, was killed in 2016 in a shootout by the security forces.

Adding to public anger is the killing of civilians at encounter sites. The death of protestors trigger protests supplemented by large funeral processions. The report states, "Such a charged environment is a perfect blend of emotions and anger that is required to attract militant recruitment." 

On funeral of militants, it states, "The presence of militants in these funerals not only eulogies the death of militants, but at the same time brings active militants into open interaction with civilians. Such an interaction is one of the first and important steps in facilitating recruitment."

An important deduction has been that recruitment is more than the number eliminated. This year 26 militants were killed, while 46 recruitments reported.

Earlier the reasons given for youth picking the gun was radicalisation. I have stated in numerous papers that the youth in Kashmir were always radicalised. The present lot of militants were born post the forced migration of Kashmiri Pundits hence they have only witnessed calls for prayers of only one religion. Secularism has all but vanished from the Valley.

Kashmiri children have been taught since childhood that "Azadi" is close, hence the slogans of "Go India go back" dot the walls and are uttered by every child. This has been further ingrained by the Hurriyat leadership and from across the border. Hence, anger against the Centre and the rest of the nation always existed, despite being granted privileges which no other state has and receiving maximum pro-rata aid from the centre.

Kashmiris are unwilling to believe that their own brethren across the border are treated worse than second-class citizens.

burhanfuneral_070916_060218063353.jpgThousands attended Burhan Wani's funeral in Kashmir.

There are two aspects which have been overlooked in the study, though data indicates the same.

Firstly, local militants rarely venture out of their region. They are more secure in their home bases, knowing they would have local support. Therefore, most are eliminated close to their residences. Untrained, ill-equipped, most remain poster boys, placing photographs with weapons and releasing video and audio tapes. Surrender in home bases would always be taboo, as it would imply weakness and an inability to remain a militant.

Thus, there are very few surrenders.

Secondly, protestors are more violent when it comes to defending local militants as they are well known and if they remain active in the local area, the village or locality has a standing. It is for this reason that locals largely tend to shelter them. Locals seek to disrupt operations by distraction and permit escape from a distance, few would seek to sacrifice their own lives in the process. Had sacrificing been at the core of their thoughts, they would have picked the gun themselves.

Thirdly, the group pushing and encouraging the protestors from a safe distance are the over ground workers, whose main task is recruitment. They know that once levels of recruits reduce, they would be compelled to pick the gun. By encouraging protestors to engage, leading to retaliation by security forces, they gain more supporters and militants from those attending funerals.

However, the main cause hidden in the study for youth joining militancy in regions close to encounters or residence of militants, is the eulogisation of slain militants. Bodies being draped in a flag (ignoring the fact that the flag is a Pakistani or ISIS), firing in the air, large crowds chanting slogans praising the militant or anti-India chants is the nearest which could be considered to a state funeral.

This mentally impacts fence-sitters and unemployed youth, who are seeking to make a name or gain in status. It is these youth who voluntarily join or are egged on by the over-ground workers.

The study has analysed the causes well, but fails to come to viable solutions which could offset this phenomenon. The first solution is for the state to bury a militant killed in an encounter, rather than permit a local funeral.

This may lead to a political backlash in the initial phases, however, is essential as once an individual has picked the gun, he becomes an enemy of the state. This action by the state would reduce the numbers who pick the gun in sympathy. The problem is whether the state would risk this step, solely for political reasons.

Secondly, the change in tactics as adopted by security forces of seeking to capture militants alive, is welcome. This would enable breaking the over ground worker nexus post interrogation, thus reducing numbers of those who join militancy.

Thirdly, could be a change in stance of seeking to injure protestors, rather than firing to kill. This change in stance would only come about, if there is an increased back up base of CAPFs and J&K police during encounters.

The analysis in this study are relevant and could lead to the state adopting measures to reduce the numbers joining militancy, which is the major worry of the local police forces. What is lacking is political will, which needs to be firmed in.

This would only happen if the state government realises that reducing locals joining militant ranks is more important than votes.

Also read: How BJP used Kargil martyrs for their political benefit


Harsha Kakar Harsha Kakar @kakar_harsha

The writer is a retired Major-General of the Indian Army and author of the book, Harsha Kakar writes.

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