At least 20 Kashmiri youths have gone “missing” in the Valley since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, and it is feared they may have joined terror groups, ThePrint has learnt.
According to top sources in the defence and security establishment, law enforcement and other relevant agencies were conducting a survey to find the exact number of such cases.
“There are about 20 such missing cases which have come to light. The relevant people are conducting a survey to find out the veracity of such inputs,” a source told ThePrint.
Another source said the figure of 20 is “conservative”, which is why a survey is being carried out to determine the actual number.
Terror recruitment pattern ::
According to sources, in the days preceding the abrogation of Article 370, the missing youths would either return in a couple of days or surface on social media via pictures holding assault rifles, a common trend among militants of the post-Burhan Wani era.
However, with the internet still suspended in Kashmir, no such pictures can be uploaded.
“Lack of communication means that information from our sources is also not coming through or is taking more time,” said one of the sources. “And hence efforts are being made to ascertain the inputs on the ground itself.”
Security agencies are said to be anticipating a rise in local recruitment by terror groups following the Narendra Modi government’s decision to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two union territories.
Since 5 August, when Union Home Minister Amit Shah tabled the resolution nullifying Article 370 in the Rajya Sabha, terror groups are said to have become active, eager to tap the alleged resentment among Kashmiris at losing their special status.
According to recent intelligence inputs, terrorists have been visiting far-flung villages, especially during Friday prayers, and inciting people against the government.
In the absence of the communication network, terrorists have allegedly been sighted “physically moving around” and conversing with villagers.
Sources said the biggest worry was the possible indoctrination of impressionable and vulnerable youth in the age group of 15 to 25 years.
Fears of this increased activity come just months after the Valley saw a dip in local terrorist recruitment after two years.
Only two encounters since 5 August ::
Since 5 August, only two encounters have taken place in Kashmir — in Shopian and Baramulla — resulting in the killing of at least three militants.
This is in sharp contrast to the tempo of operations in the preceding days.
Over 100 militants, including 23 foreigners, were killed in Kashmir in the first five months of 2019. Security forces killed 247 terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir in 2018, up from 213 in 2017 and 141 in 2016.
Sources said it was natural for the tempo of operations to go down as the focus has now shifted to the overall law and order situation.
“The number of hits have come down because almost all encounters used to take place on the tip-off of Jammu & Kashmir Police and their information network,” said the first source quoted above. “However, since 5 August, the focus is on law and order.”
According to the sources, another reason why the forces are not carrying out sustained operations is because no one wants a situation where civilians and the forces end up confronting each other.
“Any small incident can ignite the fire and, hence, all precautions are being taken to ensure that things remain within control and below the threshold,” the second source explained.