SRINAGAR: Despite a massive crackdown on militancy and separatists, authorities in Kashmir are struggling to stop recruitment in ‘new age’ insurgency with seven youth, who have gone missing since past fortnight, believed to have joined militants.

Police sources said seven youth, most of them students hailing from the restive south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian districts, and central Kashmir’s Budgam district, have been reported missing by their families.

The missing youth from Shopian have been identified as Shakir Ahmad Wagay, a resident of Awneera who is pursuing diploma in Computer Engineering at SSM College in north Kashmir and Naveed Hussian Tak, a civil engineering student and resident of Naina Batpora in Litter.

Officials said two youth missing from Pulwama districts have been identified as Imran Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Arihal village and Bilal Majeed, a resident of Narbal village in Kakpora who is an undergraduate arts student.

Three more youth identified as Ishfaq Ahmad Dar, from Dailgam in Anantnag district and two from Budgam district identified as Adil Ahmad Ganie and Azad Ahmad have been reported missing by the families, police said.

In most of these cases, the youth have been reported missing either after the killing of their relatives, like in case of Imran whose cousin was killed in an encounter in Khanmoh on the outskirts of Srinagar recently, or the missing youth lived near the area where militants were killed in encounters.

“It is a trend for overground workers to join militant groups after the militants they worked with are killed in encounters,” a senior police officer said, referring to a gun-battle earlier this month near Dalwan village of central Kashmir’s Budgam where three Al-Badr militants were gunned down.

Two youth are reported missing from Dalwan, which is barely few kilometres from the encounter site.

A senior police officer said there is no evidence to suggest that the missing youth have joined militancy, “Their families have lodged missing reports but there is no evidence to suggest that they have joined militancy. It will be confirmed only after an investigation,” he said.

In past, youth who joined militancy used to post their pictures brandishing assault rifles on social media. But no such development has taken place in the case of the seven missing youth.

“It can be a change of strategy among militant groups to remain anonymous especially after their commanders were gunned down in encounters during the last three months,” a police source said.

The new development is a major setback to the efforts of the Jammu and Kashmir government to wean away youth from militancy with a new rehabilitation policy for surrendered militants likely to be rolled out soon.

It also exposes the claims of the authorities that fresh recruitment in militancy has stopped even as militant funerals, a fertile ground for militant recruitment, continue to attract thousands of people, despite curbs and arrests.

The year 2018 was the bloodiest in a decade in Kashmir with security forces gunning down 267 militants, most of them local youths, while 160 civilians and 159 armed forces personnel were also killed during last year.

(Representational photo by BASIT ZARGAR)