New Delhi: Hizbul Mujahideen, the only major local militant group of Kashmir has largely shrunk in the cadres with mainly the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and their proxies claiming the most recent attacks in the erstwhile state.
Hizbul Mujahideen which had rejuvenated since 2010 with Burhan Wani leading its cadres had seen a major rush of the local youth joining their ranks. Social media had become their forte where most of their commanders wearing army fatigues and holding rifles had attracted hundreds of youths to join them through circulated mainly on Facebook back then.
This included a few minors as well who were pushed to the firing lines. However, with the NDA government taking over in centre, the army went berserk against these militants with Operation All Out 1 and Operation All Out 2.
In September 2020, the police said Srinagar was finally terror-free. Six months later, the same police published a list of six new “wanted terrorists”. The unending war on militants by the police looked like a zero-sum game in Kashmir but that seems to have changed now. Almost after a decade, sources in police say that recruitment due to the pressure built on worker networks has curtailed to a great extent.
“More so, these boys have realized the futility of the militancy. Their life span does not go beyond a month or three after they pick up guns and neither has this solved any political conflict,” a security official from the police said wishing anonymity.
He adds that there is barely any ground left for the militants and it is mostly the cadres from across the border that are functioning now. The insurgency in Kashmir started with an armed rebellion led by the local groups which included Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Hizbul Mujahideen. However now, the JKLF remains redundant with its leader being jailed and Hizb too has gone dormant.
Although, the conflict here is taking a new turn as militant groups which are infamous globally are making their way into the valley. Earlier mostly the Pakistan-sponsored and local militant groups would carry out attacks against the Indian state.
These largely included Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad besides local groups. But a recent attack in Srinagar’s Lal Bazar area has raised concerns among the security forces as an offshoot of the global terror organization Islamic State of Iraq and Syria has claimed to have carried it out.
There are various groups operating in central Kashmir including the proxies of Lashkar-e-Taiba in the form of The Resistance Front or TRF but ISIS claiming the responsibility has been concerning. While newer groups seem to have made the entry, the thinning of the local cadres remains a success for the forces. This depicts that though infiltration is taking place there is reduced recruitment locally.
Trends in militancy
This year itself, the official data maintained by the Army has suggested that 15 youth joined militancy from January to March, this year. All these are the local youth. In the same period, the Army says that it has killed 41 terrorists, yet there has been no real decrease in the overall number of the terrorists.
On December 31, 2021, around 160 terrorists were active in the valley, according to the police. In the first four months of 2022, till April, 64 were killed. The total number again is over 150, meaning the killing of 64 terrorists has brought down the total number by just 10. While the decline is not that credible, there is an increased show up of foreign terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. This looks higher as compared to the preceding months of only this year.
Of all, 64 terrorists were killed this year, 20 were foreigners and 44 locals. Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba alone had 39 terrorists among those killed while 17 belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammad, 6 to Hizb, and 2 to Al-Badr. But this trend is not lasting.
Earlier in 2019, 19 percent of those killed were foreigners and in 2020, this was 15 percent. 2021 saw 10 percent of total slain terrorists including foreigners, but this year, in just the first 4 months, over 30 percent of the slain terrorists were foreigners. This possibly means that infiltration is picking up pace and more so, this is substantiated through the finding of tunnels used by terrorists in Samba to sneak into J&K.
There have been almost 39 encounters in the first four months of 2022, and over 61 percent of encounters were witnessed in south Kashmir alone. Experts argue that larger recruitments that happened in 2016, have been curtailed to a large extent. This is substantiated more through current figures which suggest a total presence of militants somewhere around 80.
No Trace Of Hizbul Mujahideen In Any Recent Major Attack
More so, it has been years since Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for any major attack in Kashmir. The most recent spree of attacks came on religious minorities in Kashmir.
The groups owning the recent killings of Kashmiri Pandits and non-locals in the Valley, all of them seem to be newly established, with the Resistance Front or the TRF at the forefront of such targeted attacks.
In October 2021, the killing of two teachers, Supinder Kour and Deepak Chand Mehra, sent shockwaves across the minority communities in Kashmir as it marked the resumption of targeted communal killings. A newly formed group The Resistance Front claimed responsibility for this and the attack was led by the pistol-borne militants.
The same month, Makhan Lal Bindroo, a Kashmiri Pandit and well-known chemist, was killed by pistol-borne militants. TRF claimed the responsibility here too. Largely unknown who its members are, a few young boys believed to be running it was on the radar of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.
After the killing of Deepak Chand Mehra, it came to light that the group is mainly composed of a few youths in their early twenties, or so was the case at least in Srinagar. However, after connecting all the dots, it was found that the core people who established the group were none other than commanders of the infamous terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.
The last attack came on two Pandit brothers in Shopian. Here too reportedly another proxy group Kashmir Freedom Fighters claimed the responsibility. South Asia Terrorism Portal called the formation of TRF and these proxies, an attempt “to give terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) an ‘indigenous’ face, and to provide Pakistan’s deep state, an alibi.”
However, the militant group HM that would nightmares to forces just a few years back seems to disappear from the scene. Not even one of these tens of attacks was claimed by the Hizbul Mujahideen.