Militants forcibly recruiting Kashmiri youth
15 June 2001
The Daily Excelsior
NAGROTA: Though tears streaming from the eyes of 15 years old Javed Ahmed Gagroo, his innocent face was delighted as he was among the three minor Kashmiri youth who were rescued by the Army from the clutches of the so-called Mujahideens. The horrified experience which he witnessed during weeks long captivity with the militants was still haunting him but he was happy that he will again meet his family. Javed Ahmed Gagroo, Javed Ahmed Ganai and Basarat Gulzar Hajam, all hailing from the Anantnag district of Kashmir division were rescued by the Army from the clutches of militants who were forcibly taking them to Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) for training. An alert column of Army intercepted a group of militants near Gulabgarh at Udhampur district who were taking them to PoK. After an encounter soldiers rescued these youths. Story of other three youths namely Riyaz Ahmed, Ghulam Hassan and Javed Iqbal who were presented before media men by Army was same but they were brave enough to give a slip to the militants and managed to reach at nearby army formation. Story narrated by the all the six youth was similar. They were recruited much against their wishes. "Hailing from poor families, the youth were intimidated extensively by the terrorists and a feeling of awe inspired in them. Helpless and having resigned to fate, they revealed that that had no other option available as the terrorists had threatened to eliminate their entire families if they expressed any opposition", said an army officer. During interaction with media-men these innocent youth virtually broke down while narrating horrified experience and ill-treatment meted out to them by the so-called Mujahideens. "I have lost all hopes of meeting my family members", subbing Gagroo said while disclosing ill-treatment meted out to him by the terrorists. It was all due to the efforts of armymen, the Kashmiri youth said, that he will again meet with his family. Same was the feeling of Basarat Gulzar Hajam, a tenth class student of Government Higher Secondary School Mattan who was kidnapped by the militants on gun point. Militants kidnapped him from Mattan and used him as porter for so many days. "With heavy load on my shoulders I was forced to track difficult terrain without any food and water", fear stricken Basarat recounted how he spent a week with militants. "They used all three of us a porters at gun point", another youth Javed Ganai said. Hailing from Dara Dulia village of Poonch, Javed Iqbal was kidnapped by militants while he was working in his field. "As I refused to accompany them, they (militants) gave me a severe thrashing with butts and threatened to eliminate my entire family. I had no option but to go with them ", said Iqbal. Iqbal spent one month with militants and during that period they gave him inhuman treatment. Javed Iqbal ran from the captivity of militants while they were camping in a hide out at Badot in the Poonch sector. These youth revealed that two pro-Pakistani outfits — Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and Hizbul Mujahideen Pir Panjal Regiment (HMPPR) — are forcibly recruiting local Kashmiri youth into their outfits to show that militancy is still continuing in Jammu and Kashmir. These youth said they were shown heavy weaponry by HMPPR outfit in Banihal area and were asked to get training in militant camps across border in Pakistan. They were told that they will be given missiles to handle and these could kill hundreds of people at a time, they said, adding mercenaries were treating locals like their servants and brutally treating them. They said they were happy that army had saved them from militants and now they wish to join the force to serve the country. Col. Naveen Chopra of 16 Corps said that revelations by the six youth are a clear indicator that the general public is disillusioned with the on-going terrorist violence and holds Pakistan responsible for the same. "An increasing realization is perceptible that the terrorists, acting at the behest of their Pakistan based mentors are out to impede developmental work in Jammu and Kashmir", he said, adding, " the people are yearning to see normalcy returned to their state". Mr Chopra said that having sensed the public mood and seeing that no one likes to pick up arms voluntarily, terrorist outfits have resorted to forcible recruitment to portray a situation that the Kashmir problem is a people’s movement. 'six youth disclosed that similar disillusionment persisted amongst a large majority of the local terrorists and they were all looking for an opportunity to shun the path of violence and return to the mainstream to work for the development of the State", he said.