Kashmir's New Tech-savvy Militants Are Enlisting Volunteers On Social Media

3 October 2015
Mail Online India
Naseer Ganai

Srinagar: On September 14 when about 30,000 people participated in the last rites of top Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) commander Irshad Ahmad Ganai, who was killed in an encounter in south Kashmir district of Pulwama, former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted, '1000's attend a LeT militant's funeral in Padgampora, Kashmir (I heard 20k-30k). Still believe an economic package is the solution, do you??.' On the same day students at University of Kashmir described Ganai as a symbol of resistance and paid homage to him in absentia. Ganai was doing his diploma in theatre at the time he left the university to join LeT in 2012. He was among a new breed of militants, operating in Kashmir's southern districts, led by young commander Burhan Muzafar Wani. Army personnel during a counter-insurgency operation. Police officials say the civil administration should have stepped in to address peoples' grievances instead of deploying security agencies +5 Army personnel during a counter-insurgency operation. Police officials say the civil administration should have stepped in to address peoples' grievances instead of deploying security agencies Mehboob Beg, spokesman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says that if necessary steps are not taken in addressing the issues in earnest, Kashmir would continue to throw nasty surprises +5 Mehboob Beg, spokesman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says that if necessary steps are not taken in addressing the issues in earnest, Kashmir would continue to throw nasty surprises Wani, 21, a resident of Tral town in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, picked up arms five years ago as a teenager. Being the son of a school principal, he quickly emerged as the face of Kashmir's new generation of tech-savvy militants. He is now the fresh face of militancy not only in the South Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Tral but also in Srinagar. In the state capital, his banners are prominently displayed during protests. His newly released video, an exhortation to the youth to join militancy, is viewed by thousands on WhatsApp. Inspired by his message, at least 50 people have joined militancy this year alone, according to the police. More will follow suit, they warn. There is extreme anger among the youth in most parts of south Kashmir. And the reasons are many. 'Youngsters here are disillusioned by both mainstream and separatist leaders. They are losing hope. At the same time they are getting lured into the web-based activities of the militants,' said a senior police official who did not want to be named as he is not authorised to speak to the media. 'Afzal Guru's hanging, BJP's elevation to power, increased presence of security forces in villages are some of the reasons behind the anger,' the official said. 'I personally believe the state apparatus instead of the army and the police should have assumed central stage after the militancy graph went down after 2007,' the official added. The official alleged that even when militancy was at its lowest ebb in the past, nothing was done to downgrade the presence of the security forces in the villages. In a high-level meeting in Srinagar between the army and the civil administration last week, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did some plain speaking when he told the top army commanders to reduce the number of ground troops and vacate the land occupied by the military in Kashmir +5 In a high-level meeting in Srinagar between the army and the civil administration last week, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did some plain speaking when he told the top army commanders to reduce the number of ground troops and vacate the land occupied by the military in Kashmir 'The situation has changed now. The youth today has a romantic attitude toward social media-driven militancy. Most new recruits are tech-savvy,' said a senior police official posted in south Kashmir. Police officials say the civil administration should have stepped in to address peoples' grievances instead of deploying security agencies. 'There are many areas in Kashmir where civil employees don't visit even today. They just sit back and check the bills. Unfortunately, law enforcing agencies like the police are losing credibility. At some places, certain officers behave with the masses as if they are in a state of war. It's also contributing to the ever-increasing anger. So we are in deep trouble,' said the officials dealing with counterinsurgency. Troop reduction In a high-level meeting in Srinagar between the army and the civil administration last week, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed did some plain speaking when he told the top army commanders to reduce the number of ground troops and vacate the land occupied by the military in Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh as there has been a perceptible shift in sentiments on the ground for the better. A view quite contrary to what Lt Gen Satish Dua, the army's top commander in the Valley, believes. According to him, cutting boots on the ground would mean 'the army will lose ground and space which will be swiftly filled by elements inimical to civil society'. Dua, however, described the new generation militants as 'our own misguided youth' and said they were not involved in any serious offences. Before demitting office last year, former chief minister Omar Abdullah, too, had pleaded for the reduction of troops and the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) while stating that during his six-year tenure there had been 80 per cent reduction in militancy-related incidents in Jammu and Kashmir. Mehboob Beg, spokesman, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), says that if necessary steps are not taken in addressing the issues in earnest, Kashmir would continue to throw nasty surprises. 'We have failed to come up with any effective solution to the grievances of the people and the consequences are there for all to see. Now we have a golden opportunity with the PDP-BJP government in power. We must take necessary steps to give the people some breathing space,' Beg said.