The police are investigating an attempt being made by the Hizbul Mujahideen to rope in grassroots representatives in south Kashmir to revive its depleting cadre.
In an operation launched on Saturday, the police and the army's 3 Rashtriya Rifles arrested a local panch, Amin Khanday, elected in 2011 panchayat polls, and former Hizbul Mujahideen militant Muhammad Abbas Sheikh from Srigufara area, Anantnag district, around 70 km south of Srinagar.
"The duo was arrested when they were travelling on a bike," sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) Sreedhar Patel said.
"We are expecting some arms recovery. The investigation is on in the case," said Patel, who refused to divulge any further details.
Khandey, a resident of Banderpora village in Anantnag district, is close to the ruling National Conference. Sheikh, who had reportedly parted ways from militancy, is from Kohimo area in Kulgam district.
The police, which failed to recover any arms from the duo, have registered a case under Sections 451, 506 of the Ranbir Penal Code, and 7/25 of the Arms Act.
Sources said the duo was either planning a meeting with armed militants or had met them when they were arrested. "We have launched a manhunt to nab the armed militants," said a police officer on the condition of anonymity.
Sources said the role of panch in providing logistic support to active militants in the area is being investigated.
There are reports that the Hizbul Mujahdeen, a largest militant group operating in the state, had approached a former militant commander in the same area to rejoin the ranks.
After the execution of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in February, the Hizbul has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks, including the fidayeen attack on CRPF on March 13, indicating the group's revival after being dormant for a decade now.
The new trend of the Hizbul has the security establishment into tizzy. This is first incident since the panchayt polls in 2011 that a panch's role is being investigated in revival of militancy in the Valley with the support of Hizbul.
Anantnag SSP Ramesh Jalla refused to comment on Hizb-grassroots nexus. "Police have no version on this," he said.
The fresh revelation has come at a time when around 34,000 grassroots representatives are grappling with militant attacks, which left around half a dozen dead in the last two years.
On April 8, suspected militants killed NC-associated sarpanch Ghulam Muhammad Lone in Anantnag's adjacent district of Pulwama.