The recent spells of unrest in Kashmir (the challenge of stone-pelting street protesters besides active theatres of terror) have led many to conclude that the acceptable threshold of violence has been crossed, pushing the situation back to the nineties. This situation looks all the more daunting in the light of the claim that young and intelligent minds are being drawn to the terror fold. The claim does not bear the scrutiny of empirical evaluation.
The profiling of new age terror across the globe fits the stereotype of young, educated and radicalised youth being attracted to it. But to what extent does such a profiling square with the ongoing Kashmir conflict? When it comes to joining the ISIS, the West witnessed a trend very similar to the description of educated and affluent youth being a part of it. Bangladesh has also been faced with a situation where the young and the affluent are perpetrators of terror crimes. Not long ago, pursuing credible leads in India several persons mostly from urban centres with sound educational backgrounds were found involved in terror-related activities and are currently facing prosecution. Among these ,there is only one individual from Kashmir.
So where exactly does the Valley stand? In South Kashmir, at present more than 80 locals are operating in tandem with outlawed terror outfits HM, LeT and JeM. This figure is by no means alarming when compared to that of a decade ago. In terms of local recruitment to the terror fold in South Kashmir ( which remains the hub of activities for home-grown recruits) the stereotypical profiling does not seem to hold good. Interestingly, of the educational profiles of 89 individuals with different terrorist outfits , 37 are under matriculate, 42 are just matriculate, six are graduates from local colleges, two post-graduates again from local institutions and two have technical backgrounds. With an exception of three or four, none had been outside the State. Most of them were from humble backgrounds.
The new face of terror is coming from rural Kashmir and not from the urban centres ,a departure from the trends elsewhere. Apparently increasing economic activities and exposure to outside world have contributed to this. Until a few years ago, the top echelons of the terror groups used to be in the urban centres in the Valley, which is not the case today.
These statistics bust some of the popular myths advocated in the national media.The first myth is that individual recruits to terror outfits have a sound educational background. Investigation has established that in all most all cases, the academic brilliance attributed to them is far from the truth.The second myth is that the recruits are all radicalised youth. The reason for joining militancy in most of the cases has been found to be peer-group contact and not a strong radical lineage. Of course, after joining the terror fold, expressing radical thoughts in the social media at times becomes a potent weapon in some cases. This is seen to gain attention give them the high moral ground to defend their acts of violence.
Not surprisingly, therefore, we have not yet come across lone-wolf attacks in the Valley which are a prominent tactic of radicalised elements elsewhere in the world. In the words of Marc Sageman ,the CIA veteran-turned-scholar, lone-wolf attacks constitute “leaderless jihad”. The present form of terrorist violence in the Valley does not reflect this. Consequently, almost all the suicide attacks are the handiwork of foreign terrorists from across the border and not homegrown ones.
Finally, the activities of these groups are largely seen as purely criminal acts involving robbery, killings ,extortion and so on. Some of the recent incidents of weapons snatching and bank robberies have established that the individuals involved in them are more prone to crime in the garb of militancy and are seen gloating about their achievements on social media rather than displaying any radical commitment.
The local elements in terror folds operate like gangs with no centrally organised hierarchy or command structures, hence Pakistan plays a key role in coordinating and organising them.
The challenge lies in handling them effectively through the legal instruments of the State. Studies across the world have revealed that a robust legal framework involving effective prosecution of these entities can scale down terror incidents and win the trust of society.
Swayam Prakash Pani is an IPS officer serving in Jammu and Kashmir. The views expressed are personal