Land of apple orchards, Kashmir’s Kulgam and Shopian now hotbed of militancy
Besides the Wani factor, many in South Kashmir feel betrayed after PDP’s alliance with BJP and the growing lawlessness is attributed to the political disenchantment with the ruling party.Updated: Jun 01, 2017, 09:11 IST
Kashmir has been in turmoil in recent months, but what is worrying security forces in particular is the emergence of south Kashmir as the hotbed of home-grown militants.
Intelligence inputs suggest the presence of 200 active militants in the Kashmir Valley comprising 10 districts. Ninety of these militants are from south Kashmir.
Once known for their placid apple orchards, Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian and Kulgam - the four districts of south Kashmir - have seen escalating tension between militants and security forces.
Analysts say the reasons behind south Kashmir’s growing lawlessness include political disenchantment with the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which governs Jammu and Kashmir in coalition with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
PDP with his ‘soft separatist agenda’ earlier enjoyed a degree of goodwill among local militants and the socio-religious group Jamat-e-Islami. The region was considered a bastion of Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, the late father of incumbent chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
But analysts say the PDP no longer enjoys the same degree of popularity after its pact with the BJP. Many feel betrayed and even some PDP leaders now privately admit that “radical forces command more influence in the region”. Most disenchanted, they say, are those who are educated and with relatively affluent backgrounds.
South Kashmir, incidentally, was also the focal point of street protests triggered by the allege rape and murder of two young women in Shopian in May, 2009. Government investigations dismissed the deaths as a result of drowning, but resentment lingers among residents still.
Social media savvy Burhan Wani, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed in an encounter with security forces last year, also drew many youngsters of south Kashmir to the fold of militancy. Wani’s videos showing him and his associates holding guns and even unwinding in apple orchards struck a chord. Wani gave a face to the militancy, in contrast to militants who used to cover their faces in public earlier.
Officials say Wani’s viral videos turned out to be an effective recruitment tool for the militants and the number of locals joining militant outfits have been on the rise. Compared to 2013 when 31 youth joined militancy, the number rose to 66 in 2015. This year, some 88 youngsters have joined militancy, police say.