Hundreds of mourning men and women had gathered at the funeral for Shariq Ahmad Bhat, the militant who was killed during a night-long gunfight with security forces. The funeral was held at the Braw-Bandina village of Pulwama and saw people raising slogans while it was being recorded on their mobile phones.
During the funeral, something very unusual was seen. Three men with faces covered with cloth came in near Bhat’s body. All three were attired in Phirans, a white long cloak and were carrying Kalashnikov rifles in their hands. Very obviously, they were militants. They stood closer to the body. One of them hugged the dead body while the other two fired several shots in the air from a Kalashnikov.
This was an old tradition of militants paying tributes to their slained heros.
On seeing these militants, the crowd went euphoric. The entire incident was captured in the form of a mobile phone video which was later circulated over instant messengers and social networking sites and had gone viral.
The three militants were later identified as Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo, Lateef Ahmad Dar and Ishfaq Ahmad Dar.
Such incidents prove that the militants active are in connection with the local people as insurgency in Kashmir is in its third decade. This is the new face of insurgency in Kashmir. The militants are not masked in anonymity anymore but they have maintained an open contact with the public. They put their pictures and videos through social networking sites and have given a human face to the insurgency.
On one hand, the number of militants infiltrated from across the border has declined over the last decade while on the other, there has been a steady increase in the recruitment of local young men in militant outfits and this only has kept the insurgency growing in Kashmir. The militants are killed by security forces but very quickly the void is then filled by new recruits.
With security forces are keeping a check in the border area to prevent infiltration, militant outfits started recruiting local people. As per latest data, there are about 150 to 200 newly recruited militants presently active in Kashmir. The reports have also suggested that most of these fresh recruits are highly qualified and it has strengthened insurgency in Kashmir.
Presently, out of 73 militants active in south Kashmir, 67 are locals. The Hizbul Mujahideen, one of the oldest militant groups operating in the region has 47 commanders in their group and they all are locals. There are no foreign militants in the group.
There are only six foreign militants that operate in south Kashmir. Since crossing LOC has become hard, most of the local militants who joined insurgency in the last two years were also trained locally.
The security agencies have also called these local militants, a more potent threat since they have regional sensibilities, cultures and knowledge of topography and but it also makes them easy targets to be identified.