Nearly 45km from Srinagar, in the interiors of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, seething anger is bubbling just below the surface calm. People in the area, where a terror attack killed 40 paramilitary troops in February, say they won’t stop the youth from taking up arms anymore.
While security forces in the Kashmir valley have repeatedly urged families to persuade their children to renounce terrorism, last week’s events surrounding the abrogation of Article 370 have altered the narrative in the region in what could potentially lead to a surge in militancy.
At Kakapora and Tral in Pulwama, where Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), have attracted many recruits, people told Mint that youths will pick up arms with greater ferocity than before.
“Our motto is simple – maro ya maaro (kill or get killed). We have been wronged and we will continue to be wronged. We refuse to live like this in our own homeland. So, we think it is better to fight for our freedom instead of being dominated. Any way, we are as good as dead," said Sajjad Husain, a 25-year-old resident of Pulwama, who used to work in Srinagar until last week.
There are many more like Husain. Locals are drawing inspiration from the stories of “fallen heroes of the land" such as Adil Ahmad Dar, the man who executed the Pulwama attack, and Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, as they described it, to take up arms against the state.
“We have been suppressed, our brothers are beaten up everyday and we are captives in our own homes. Brothers like Burhan (Wani) gave us a reason to fight and we will fight," said Munna, who lives in Kakapora tehsil. He declined to disclose his last name.
Security forces are aware of the threat, especially after last week’s developments. In the interior regions, there is little to no security deployment.
“We have been instructed to steer clear of the interiors. The boys pelt us relentlessly with stones and we can’t do anything because we can’t see them," a security official posted in Pulwama said on condition of anonymity.
A government official in New Delhi said, also requesting anonymity, that the Union home ministry was “acutely aware of the possible spike in militancy and recruitment in the region."
A security analyst said while Pakistan would now think twice about fuelling militancy, India would need to ease control in the valley, since “putting the region under emergency measures would be a retrograde step."
“Kashmir is not in 2019 what it was in 1989. A lot has changed in geopolitics. Today, India is much superior to Pakistan. So, while any militancy needs to be nurtured with an external support, that kind of an external support will not be forthcoming," said D.P.K. Pillay, a former Indian army officer and a research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.