Srinagar: A photo of 11 Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists including Burhan Wani in an apple orchard glamorising home-grown terrorism had be shared on social media in 2016. Since then, this entire group has been eliminated. The last was Saddam Padder, who was shot dead in Shopian on Sunday with four other terrorists, including an assistant professor of Kashmir University.
Government data indicates the problem of home-grown terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir could be rising. According to government figures, 66 Kashmiri youth joined terror groups in 2015, 88 in 2016, and 126 in 2017. So far this year, 45 youth in Kashmir have joined terror groups.
The first four months this year saw 100 deaths, including 55 terrorists, 20 security personnel and 25 civilians. Of the 55 terrorists killed, 27 were locals.
On a question about home-grown terrorism and more Kashmiri boys joining terror groups, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police SP Vaid said, "Obviously, it is a big concern for us and we will take steps to deal with it."
An alarming trend is of young educated men choosing the path of violence. The latest to join a terror group, who was killed in the Shopian encounter on Sunday, was 32-year-old Sociology assistant professor in Kashmir University, Mohammad Rafi Bhat.
He had gone missing on Friday last, before he was killed in the Shopian encounter on Sunday. Other educated men who have joined terror groups this year include 26-year-old Junaid Ashraf Khan, an MBA and son of Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, who replaced Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in March. A 26-year-old PhD scholar, Manan Wani, from Kupwara had also joined a terror group.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has said that the government needs to "find a middle ground for saving children and young men so that Kashmiri boys don't get killed and members of security forces also do not die and this bloodshed ends".
Former chief minister Omar Abdullah has also voiced concern over young Kashmiris joining terror groups. "These people are educated and doing jobs. Till yesterday the professor was preparing our next generation and now got so disillusioned that he himself picked up the gun," Mr Abdullah said. "We need to understand the situation, what happened, why did he leave his job and chose the path of violence?" he said.