Srinagar: Over 60 young men have joined militants in the last five months in the militant stronghold of South Kashmir, giving rise to what, the police fear, could result in a second wave of militancy in the Valley.
The latest data has taken the officials entirely by surprise - last year, only 27 boys had joined the militants in South Kashmir, which is also the bastion of the ruling PDP. Three years ago, in 2012, the figure was only 7.
"It is a major challenge and something agencies have to deal with," Lt Gen Subrata Saha, GOC 15 Corps has told NDTV
The police say the young men -all between the age of 18 and 22 years - are mostly joining Hizbul Mujahideen. They are being locally trained to use automatic weapons and explosives.
The officials also say these young recruits are facing a dearth of weapons, which is why incidents of weapons snatching from the forces are on the rise. This year, there have been five such incidents.
The authorities are yet to pin down a reason for this sudden resurge of militancy. "There are many reasons, not one... We are in the process of identifying those," said Mohammad Irshad, Senior Superintendent of Police, Awantipore.
The ruling People's Democratic Party-BJP government, which took office four months ago, has blamed the situation on what they call the "nine-year misgovernance" of the erstwhile government.
PDP spokesman Wahid Rehman said, "The state has no institution to deal with the youth, which comprises 60% of the population".
In the absence of any political outreach, the army's efforts to keep the youth positively engaged in sports and skill development activities are not making a major difference.
The families of the young men, meanwhile, are caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Like Mohammad Ismail Parray, a retired government employee living in Tral's Laribal village, whose son has chosen to become a militant instead of an engineer.
Mr Parray neither denounces nor approves his son's decision, despite knowing that a year ago, Ishaq's cousin was killed in an encounter with the security forces.
The situation is also exacting a high price in terms of collateral damage.
Two months ago, local school principal Muzaffar Wani lost his elder son Khalid in a controversial shooting by security forces. Khalid had gone to meet his brother Burhan, who has joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, and is believed to be drawing young, educated boys to militancy.