Dehradun: An internal report prepared by security forces in Kashmir has found that as many as 35 youngsters — mostly from Shopian and Pulwama in south Kashmir — have joined militant groups this year. The findings of the report which were exclusively accessed by TOI, reveal that till March-end, 20 youths from the area had taken to militancy out of which five were from Pulwama and four from Shopian while the rest were from other districts of south Kashmir like Anantnag, Kulgam and Awantipora.

Last month, soon after the operation by the Army on April 1 in Shopian in which 13 militants were gunned down, around 15 boys from south Kashmir are believed to have joined militant groups. These included Abdi Nazir, a 21-year-old from Shopian who had recently completed a B Tech degree, as well as Armyman Mir Idrees Sultan who is believed to have joined Hizbul Mujahideen.

Terming this to be “a grave cause for concern”, an Army officer based in the valley said that the number of youngsters turning to militancy was “alarming.” “Since January, every month, we have had inputs about youngsters mainly from Pulwama and Shopian joining militant groups. Another trend is that these youngsters have started posting their photographs along with weapons on their social media accounts.”

Elaborating on the reasons behind the hike in numbers, Maj Gen (retd) G D Bakshi, a defence analyst said, “A major reason why militant groups are recruiting local boys is because the armed forces have made infiltration from across the border extremely difficult. Also, militants are increasingly using online platforms for propaganda and brainwashing which the youngsters whether they are educated or not, are falling prey to.”

Admitting that there has been a spike in the number of youths from south Kashmir turning to militancy, Aslam Chaudhary, SSP, Pulwama, told TOI, “There is no doubt that the environment is very fertile for such radicalisation and recruitment by militant groups has gained momentum mainly to fill up the vacancies of the cadres who were killed. They usually do this from April to May but the numbers are quite significant this time.” He added that “social media has played a vital part in this and some boys think that being a militant is a glamorous job.”

“We keep trying to get these youngsters back and have had few successes in the past as well. We are hoping that most of them will come back,” he said.