These daring attacks happened despite the fact that the local participation in the armed movement had considerably waned since 2007.
After widespread protests by unarmed youth in 2008, 2009 and 2010, it was widely believed that the days of armed resistance in Kashmir are finally over. The idea gained momentum after youngsters started using non-violent means like social media and peaceful protests to press for their political rights.
But the state’s reaction was quite surprising as reacted by arresting the political protesters, prosecuting dissenters, invoking black laws, and above all denying any space to the youngsters who wanted to express their political dissent.
Hence the politically conscious youth in the wake of state sponsored suppression found themselves pushed to extremes, dejected and isolated. In the absence of any political solution, Kashmiri youth found themselves in the dark alley thereby once again deciding to take recourse to guns and resort to violent means to press for their political demands. In the aftermath of hanging of parliament attack accused Afzal Guru, the ground for the recourse to arms has become fertile.
These circumstances gave birth to the new phenomenon: the new age militants of Jammu and Kashmir.
Unlike early 90’s this new generation of militants is well educated with many of them having professional degrees. They have taken an aggressive posture and given a new rigor to revive the armed struggle. Interestingly most of them are still in their teens.
Sajad Ahmad was pursuing Master of Computer Applications (MCA) when he, on January 26, 2009, left his home in Pulwama district in Jammu and Kashmir, never to return.
Weeks later, security agencies told his father, Muhammad Yousuf Mir, 52, that Ahmad had joined militant ranks.
On May 30 this year, the police handed over 28-year-old Ahmad’s bullet-ridden body to his father after he was killed in an encounter in neighbouring village. Thousands of people joined his funeral where a few guys reportedly vowed to carry his ‘mission’ forward.
Ahmad, according to his family and friends was a brilliant student who would seldom talk politics. He had been doing his MCA from Islamic University of Science and Technology, Awantipora.
Before that, he had completed his post-graduation in Islamic Studies and graduation in science from the University of Kashmir.
“He was more concerned about his studies,” says Mir, who is working as a manager in a leading bank, about his deceased son. “We never had any idea that he would join militancy.”
In Hariparigam village of Tral, in Pulwama district, the well-off Ahangar family was also clueless about their son Saifullah, a civil engineer, joining a militant group till some time ago.
On March 24, Saifullah, 20, son of a retired agriculture officer, Rafiq Ahmad Ahangar, left home on the pretext of visiting Jammu, and then disappeared.
The family informed Jammu and Kashmir Police and nearby Army camp.
“We never thought he would join militants. He had completed his studies in civil engineering and had been working with a private construction firm,” says his mother Raja Begam.
“He was an obedient son,” she says wiping off tears from her eyes. Saifullah had been killed in an encounter with security forces in neighboring Buchoo Bala village on May 24. In the encounter four army men were killed.
Incidentally, in 2004, militants had shot dead his elder brother, Zahoor Ahmad Ahangar, for allegedly being an informer for the security forces.
Hilal Moulvi, a LeT operative was killed in Srinagar. Moulvi was a graduate and an Islamic scholar from Deoband and was planning a post graduation in Islamic studies.
In 2011, Masiullah Khan, a mechanical engineer, joined Hizb ranks from Tral and was killed in a fierce encounter. According to his family, Masiullah was deeply perturbed over the political situation in Kashmir, but he would often repeat that he won’t pick up gun “because it had lost its significance”.
However, Masiullah prepared for his exams and even completed his degree in mechanical engineering from SSM College of Engineering at Pattan and joined the militant ranks.