Young Guns Turn Into Poster Boys Of Militancy In Kashmir

23 June 2015

Tral: Kashmir valley's bloodied folklore has it that he took up the gun to avenge his elder brother's humiliation by the security forces who made him do squats after picking him up for no crime. Four years down the line, Burhan Wani, 19, is a youth icon referred to as 'Robinhood' of Tral, who opens fire only to fight injustice. Khalid, Burhan's elder brother was allegedly picked up during an operation by the security forces in 2011 and was made to do squats. Burhan, then about 15 years of age, took it to the heart and turned a militant, whose name now spells terror in Tral, the new training ground for terrorists in the restive valley. Khalid was gunned down by security forces two years back when he had gone to meet Burhan, who managed to escape. Innumerable images of Burhan and posts extolling him were uploaded on social networking sites like Facebook which the security agencies have got removed but that has not erased his popularity. 'This town has had a presence of banned Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists always and recently Burhan Wani has emerged as the poster boy for the terror outfit,' said a senior police officer. Irshad Ahmed Ganai, 21, is another young man about whom similar stories abound. From Kakapora in Pulwama district of south Kashmir, Irshad, an unemployed youth, took to arms a few years ago and rapidly rose through the ranks to become a commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit. The law enforcement agencies rubbish the 'Bollywood-style' tale of circumstances in which Burhan took to arms, saying he had Jamaat-e-Islami background and militancy was only a natural progression. Tral, located 12 kilometres from the National Highway connecting the valley with rest of India, has emerged as the new training ground for various terror outfits in south Kashmir. Boys do not need to cross over to Pakistan any more and get to know the basics of militancy and arms training in the thick jungles of Bujkamla surrounding the sleepy town, says the police. They are sometimes taken to the forests in the higher reaches of Shopian too. Burhan and Irshad, with an appeal among the youth of the region, are now helping swell the militant ranks, a development close watchers of Kashmir feel, carry grim portents for the valley. Some in the security establishment speaking on condition of anonymity say the situation may worsen in the absence of an aggressive clampdown on militancy. 'A few weeks back an operation was chalked out on the drawing board to apprehend some local youths. However, in the absence of an order the plan remained confined to papers,' a police officer said. Tral constituency had recorded 37.38 per cent voting in the last year's Assembly elections, many times more than the Lok Sabha polls when it remained in single digit. People in general seem not happy over PDP joining hands with BJP to form the government. 'People here were told to vote to keep BJP out of power but what is happening now. They (PDP) have joined hands with the same party,' says Riyaz Ahmed, a shopkeeper. National Conference leader Mohammed Ashraf Bhat says 'continuous neglect of the area is responsible for present situation in this town.' Tral, in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, is gaining notriety like north Kashmir's Sopore town. Militancy practically never ended in these two areas and with icons like Burhan and Irshad emerging on the scene, it may even grow stronger. Flanked by river Jehlum on the west and dense Bujkamla forest in the east, Tral was always considered a transit point for terror groups who infiltrated from north Kashmir before fanning out to the south.