In June 2015, a picture featuring a group of 11 young men wielding guns and wearing combat dresses went viral on Internet.
It had Burhan Wani, 21, the face of Kashmir’s new age militancy, in the middle. This picture is believed to have attracted dozens of youths towards militancy.
This is when Burhan, the young tech-savvy militant had launched a massive recruitment drive of youth. And he succeeded in attracting dozens into Hizb fold.
“The photograph circulated widely on Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and other sites in the summer of 2015, became a major attraction for youth to join militancy,” a senior police officer said. “The young and smart faces led by Burhan, who was himself young, succeeded in attracting at least 30 youth from Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam belt of southern Kashmir in the first phase.”
The number swelled to 50 by June 2016 and the recruitment continued. The police official said that police and other security agencies accepted the new trend of young boys joining militancy in South Kashmir as a challenge and framed multiple strategies to catch Burhan and his close associates.
“Burhan was clever militant. He would hide in the jungles of Tral and often change his hideouts. He would often change his mobile SIM cards, making it difficult for the forces to catch him,” the officer said.
However, when forces succeeded to zero in a house in Bomdooru in Kokernag area of Anantnag district on July 8, 2016 and “caught the big fish along with his two associates”, morale of forces went high. “After Burhan’s killing, many heads rolled including those who were very close to him. There was a strategy to take on Burhan group to ensure recruitment is stopped,” said a police officer, who was monitoring the operation.
In the picture comprising 11 militants that include Burhan Wani, Saddam Paddar, Adil Khanday, Naseer Pandit, Afaq Bhat, Sabzar Bhat, Anees, Ishfaq Dar, Waseem Mallah, Wasim Shah and Tariq Pandit, all were killed except Pandit and Paddar till May 6. Pandit is in jail and Saddam Paddar was the only surviving militant of the group.