The number of local youth joining militancy in Kashmir since a fresh agitation erupted in July last has shown an alarming increase with security agencies putting the figure at nearly 250 till March.
The state police remained tightlipped over the disturbing trend and only maintained that they were assessing the reports of missing youths, but sources in the security agencies said the situation on the ground, especially south Kashmir, was worrisome and action was needed to be taken at the earliest.
The spurt in locals joining militancy began after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terror group's poster boy Burhan Wani in an encounter in south Kashmir on July 8 last year.
According to sources in the security agencies, the difference between the present day militancy and that during the early 1990s is that the ideological conviction of the present lot of militants is far more superior than that of the terror groups during the early days.
Kashmir is witnessing a trend of 'Pan-Islamisation' where the young boys are opting for the path of terrorism knowing fully well that they are at the risk of being killed, the sources said.
The main affected areas from where youths were reported to be missing included Shopian, Kulgam, Pulwama and parts of Awantipora in south Kashmir and certain areas of downtown Srinagar, the sources said.
Movement of foreign terrorists has also been reported in various areas of south Kashmir accompanied by locally trained militants who are well aware of the topography of the region, the sources said.
The sources said that capturing militants or engaging with them has become far more difficult as a local network of overground workers in the Valley has been strengthened and terrorists are being forewarned about movement of the troops.
Daily intelligence briefs prepared by various agencies invariably has a new name added to the list of new recruits to militancy on a daily basis causing a deep sense of worry to the police in these areas, the sources said.
They said that militants infiltrating from Pakistan are equally distributed among the various local militant groups who make them aware of the topography and escape routes besides providing them the mobile numbers of over ground workers in the region.
A recently arrested militant of Hizbul Mujahideen, Amir Wagay, significantly, has warned about heightened militancy in the coming months.
According to his interrogation report, he claimed that the militants had clear instructions to keep the Kashmir issue boiling round the year. However, he could not provide any insight into the plan as he was a locally trained militant who had joined the terror group only last year, the sources said.
The main recruiters for the youths were Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba while other Pakistan-based groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed were using them as guides, they said.
South Kashmir, a traditional bastion of ruling PDP which is having an alliance government with the BJP, has turned into a virtual breeding ground for militants with many youths joining their rank and file or becoming their sympathisers.
While Jammu and Kashmir police appears to adopt a reticent policy on the emerging situation as it is stumped by the new challenges, the sources said that militants are concentrating on two axes in south and north Kashmir.
An axis from Tral to Yaripora in south Kashmir is witnessing a dominance of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen while in the other axis from Pattan to Sopore this group and few militants of Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba are calling the shots, the sources said.
The leadership of every terror group in the Valley is with the local Kashmiri boys, who have joined the ranks of the militancy recently, the sources said. Security analysts said that local recruitment, which had come down to a trickle, has picked up suddenly from January 2015.
The missing boys mainly belong to the average middle class and are being described as the new faces of terrorism in Kashmir and they are believed to be waiting for delivery of arms for all of them.