NEW DELHI: Contrary to the common belief, militants killed by security forces and recruitment of local youth in militancy are not consistently and directly proportional, as per the Jammu & Kashmir security data of the last 10 years accessed exclusively by TOI.

In the last 10 years, the data shows that the highest number of counter-insurgency operations (205) were conducted in 2007 under the Ghulam Nabi Azad led coalition government of Congress and PDP. Over 330 terrorists were killed and over 530 terrorists and over ground workers were arrested. The terror attacks on civilians, security forces and others incidentally, were also the highest in 2007.

Since many tend to think that anti-terror operations are directly proportional to recruitment of local militants in Kashmir, one would assume that years 2007 and 2008 would have provoked more youth to join militancy. However, as per the data, in 2007, just 25 youth took up arms in Kashmir.

Even in the following years, 2008 and 2009, when the Kashmir valley erupted with organised stone-pelting and street violence, first during the Amarnath land crisis and then over the death of two Shopian women due to drowning, the recruitment was abysmally low. Only six and eight youth joined militancy in 2008 and 2009, respectively. In 2010, when over 100 youth were killed in clashes with security forces and 163 militants were killed in combat operations, only 24 youth joined militancy.

The recruitment shows some correlation with counter-insurgency operations (CIOs) or militants killed, only beginning 2014 when the Narendra Modi government came to power in New Delhi.

“Though there is a correlation from 2014, it does not explain why recruitment did not rise when both counter-insurgency operations and the number of militants killed were highest in 2007. The problem is that people believe correlation and causation are the same. In Kashmir, statistics do not even show consistent correlation, let alone tell you anything about the causation,” said a data analyst of the CID.

In the last five years, there has been a gradual increase in the number of counter-insurgency operations but the numbers still do not exceed the operations conducted in 2007 or 2008. “So I am not sure why politicians keep saying that India has adopted a muscular approach in Kashmir in the last four years. Our security policy has been consistent,” an Army officer said.

A police officer involved in combat operations said that if at all there was a change, it surely has been to minimise collateral damage. “Over the years, our records of collateral have come down drastically and there are almost no extra-judicial killings and fake encounters now,” he claimed.

The only thing that’s clear from the decade-long data is that 2011 and 2012 were relatively calmer after the massive street violence of 2008, 2009 and 2010. Both terror attacks and street violence (stone-pelting and mob rioting) as well as combat operations were at an all-time low for those two years, in the last decade. “Everything went downhill after the hanging of the Parliament terror attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013. Suddenly, the street violence went up by five times and recruitment of local youth in militancy doubled the next year,” a security expert in Srinagar said.

A National Conference leader who was at helm of affairs at time and did not want to be named said: “We had warned New Delhi at the time that Guru’s hanging would open floodgates of new militancy and street violence in Kashmir. But the then Union home minister P Chidambaram rejected Guru’s mercy petition and recommended death penalty for him to the President of India. Burhan Wani and his successors are a product of that decision.”