The militant organisations adopt a variety of strategies to fund terrorist activities ranging from smuggling and distribution of narcotics, looting of banks, ransom from local businessmen, etc. The money generated is thereafter used by militant organisations to activate local handlers/ OGWs (Over Ground Worker), who in turn are tasked and are responsible to misguide the local youth and recruit them into militant outfit known as Tanzeems. These ‘handlers’/’Recruiters’ live a comfortable life behind the curtains of Tanzeems(Militant Groups/Outfits).They radicalise and recruit the local youth into militant outfits, making them sacrifice their lives, their dreams, their families, their old parents and the chance for a prosperous future, all in the fake narrative about Jihad(Holy War); only to undergo tremendous hardships and eventually get killed during operations by the Security Forces. Even after persistent efforts by Security Forces to make these ‘misguided militants’ surrender at the cost of own casualties and to give them another opportunity to live peacefully & fulfil their dreams, the story hasn’t changed much.
One such face behind the curtains, Azad Ahmad Bhat was born on 01 June 1981 at Shalpora Mohalla, Langate, District Kupwara. His father was a well-read teacher in a private school at Handwara and later started offering his services as ‘Maulvi’ in a Mosque at Chhan Mohalla, Langate. Azad completed his schooling from Govt Higher Secondary School at Langate, Handwara.
However, due to radicalised mindset, his focus was hardly towards studies, at the age of 18 years ran away to Pakistan without visa to got ‘trained’ and joined a militant outfit. During his initial years in Pakistan, Azad worked as a daily wager, however at a later stage joined a militant training camp, wherein he was motivated to join LeT and fight for Jihad. The Pakistani Government, on the other hand never accepted migrated Kashmiris like Azad as citizens and returned him back to India after radicalizing & associating with militant groups. While returning back to Kashmir, Azad surrendered at the Indo-Nepal Border. He was kept in Srinagar for six days for verification-cum-documentation and later released to join back his family at Langate.
Initially, he picked up a manual labour jobs to avoid getting noticed. His stay for 12 years in Pakistan including training at a training camp had changed his way of looking at things and his connections across with terror groups got him involved in narcotics smuggling and recruitment of local youth. He enjoyed making easy money, which drew him further to lure local youth and expand his network. Azad started spending a lot of time at Mawar Nala, Langate where he met many poor unemployed local youth and started brainwashing them on the pretext of religion and money. He was continuously in touch with LeT and other Pakistani militant organisations through various apps available on the internet. He kept spreading hatred and radicalised messages amongst the local youth.
In 2016, when the valley was in turmoil post killing of Burhan Wani, Azad using the power of money and support from the Pakistani handlers incited many locals for stone pelting and destruction of government property. During this time, he looked for like-minded persons, not only from Langate but also from Handwara, Sopore and Uri. He gradually hired Altaf Ahmad Baba from Langate and Irshad Ahmad Chakloo from Uri as OGWs, to further expand his network. As Azad expanded his network, he gained confidence of Pakistan sponsored militant organisations and started getting enhanced aid including funds, weapons and narcotics. He was provided with all kinds of support by his handlers and the militant organisations based in Pakistan. Subsequently, Azad was able to influence and misguide local youth with poor family background and violent mindset to join the Tanzeems. He recruited four boys from his native place Langate as terrorists. These boys included Parvaish Ahmad Chopan, Mudasir Ahmad Pandit, Mohd Rafi Sheikh and Burhan Mustaq Wani.
Parvaish Ahmad Chopan was a 19 years old boy from Shatpora Mohalla, Langate. A 9th class dropout with five siblings, belonged to a poor labour class family with his father being the lone bread earner. Was short tempered and aggressive with orthodox religious views. He had no interest in studies, so he started working in Mawar Nala as a daily wager and later came in touch with Azad Ahmad Bhat. He was initially provoked by Azad for stone pelting and later misguided to join a militant outfit.
Mudasir Ahmad Pandit, an old friend of Azad Ahmad Bhat was 32 years old from Mugdam Mohalla, Langate who despite being a graduate, was unemployed. Being an old friend of Azad, Mudasir got easily misguided and motivated by Azad for taking part in radicalised activities including joining the tanzeem. He actively got involved in incidents of stone pelting alongwith Azad and others.
Mohd Rafi Sheikh was 24 years old from Edgah Mohalla, Langate. Youngest amongst five siblings, he studied till 12th class and joined his father in farming. As the agriculture land was not sufficient to feed the complete family, Rafi started his own footwear shop. The footwear business did not pick up well. The family with limited resources was finding it difficult to earn livelihood, so Rafi started working as daily wager at the Mawar Nala to make ends meet where he came in influence of Azad and later in 2016 got involved in stone pelting incidents.
Burhan Mushtaq Wani was 19 years old from Talwari, Langate. A 12th class student influenced by modern age social media, He was introvert in nature. He had orthodox religious views and was part of many Pakistani whatsapp groups. His father was a daily wager at the Mawar Nala and the sole bread earner for a family of six members. The family was finding it difficult to survive on the earning of a single member. Mustaq was radicalised and lured by a handler from Pakistan, who promised financial support to his family. His name was later forwarded to Azad through a Pakistani handler for further recruitment into the OGW network.
As is evident from the background of all four individuals; that they all belonged to poor families and were struggling for survival. All of them were initially provoked for stone pelting and further misled to join Tanzeems. They all were given false hopes of money and comfort so as to better look-after their families.
However, the money generated by Azad and the likes was primarily used to enhance their own financial well-being and only a little share was given to the so called ‘Jihadi Warriors’. The recruited local terrorists were handed over weapons and other war like stores at the cost of their own lives.
Manuel, Azad kept luring local youth into radicalised activities and made handsome money, improved his living standard and later got married (love marriage) to a rich village girl from Langate.
On the intervening night of 02-03 Apr 2020, based on specific intelligence, Security Forces laid cordon at Gund Tsogul village wherein four newly recruited terrorists from Langate (Parvaish Ahmad Chopan, Mudasir Ahmad Pandit, Mohd Rafi Sheikh and Burhan Mustaq Wani) were apprehended; while they were trying to escape out of the cordon. The war like stores such as AK Rifles, Pistols and Grenades were recovered from the possession of all seven. Based on their interrogation they revealed the name of Azad Ahmed Bhat, Altaf Ahmed Baba & Land Inshad Chakloo (Weapon Smuggler), who had manipulated and recruited them in the Tanzeems. All three were arrested and an FIR lodged against all seven at Police Station Handwara vide FIR No 104/ 2020 dated 03 Apr 2020, under section 120/B, 7/25 of Indian Arms Act 13, 16, 18, 19, 38 & 39 UA(P) Act.
A detailed analysis resulted in the realisation of the fact that money remains the overall centre of gravity in this game of so called radicalisation of local Kashmiri youth, wherein the handlers at Pakistan are brainwashing the local youth to join various terrorist tanzeems. These local ‘Recruiters’ (Azad) generate money by drugs for themselves as well as for the militant outfits. They further recruit local boys on the fake narrative on Jihad and provide them war like stores to attack and kill Security Forces personnel or innocent people. It has never happened in the past that anything of the family members of these handlers recruiters picked up weapons to fight on the name of so called Jihad. The family members of Azad live a safe and comfortable life While their children study in best of the schools but what about the families of Parvaish, Mudasir, Rafi & Burham (The recruits). They Suffer & live in poverty with a Burden of having lost their young son. All due to the misinformation about Jihad “The Holy War”.
Author: Javed Beigh
The Author could be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org