The rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir
Human Rights India

The Rise of Hybrid Militants in Kashmir

In Kashmir, Indian security agencies have been killing and arresting youth whom they label as “hybrid terrorists”. The security agencies claim that “hybrid terrorism” is the biggest challenge that they are facing right now. This new term came into the limelight last year in November when security forces killed four people in a controversial gunfight in the Hyderpora area of Srinagar. According to police, those killed included Hyder, a foreign militant and his associate Amir Ahmad Magray. “Building owner” Altaf Ahmad Bhat, who owned the building where the gunfight took place and an OGW (Over Ground Worker) Mudasir Gul were also killed during the gunfight. The police claimed that Amir Ahmad Magray was a hybrid militant. The families of Amir and Mudasir disputed the claims of the police. 

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Who are hybrid militants?

Inspector-General of Police Vijay Kumar told reporters that hybrid militants are “terrorists disguised as civilians.” He further claimed that they are “part-time terrorists” who are not on the lists of security forces. According to the IGP, these hybrid militants are “locally trained” and stay in touch with “terrorists” through the internet. They are supposedly recruited by the militant groups to carry out one or two attacks. They are radicalized enough to carry out attacks and are kept on standby mode by the terrorists. When the opportunity arises, they carry out attacks. They are mostly pistol-borne youth and attack soft targets like minorities, politicians, off-duty policemen and others who are unlikely to retaliate. After carrying out militant attacks they slip back into routine life and carry out their day-to-day life normally.  

The hybrid terrorist label has raised many eyebrows.

The term hybrid terrorist caught everyone’s attention after the controversial Hyderpora encounter. Former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah staged a protest against the killings. He claimed that he had never heard the term hybrid militant when he was the chief minister. Similarly, the families of those killed in the gunfight and subsequently labelled as “hybrid terrorists” denied that the slain youth had any links with militants. They alleged that the encounter was staged by the police. Besides, there were widespread protests across the Kashmir valley against the killings. Initially, the police had refused to return the bodies of the slain men. However, after sustained protests by the families and activists in Press Colony Srinagar, the bodies of Mudasir Gul and Altaf Bhat were exhumed and returned to their families after a few days.

Questioning the term “Hybrid Militant”?

Hybrid terrorists/militants continue to make headlines in Kashmir. There is almost daily news about some hybrid militants being nabbed by police or killed in a gunfight. It is a dangerous term. It is defined in a way that evades accountability. Since hybrid militants are supposed to be militants disguised as civilians and part-time militants, it is very difficult to identify them and distinguish them from civilians. As claimed by the police, they are not even listed with the security forces as militants. Further, they supposedly carry out attacks and then re-engage with society and carry out normal activities like any other person. As a result, there are not many people except for the security forces who can vouch for them being militants. 

In some cases, even the family members of these hybrid militants are caught unawares. Like the Hyderpora incident, there have been many other instances when the family members have denied that those killed in the name of hybrid terrorists were militants. Earlier in January this year, Inayat Ahmad Mir was killed in a gunfight in the Pulwama district of Kashmir. The police labelled him as a hybrid militant but his family disputed the claim. The family denied his involvement in any militant activity and staged a protest demanding the return of his body. It is pertinent to mention here that the bodies of all those who are killed in anti-militancy operations in Kashmir are buried in far off places by the police themselves.

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The use of the term hybrid terrorist/militant raises vexing questions. In an already environment of impunity for the security forces, the term complements the impunity. For the families, these hybrid militants are innocent civilians but for the security forces, they are hybrid militants. No one except for the security forces and the alleged handlers of these hybrid militants knows that they are involved in militant activities. The term does not allow for the accountability of security forces. Therefore, the security forces are at the liberty to categorize anyone as a “hybrid militant” and act accordingly.