Srinagar, Jun 24: The Jammu and Kashmir police have decided to intensify its “outreach programme” to persuade people to lay down weapons and join the mainstream. The decision was made in the wake of an unusual rise in the number of people joining the ranks of militants in the state. Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) S P Vaid told PTI that the efforts are being made to reach out to the newly recruited militants and asking them to appeal to their wards to shun guns and return home. Also Read - Jammu and Kashmir: 3 Jaish Terrorists, Including Bomb Expert, Killed in Pulwama Encounter

SP further said that the outreach programme will continue to bring the misguided youths back home and “mainstream them”. He added that “it has resulted in some success and several militants have shunned militancy and returned to their homes”. Another police officer informed the news agency that over 80 people, some of them with postgraduate degrees, have joined the ranks of militants in Kashmir Valley this year. Also Read - Day After Forces Foiled Pulwama-Style Attack, Cops Identify Owner of Explosives-Laden Car

There is a trend now of highly-educated men joining militancy in Kashmir. The youths joining militancy has picked up after the killing of 21-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8, 2016. In 2017, 127 young men joined militancy, a record since 2010. Also Read - Pakistani Man Urges India to Return ‘Spy' Pigeon, Says Code Attached to Bird's Foot Is His Phone Number | Watch

The police officer claimed that 88 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in 2016. Since 2014, there has been a constant rise in the number of people joining militancy. As many as 66 youths joined militancy in Kashmir in 2015 and 53 in 2014, according to data compiled by security agencies. In 2010, 54 youths joined militancy and in 2011, the number came down to 23. It further dipped to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013, it said.

According to security forces officials, every funeral of a local militant spawns at least two additions to the ranks of militant groups. The Pulwama-Shopian-Kulgam region has become a hotbed of homegrown militants, the officials said.

Security officials say Pulwama, which has of late emerged as the terror epicentre, is strategically important as it is the central point to connect Srinagar, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Budgam districts of central Kashmir. The areas have seen the highest number of encounters and attacks, the officer added. The topography of Pulwama, with its vast orchards and fields ringed by dense forests, also provide a perfect shelter and operating cover to militants.

Pulwama was home to Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter with security forces in July last year. It was also the base of slain Abu Dujana, commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in the Kashmir Valley, Abu Musa and dozens of other militants. The state police chief said, “Going beyond its mandate of normal policing, Jammu and Kashmir Police is transforming hearts and minds by instilling national pride in the youth of the valley.”

(With agency inputs)