Bilal Ahmad hails from a financially poor family. Bilal was 18-year-old when he met a person who offered him all possible help to make financial things better at home. As he was struggling in his life, he accepted the offer and was told he can earn around Rs 15,000 in a month. The job, Bilal was told, was to help militants in Kashmir with logistical support.
For five months Bilal earned over Rs 70,000. Then one day he was caught along with a group of militants and was also killed in an encounter. This shattered all the dreams of his parents who wanted him to become a teacher. Now his parents and two sisters have no one to look after him.
Bilal’s cases is just an example of how some people lure misguided youth to become Over Ground Workers (OGWs). There are scores of youth who have been exploited by Pakistan-backed recruiters who lure them into extremism through the bait of financial traps.
The money is pumped into Kashmir through various means like Hawala transactions by Pakistan.
In Kashmir Valley, there is an adequate pool of disgruntled unemployed youth both educated and uneducated for recruitment by anti-national elements. Besides poverty, radicalisation seems to be another reason for bringing the youth into militancy. One of the reasons for the youth’s getting radicalized is misuse of social media. There are some social media handlers who use social media to ensure youth get radicalized.
Recently, the Secretary of Srinagar Municipal Corporation was arrested for intimidating social activists, political leaders, government officers and journalists on a website and social media.
It has been seen that individuals booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) of J&K and who spend time in jails with hardcore terrorists provide an ideal breeding ground for potential recruits.
The more resilient and motivated youth are assigned jobs of more serious nature like grenade throwing and snatching of weapons.
Who are OGWs (Over Ground Workers) ?
OGWs (Over Ground Workers) are people who help militants with logistical support, cash, shelter, and other infrastructure. OGWs play a vital role in militant attacks, providing real-time information and support to the tactical elements. OGWs have diversified into other roles such as stone-pelting, mob-rioting, ideological support, radicalisation and recruitment of militants. OGWs also provide real-time information to the militant groups to carry out tactical operations.
Previously, OGWs were primarily involved in logistics support and intelligence gathering for the militant groups operating in Kashmir Valley. Of late the distinction has blurred considerably with OGWs also capable of carrying out small scale strikes while retaining the capability to mix rapidly with the population. OGWs also become a significant tool for strategic communication and recruitment by their handlers in J&K.
Types of Over Ground Workers (OGWs): OGWs for Logistic Support (OGWLS) to strike teams, OGWs managing funding (OGWF), OGWs providing ideological support (OGWIS), OGWs providing radicalisation Support (OGWRS), OGWs for Recruitment of Terrorists (OGWR), OGWs generating negative Perception and Sentiment amongst the general population (OGWPS).
The National Investigative Agency (NIA) had established links between terrorists, Hurriyat and stone pelters, tracking the flow of funds, which led to charge sheeting.
These workers are omnipresent in all walks of life. They could be sympathisers, belonging to families of killed militants, teachers, religious teachers, separatists, members of larger networks like Al-Qaeda Pakistani proxy war agents or even the disgruntled elements of society.