Statistics tend to confuse, present seemingly contradictory pictures. Yet there is little need to try and read between the lines into two sets of figures that found space in the newspapers on Tuesday to conclude that the allure militancy holds for Kashmiri youth has lost little of its magnetism.

Small comfort may accrue from one calculation that 11 young men joined the militants’ ranks since the launch of the “go-slow” by the security forces at the commencement of Ramzan, in contrast to 71 the previous month ~ that could, however, also point to the animosity generated by the Army/security forces’ much-hated “cordon-and-search” operations that remain suspended as of now.

Since those operations have triggered resentment for well over two decades, it suggests that the forces are unable to evolve any alternative tactic, or that they remain indifferent to the harassment caused to the common folk. Those C&S tactics have swelled the militants’ only a notch lower to what happens after the funeral of every local resident killed in the counter-insurgency operations. Not for nothing did a former Army Chief direct that the “kill rate” cease to be published ~ a practice abolished by the present muscular approach of Raisina Hill.

More worrisome is another set of figures released by the security forces that point to no fewer than 467 youth opting for militancy since the summer of 2010, as many as 335 of them from 247 villages in South Kashmir. Though for a while that number appeared to have tapered down, it exploded after the gunning down of Burhan Wani two summers back. The study divides Kashmir into 29 clusters of villages, and notes that while South Kashmir remains the hotbed ~ Shopian the worst afflicted ~ militants have actually been recruited from across the state: Doda, Kishtwar and the Chenab Valley included.

Statistics project a cold-blooded picture, warm reality comes from a conversation recorded between Army personnel and the family of a captured militant. Appeals by an officer to have the militant surrender were rebuffed by the family in Shopian, they preferred he come home as a martyr. “We will not ask him to surrender” says his sister in the video-recording of the interaction, “if he comes home alive I will kill him with my own hands…. He had left home to be in the way of Allah…. He must have done right then…”

Taken together, the statistics and the video confirm the gravity of the alienation, and the pathetic failure of the state and Central governments to assuage the bitterness, apply a healing touch. The Army has virtually abandoned its sadbhavna efforts, the Special Representative’s several visits have yielded no tangible results: while the defence minister, rightly, says the government at large will take a decision on extending the NICO, the Army Chief indicates disfavour of such action. The clock ticks away… to what end none dare predict.