Defying militant threat and the separatists' call, thousands of youth across Kashmir have turned up to fill 10,000 posts of Special Police Officers (SPOs) despite the ongoing unrest which has claimed 82 lives.
"We have received over 25,000 applications from the aspiring candidates willing to serve as SPOs from across the 10 districts of the Valley," a senior official supervising the recruitment process told PTI here.
On September 22, the Centre had approved the recruitment of an additional 10,000 SPOs with immediate effect to strengthen the Jammu and Kashmir police particularly in view of the unrest in the Valley.
There are already 25,000 SPOs in the state, engaged on a monthly honorarium of Rs 6,000.
The official said the highest number of applications at 8,600 were received from north Kashmir's Kupwara district followed by Budgam (4,000), Baramulla (3,853), Anantnag (2,400), Ganderbal (1,600), Kulgam (1,258), and Bandipora and Srinagar (1,000 each).
While 800 applications from aspiring candidates were received from Pulwama district, 500 youths applied for the job in Shopian district, he said.
The official said the fitness test of the aspiring candidates has already been conducted in various districts which saw encouraging turnout of the youth ignoring the call of separatist leaders and the militant threats.
Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit, in the last week of August, had issued a threat, warning the youth against joining police as SPOs.
"Whosoever gets appointed as SPO should also be ready to face the consequences," Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naik had said in a video circulated through social networking sites on August 30.
Terming the recruitment of SPOs as a "ploy" of the government, Naik had said, "India wants to weaken our freedom struggle and wants us to fight with each other."
Separatists, on the other hand, had asked the youth to ignore the "enticement aimed at breaking their ranks", alleging that the government by absorbing the youth as SPOs was trying to revive "Ikhwan Militia" of 1990s to crush the "freedom struggle".
"The fresh recruitment drive is nothing but to revive the notorious Ikhwan culture in the state which in mid 90s wiped out almost a whole hatchery of freedom loving people throughout the Valley," hardline Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani had said in a statement on August 7.
Kashmir Valley is on the boil since July 9 following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces a day earlier. The widespread clashes left 82 people including two cops dead, and thousands injured.