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Kashmir now has 6 militant groups. And that's not counting IS

Riyaz Wani | Updated on: 4 December 2017, 15:57 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

Militancy in Kashmir is back in the news. Last Thursday, four militants were killed at Futlipora village at Pakherpora in Budgam district and one in Sopore, taking the toll of militants killed this year to around 200. A large number of these militants are local youth, most of them from South Kashmir.

This should have normally and drastically weakened the militancy, considering the number of militants was estimated to have risen to 300 about a year ago. But it hasn’t.

According to an estimate, the number of militants in the state still hovers around 200, courtesy the infiltration of an estimated 70 more militants from across the border. And this infiltration has led to the rise from ashes of the three otherwise long wiped-out militant outfits.

Jaish-e-Mohammad, led by Maulana Masood Azhar, is one and the others are Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TuM), militant outfits of the '90s which had long ceased to exist.

Jaish and Tehreek have dramatically announced their arrival on the scene. Jaish carried out two sensational attacks: One on the police lines in Pulwama, in which eight security personnel were killed, and another on the Border Security Force camp near Srinagar airport, killing an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) and injuring two other personnel.

TuM recently claimed responsibility for the attack on government forces at Zakura on the outskirts of Srinagar, which killed an ASI. Also, its “district commander Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen for Pulwama Mugees Ahmad Mir alias Umar Bin-e-Khatab was killed" in that strike, said Abdul Haq, who claims to be the outfit's spokesperson, in an e-mailed statement.

However, this attack was later also owned by the ISIS and Mugees’ body was actually draped in ISIS’ black flag. Even the slogans in favour of the ISIS were shouted at Mugees’ funeral. But Tehreek later insisted that Mugees was their militant and accused the government forces of covering his body with ISIS flag.

“After the killing of Mugees, the forces draped his body with ISIS flag to defame the ongoing movement in Kashmir. New Delhi and its forces cannot suppress Kashmiris with its military might. Our struggle is only for freedom of Kashmir and we don’t have any international agenda,” the spokesperson said.

However, the Jammu and Kashmir Police later also rejected the existence of ISIS in the state.

But the reality of Kashmir, more than one year after Burhan’s killing, is that Kashmir has six active militant organisations in place of two –

While the Valley had just Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar last year – in fact, over the past decade – now it has also Jaish, Al Qaeda, Harkat and Tehreek. That is, if we discount the ISIS claim.

And all of these outfits emerged this year alone, even while the forces killed the largest number of militants in a year in the last seven years.

“There were some successful infiltration bids which balanced the proportion of the non-local militants relative to local. And this was also the purpose behind it. And which is not to leave militancy entirely in the hands of the local militants who are prone to more security pressure,” said a police officer.

According to the officer, maintaining a local, non-local balance in militant ranks and also setting up several competing militant outfits is “a deliberate strategy to prevent large-scale desertion in the ranks and ward off the chances of militancy getting compromised”.

Last year, according to an estimate, the number of the local militants had jumped to 3/5th of the total number of around 300.

“This was a huge number from the militancy point of view as it creates problems of finding hideouts. Militants lack the logistics to handle such a large number. Besides, a larger concentration in a particular area makes them vulnerable to be tracked down,” said the officer.

“The preferred number of the militants in Valley thus remains 150 to 200. Again, the number is balanced proportionately between locals and the non-locals,” he added.

But as 2017 draws to a close, and the militant ranks have been drastically depleted, the worry for the security agencies is the growing number of the militant outfits. Besides, the infiltration and the local recruitment is ensuring that the thinned out ranks are fast replenished.

According to a police estimate, 41 youth have joined various militant outfits since July to October alone. Despite the massive military success this year, militancy in Valley is thus not going anywhere, a fact, underlined by Chief Minister Mehbooba too in a recent statement.

“You have to eliminate militancy in Kashmir. But militancy cannot be wiped out by killing militants alone. We need to understand the reason and the real problem behind militancy,” Mehbooba said.

First published: 4 December 2017, 15:57 IST