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100 days of unrest in Kashmir: Local militancy gets a shot in the arm

Catch Team | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:45 IST

While Hurriyat may have little to show for the 100-day old unrest in Kashmir, and the state government may have been unable to contain it, militant groups have greatly benefitted from the anarchy in the state of affairs. It's been 100 days and not one local militant has been killed in Kashmir.

Not only have more youth flocked to their ranks in this 100-day period, they have also largely been spared of capture or death by the diversion of security personnel towards the containment of the protests.

Ever since the killing of the popular militant commander Burhan Wani on 8 July, not a single Kashmiri militant has been killed, even though forces have killed 19 foreign militants including the four who attacked the brigade headquarters at Uri.

As compared to this no-kill record, more than 80 militants had been killed in the first six months of this year, a predominant number of them being local militants.

In fact, by the time Burhan was killed, security forces had almost wiped out his outfit - the Hizbul Mujahideen. There were also just two militants, including Burhan, left in the group out of the eleven militants who were with Wani in the iconic 2015 photograph which glamourised jihad and drew new recruits to the outfit.

Then and now

Now compare this with the situation in the Valley over the past three months: Security forces have found it difficult to conduct the cordon and search operations that is critical to homing in on the militants and eliminating them.

What is more, as against just 19 foreign militants, about 30 security personnel have lost their lives. This is about equal the number of the security men killed in the preceding six months.

Among the militants killed, four are the fidayeens who carried out the Uri attack that killed 19 soldiers. Four militants were killed on 7 October in two separate gun battles in North Kashmir as the Army foiled infiltration bids along the Line of Control (LoC).

In the first case, the troops along the LoC in Nowgam and Rampur sectors of North Kashmir foiled three infiltration bids. One more infiltration bid was foiled in Nowgam sector and another in Rampur sector where militants tried to sneak it but fled back to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) the after Army fired at them.

This was followed by the killing of the three militants on 6 October when they tried to storm the Battalion headquarters of 30 Rashtriya Rifles of Army at Langate in Kupwara district. The Army retaliated and the militants fled. Police and Army chased them, trapped them in a nearby orchard where they were killed.

Two militants were killed at Nowhatta in downtown Srinagar on Independence Day. And on 12 October, after a long-drawn gun battle, two militants who had attacked the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) were also killed. Incidentally, the EDI gunfight is the only one that took place in South Kashmir's Pampore. All other militant killings took place in central and North Kashmir.

All these hits are in sharp contrast to the preceding six months when two-thirds of the militants - most of them from Burhan Wani's Kashmiri cadre - were eliminated in South Kashmir districts of Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag and Kulgam.

Protection cover

So, the existing strife has protected the local militants. In South Kashmir, the area which has been the spearhead of the current upsurge, all cordon and search operations have been drastically reduced and in some areas, have come to a complete close.

This has created a challenging situation for the security agencies in the Valley. On one hand, the local militants have gone temporarily out of bounds and on the other, more recruits have shored up the otherwise depleted strength of the local militancy.

"According to our assessment, around 60-70 youth have gone missing in South Kashmir," said a police officer. "Our apprehension is that they might have joined the militants. However, things will become clear once the situation returns to normal."

One proof that these youth have joined jihadi groups is that around 65 weapons have been snatched from the police personnel in South Kashmir in the past three months.

On Sunday itself militants attacked a police picket guarding a TV tower at Dalvash in Dooru area of South Kashmir's Anantnag district and decamped with five service rifles from the cops posted there. The militants were dressed in army fatigues. The weapons included three SLR rifles, one carbine rifle and one INSAS rifle.

Return to post

However, with some limited improvement in the situation in recent days, the forces are trying hard to move back in and rebuild the pressure on the local militants.

"It is only in the last fortnight or so that we have resumed cordon and search operations in parts of South Kashmir. But we have not been able to capture or kill any militant," said a police officer.

"However, these operations were not necessarily based on an input about the militant presence. Their objective is to re-establish the writ of the state and prevent the militants from mingling with the people and instigating protests," he added.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

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First published: 18 October 2016, 5:59 IST