Kashmir Clampdown: Counter-Insurgency Ops Come to a Halt
Image used for representation.
Image used for representation.(Photo: Harsh Sahani/ The Quint)

Kashmir Clampdown: Counter-Insurgency Ops Come to a Halt

The month-long telecommunication blackout following annulment of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status has brought the counterinsurgency operations in the Valley to a grinding halt.

Top officials in J&K Police and security forces revealed to The Quint that their robust counterinsurgency grid got disrupted as both the human as well as the technical intelligence had been adversely affected due to the deactivation of telephone and the internet connection since 5 August.

In sharp contrast to dozens of the counterinsurgency operations, in which many militants have been neutralised every month from May 2017 to July 2019, one single operation has been carried out after 5 August in entire Kashmir Valley.

Residents call it a “chance encounter”, but the authorities maintain that the encounter at Ganai Hamam, in Baramulla old town, on 20 August was a joint operation of police and security forces based on specific information regarding the presence of a local militant.

Also Read : A Month Since Clampdown, Business Hit, People Feel Hurt in J&K

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The ‘Militants’ Shot Dead

One-odd militant, namely Momin Gujri of an adjoining neighbourhood, and a special police officer, Bilal Ahmad, got killed in the encounter.

On the other hand, suspected militants have shot dead two Gujjars, namely Qadir Kohli and Manzoor Kohli, in the hilly terrain between Khrew and Tral in the southeast. Both, according to well-placed sources, had been "working for the security forces".

Unidentified gunmen, widely perceived to be militants, have also shot dead a prominent wholesale shopkeeper, Ghulam Mohammad Mir, in Parimpora area of Srinagar.

Also Read : How Children Are Being ‘Picked Up’ in Night Raids Across Kashmir

The three civilian killings have spread a wave of terror, particularly among the thousands of traders in Srinagar. Very few of the shopkeepers are now operating their businesses, even as only a section of them had started keeping their shops open amid the shutdown before Mir’s killing.

Many of the shops, that had resumed business in the usually secure uptown markets of Dalgate and Sonwar, can now be seen locked for the whole day.

Over a dozen civilian sources, who interacted with The Quint in different districts of South Kashmir, said invariably that “militants in droves” would be spotted sitting in orchards or moving on the unguarded roads in early 2017.

“We believe hundreds of fresh militants have infiltrated into the Valley and they are setting up their bases in different areas, particularly in the districts which were believed to be militant-free until recently,” said a retired officer of J&K Police.

Reports of daytime militant movement have also been pouring in from Gulmarg different villages of Budgam district, besides Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag.

Even many of the local journalists and political analysts believe that Pakistan could use its low-cost option of pushing in the battle hardened militants and trigger a fresh spell of terror in the Valley as its political and diplomatic options had failed to yield anything substantial.

‘Baseless Rumours,’ Say J&K Police

One of the Senior Superintendents of Police in South Kashmir, however, dismisses all the reports of the large-scale militant movement as “baseless rumours”, while insisting that no fresh militants had arrived in over the last several weeks. He claimed that the militant recruitment had remained same as noticed in the last seven months of the current year.

He asserted that police and security forces had not completely lost their contact with their counter-insurgent sources due to the telecommunication freeze.

According to the police officer, total number of the identified and listed militants in South Kashmir was static at 135 since June, 2019 — 30 in Shopian, 40 in Pulwama-Awantipora, 25 each in Anantnag and Kulgam. They include total of 15 Pakistani militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

“We are currently fully focussed on the law and order situation, though there has been no major incident, other than the killing of a local truck driver in Bijbehara, in this unrest. We have suspended our CI ops for a purpose for some days. In the next 15 days, we are going to launch major counterterror operations as are determined to wipe out militancy by the end of current year”, said the SSP.

According to the police officers, currently there were as many as 50 Army company outposts in South Kashmir alone in addition to dozens of the camps and pickets of Police and CRPF.

“Reports about the fresh recruitment, infiltration and movement are all rumours spreading due to the telecommunication freeze. It’s almost impossible for the militants to pass from one district to another without being detected”, said another Police officer. He admitted that the flow of information regarding the movement and presence of militants had stopped for a few days but claimed that it had resumed soon.

(The writer is a Srinagar-based senior journalist. He can be reached@ahmedalifayyaz.)

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