Mobiles are Back in Kashmir, So Are Counter-Insurgency Operations
In their first major counter-insurgency operation in Kashmir valley after the restoration of postpaid mobile phone services, the Jammu and Kashmir Police and security forces killed three local Lashkar-e-Tayyiba militants in Bijbehara area of Anantnag district on Wednesday.
Official sources said that the operation was launched on the basis of specific information regarding the presence of three LeT militants at a hideout in Pazalpora hamlet on the outskirts of Bijbehara — the ancestral residential township of former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
All Three LeT Militants Killed
No sooner had the security forces cordoned off the hamlet than the holed-up militants opened gunfire. All three of the militants got killed in the four-hour-long encounter that ended in the morning, when the house was brought down with improvised explosive devices. Officials said that no civilian, police or security forces personnel had suffered any damages in the operation.
They said that all of them, in the age group of 18-23 years, were the local cadre of LeT. According to the official records, Nasir had gone underground and become a militant on 20 September 2019, while Aaquib and Zahid had joined on 19 April and 17 July in 2019.
Director General of Police, Dilbagh Singh, and IGP Kashmir, Swayam Prakash Pani, and Senior Superintendent of Police, Anantnag, Altaf Khan, who supervised the operation, did not respond to phone calls, but their subordinate officers said that arms and ammunition, including three AK rifles were recovered from the site of the encounter.
Pre-Restoration of Postpaid Mobile Network, No Big Counter-Insurgency Ops Carried Out
Officials as well as local reporters told The Quint that a vast area around Bijbehara had been completely sealed off. For some hours, it hampered the movement of traffic on Anantnag-Srinagar highway. They said that for some in the morning, some thin groups of youths gathered and engaged the police and paramilitary forces in non-serious clashes. However, they could not create much trouble.
“It was nothing as compared to the previous encounters in Bijbehara area. Previously, thousands of people would gather and fail the operations with intense stone pelting. More than half of the operations would fail due to such clashes,” Nadeem Nadu, Anantnag-based journalist said.
Prior to the restoration of postpaid mobile phone services, all phone and Internet services, including landline phones and broadband, had been shut down after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir state’s special status on 5 August.
In two chance encounters, only two militants had been killed during that 70-day period, one each in Baramulla and Sopore. Two more militants died in an encounter in Kangan area. Last fortnight, two militants were killed in an encounter near Awantipora.
As compared to 20-30 militants a month before 5 August, only 6 militants were killed in 70 days of unrest after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35-A. Officers said that immediately after the restoration of postpaid mobile phones, their informers had re-established liaison with the local units.
He said that police and intelligence agencies had started working on reports, which suggest the presence and movement of 20 to 30 militants in and around the capital city of Srinagar.
Chhattisgarh Labourer Shot Dead
Meanwhile, unidentified gunmen — believed to be militants — shot dead a brick kiln labourer from Chhattisgarh, near Nehama village in Pulwama district on Wednesday at 12:15 PM. Official sources said that the alleged militants kidnapped two labourers — Sethi Kumar Sagar and Sanjay of Chhattisgarh.
Even as the officials maintained that it could be an attempt by the militants to scare away thousands of brick kiln labourers and force them to return to their native places, residents insist that it was ‘some different issue’ that led to the killing of the labourer. “If they had to terrorize the labourers, they wouldn’t have let off his companion. They could have done it even earlier, when thousands of non-Kashmiri workers left the Valley after 5th of August but the brick kiln labourers stayed on”, said Abdul Hamid Rather of Pulwama.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)
(The Quint is now available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)