Downward Trend in Stone-Pelting Suggests NIA Raids Have Hit Home
Statistics show the NIA crackdown on terror funding in Valley has had a drastic impact on stone-pelting.
On 6 September, when senior separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik were addressing a press conference at Jamia Masjid and threatening to hold a sit-in on 9 September in New Delhi against a crackdown on funding of the Kashmiri separatists and militants, sleuths of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) were conducting raids in downtown Srinagar.
This densely congested, interior, old town, popularly known as Shehr-e-Khaas, had been virtually out of bounds for anybody wearing an Indian badge or uniform since the day Hizbul Mujahideen’s commander Burhan Wani got killed in an encounter with security forces in July 2016. These strongly anti-Indian neighbourhoods have been a bastion of Mirwaiz dynasty’s Awami Action Committee and witnessed the thickest of the pro-Pakistan and pro-Azadi demonstrations in the last 28 years.
NIA Raids Local Trader
CRPF Commandant Pramod Kumar was killed in a terrorist attack on 15 August last year outside Mirwaiz Umar’s seat of power at Jamia Masjid. Deputy Superintendent of Police Mohammad Ayub Pandith was lynched to death by a frenzied mob at the same place on 22 June 2017.
At the same dreaded spot, last Wednesday, NIA anchored its cavalcade and conducted a raid on a local trader, Irfan Kawoosa. It took hours to wind up. The NIA team wended its way to the equally hypersensitive interior area of MR Gunj and searched for documents and other evidences of hawala transactions at another shop being run by the same trader.
Common people as well as shopkeepers at both places remained mute spectators to the hours-long NIA operation, whispering into each others’ ears how Kawoosa had earned “crores” out of the Kashmir conflict.
Whispers grew shriller even as the NIA did not come up with any such charges against the trader in its evening bulletin. Ironically, Kawoosa’s father Mohammad Sayeed had been shot dead by militants for an unsubstantiated allegation in 1990.
Good News for Home Minister
Even as we knew that the wind was changing and most of the trouble-makers had played truant in recent protest calls, we had serious apprehensions. We have got over two dozen chronic stone-pelters arrested in the same area and detained many of them under Public Safety Act (PSA) but nobody until the other day had imagined a Central agency conducting a raid on separatists in the strongest of their strongholds in Valley.Middle-rank officer of the Jammu and Kashmir Police
Officials told The Quint that the absence of adverse reaction to the NIA raids at around two dozen locations in Kashmir on 6 and 7 September, as well as earlier search operations held in June and July, are positive signs for the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh who is arriving in Srinagar on 9 September on a four-day-long tour.
It is particularly reassuring for Mr Singh who, on 20 August, had claimed a 75 percent decline in the incidents of stone-pelting in the current year and attributed it to the NIA crackdown on the separatists and fund operators of militants and stone-pelters.
Though most people in Kashmir believe that the incidents of stone-pelting had fallen drastically due to the NIA operation, statistics indicate that a downswing had begun immediately after the Lok Sabha by-elections ended in Srinagar in April and were cancelled due to an extremely bad law and order situation in Anantnag.
On 27 July, CRPF Director General Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar said that only 424 incidents of stone-pelting had been reported in 2017 against 1,590 till that date in 2016.
Downward Trend in Stone-Pelting
According to a report compiled by the union Ministry of Home Affairs, as many as 2808 incidents of stone-pelting had been reported after Burhan Wani’s killing in 2016 and 2897 FIRs had been registered. Residents dismiss it as a conservative figure, claiming that officials had not reported many clashes and incidents of stone-pelting.
Around 80 demonstrators got killed and thousands of civilians and security personnel were injured even as more than 16,000 vehicles were damaged.
Finally the turbulence began dying down in November and the Valley was calm till 28 March 2017, when the police and security forces killed militant Tauseef Ahmad Wagay in an encounter at Chadoura in Budgam district. Hundreds of people rushed to the encounter site to help the holed up militants escape with slogans and stone-pelting on security forces. Three of them, including a youth broadcasting the clashes live on Facebook, were killed.
According to the statistics compiled by CID of J&K Police, 29 incidents of stone-pelting took place in January 2017, 36 in February, 76 in March, 191 in the month of Lok Sabha elections in April, 190 in May, 171 in June and 166 in July. It came down to 102 in August. A total of 20 civilians died in such clashes in the first 7 months — 12 in April alone.
Does the Credit Go to the NIA Crackdown?
Mujtaba Nazki, a social activist of downtown Srinagar who has been counselling stone-pelters since 2008, agrees that the incidents have declined drastically in the last two months. He, however, doesn’t give all credit to the NIA.
Unlike in 2016, the forces have stepped up counterinsurgency operations since June this year. As many as 135 militants have been killed. Police have booked and arrested hundreds of youths and known stone-pelters under PSA. In my area, more than 50 such people have been arrested. Twenty of them have been booked in the murder of Dy SP Ayub Pandith. Finally, the NIA raids and sustained campaigns against the separatist leaders on TV channels have harmed their reputation and credibility to a great extent. Besides, businesses are facing a slump and education has been affected.Mujtaba Nazki, social activist
Nazki further said that normalcy in downtown had been restored to a great extent after a local militant and protest mobiliser, Sajad Gilkar, who in police records is one of the killers of Dy SP Pandith, was killed in an encounter in Budgam district on 12 July.
A resident of Zainakadal, who wished to be anonymous, said that the new Inspector General of Police Munir Khan was “a dreaded police officer” with an operational background of over 20 years.
Even in Pakistan, militants are scared of this officer. They advise their relatives to be careful as Munir Khan has been a big name in the catch-and-kill operation in mid-1990s.Resident of Zainakadal
Separatists Losing Public Support?
IGP Munir Khan himself cited a host of reasons for the remarkable decrease in the incidents of violence and clashes over the last three months.
We have ventured into the areas they called liberated zones. We have re-strategised the entire crackdown on militants, their overground supporters, social media gangs, fund-raisers, financiers and all others directly or indirectly responsible for promoting gun culture and stone culture. We have detained many of them under PSA but also counselled a lot of them who have deserted their groups. Yes, the NIA crackdown too has had a positive effect.Munir Khan, IGP Kashmir
Threat of the Joint Resistance Leadership — comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar and Yasin Malik— flying to New Delhi to stage a dharna at the NIA headquarters on the day of Rajnath Singh’s arrival in Srinagar, in fact, speaks volumes about their diminishing public support.
There has been little impact of their shutdown calls in August. A one-off public reaction to the NIA crackdown was in Budgam where supporters of the Hurriyat leader and Shia cleric Aga Syed Hassan staged a protest at the end of daylong search operation at his home.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based journalist. He can be reached @ahmedalifayyaz.)
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