Ever since the central government initiated dialogue with political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, militant attacks have surged in the Union Territory.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 June held talks with political leaders from J&K in New Delhi, resuming engagement between the Centre and mainstream leadership, 22 months after the Bhartiya Janta Party-led central government revoked Article 370, special status and constitutional autonomy of the region.
The government broke the ice after 22 months of trust deficit, allegations and counter-allegations, and over a year of house arrest of mainstream leaders in J&K.
6 People Dead in Attacks Since 19 June
However, from 19 June onwards—when the Union Home Secretary extended an invitation to J&K-based political parties to participate in all party meetings in New Delhi—till date, four civilians and two policemen have been killed in separate militant attacks across the Valley.
On 27 June, in what was the first instance of militants deploying drones to strike vital installations, two bombs were dropped at the IAF station in Jammu.
The explosions occurred around 1:40 am, within six minutes of each other. The first blast ripped off the roof of a single-storey building in the technical area of the airport, manned by the IAF in Satwari, on the outskirts of Jammu. The second one was on the ground.
According to the Director-General of Jammu and Kashmir Police Dilbag Singh, the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant outfit is suspected to have been behind the sensational drone attack. Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir range, Vijay Kumar also said that drones are a “new technical threat”.
The IGP added that while security agencies had jointly reviewed the situation, all security installations and Line of Control (LoC) in the Valley were on high alert.
The Jammu region has been already on high alert after back-to-back drone movements. The administration has also disallowed the use of drone cameras in many parts of the UT, including Srinagar.
Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat also stated that ceasefire is holding along the LoC so far but the internal peace process was being disrupted by Pakistan by "infiltration of weapons and drugs using drones".
Birth of the Hybrid Terrorist in Kashmir
According to a Press Trust of India report, security forces in Kashmir are facing a new challenge on the militancy front—the presence of hybrid militants, who are not listed as militants but persons radicalised enough to carry out a militant strike and then slip back into routine life.
Over the past few weeks, attacks on soft targets in the Valley, including in Srinagar city, have witnessed a spike and most of the incidents have been carried out by the pistol-borne youth, not listed as militants with security agencies, officials said as quoted by news agency PTI.
The new trend has sent security agencies into a tizzy as these hybrid militants, or part-time militants are very difficult to track and pose a challenge to the security forces.
Attacks Just Before PM Modi's Meeting with Kashmir Leaders
Two days before the all-party meeting in New Delhi, on 22 June, militants shot dead Parvaiz Ahmed Dar, a J&K police inspector, near the Nowgam area of Srinagar city. CCTV footage showed gunmen trailing the unsuspecting cop on his way to a mosque and pulling out a pistol before firing multiple rounds.
The next day on 23 June, militants shot dead Umer Nazir Bhat, a mobile phone seller inside his shop in Habba Kadal, Srinagar. Pictures flooding the internet showed the floor splattered with blood as a crowd gathered outside the shop. Shortly after, police reached the spot and sealed off the area.
On the same evening, militants lobbed a grenade at a deployment party of the police and CRPF at Rajpora Chowk in Pulwama. The joint forces fired a few aerial shots in retaliation but no loss of life or injury was reported.
In view of all party meeting in New Delhi, militant strikes pushed the security establishment to put J&K on high alert for 48 hours.
A Spate of Killings After the Delhi Meeting
Soon after the all-party meeting between J&K’s political leaders and PM Modi ended in New Delhi, militant attacks did not stop in the Valley.
On 25 June, militants lobbed a grenade towards the police station Bijbehara in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. However, no injury was reported.
On 26 June, a civilian Mudasir Ahmad Bhat (25 years), son of Abdul Rashid Bhat, a resident of Hagoora Beerwah Budgam was killed and three others were injured when militants lobbed a grenade at security forces in the Barbarshah area of the city.
On 27 June, militants carried out an attack on Special Police Officer (SPO) Fayaz Ahmed Bhat at Haripargiam village in south Kashmir’s Awantipora.
According to inspector General of police Kashmir range Vijay Kumar, two Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) killed Bhat (48 years), his wife Raja (46 years) and Rafia (26 years).
On 1 July, a policeman was injured in a militant attack in Lazibal area of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
On July 5, militants hurled a grenade outside district police lines (DPL) in Doda leaving a policeman and civilian injured. District Doda in Jammu was declared militancy free on 29 June last year, after security forces killed top Hizbul commander Masood alias Rahi in south Kashmir’s Anantang encounter.
Interestingly, most of the militant strikes have taken place in Srinagar city, reigniting concerns over the fragile security situation in Kashmir.
Police had, in the first week of September last year, declared Srinagar 'militant-free'. However, there have been attacks on civilians and policemen after that as well, which officials believe are the handiwork of hybrid militants.
Increased Attacks Due to Pakistan-sponsored Terrorism
Talking to The Quint, former Director-General of Police J&K, Shesh Paul Vaid said that militant attacks in J&K are increasing due to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.
“These attacks are not new but have been happening since 1990. In the 2000-era, militants used to do suicide attacks and now we see drone attacks as a new phenomenon,” said Vaid, who was J&K DGP from December 2016 till September 2018, adding that whosoever is raising the flag of India in J&K is targeted by militants.
Militants Trying to Infiltrate J&K
While ceasefire violations along the LoC have ended after an agreement between the Indian and Pakistan Armies, militants are continuing their efforts to infiltrate Jammu and Kashmir.
“No doubt there are no ceasefire violations since March but militants are trying hard to infiltrate J&K and some have even tried to exfiltrate, and are being arrested following timely action by the troops on duty,” said an Army official.
On 2 July, at least three youth from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, were trying to exfiltrate to Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) but were arrested by security forces.
The killings of civilians, political leaders and policemen by militants have been widely condemned by mainstream politicians of J&K.
'Political Turmoil to Blame for Militant Attacks'
However, senior Congress leader and former Union Minister Saifuddin Soz talking to The Quint, blamed political turmoil for increasing militant strikes in J&K. “Militant attacks will keep on happening unless the political situation stabilises in J&K. The Union of India should restore autonomy in J&K so that peace gets restored in the region,” said 83-year-old Soz.
He, while quoting CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami and Panther’s Party chief Bhim Singh, said that the results of the all-party meet were not tangible.
Meanwhile, on 5 July, two weeks after political leaders from J&K met PM Modi in New Delhi, the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) expressed disappointment over the outcome of all-party meeting, saying there was lack of substantial confidence building measures like the release of political and other prisoners, and taking concrete steps to end the alleged "atmosphere of suppression" that has choked J&K since August 2019.
However, on 6 July, barring the People’s Democratic Party, almost all political parties in Kashmir participated in the delimitation exercise by meeting the five-member panel that is on a four-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
The commission, led by Justice (retd) Ranjana Prakash Desai arrived to interact with leaders of political parties and officials, to gather "first hand" inputs on the progress of the mega exercise, to carve out new constituencies in the Union Territory.
(Irfan Amin Malik is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets @irfanaminmalik. This is an analysis piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for them.)