How far the government’s new plan to handle militancy in the valley works remains to be seen
In the last six months, there has been no lockdown on militancy in Kashmir. That is why the security forces have had to intensify their operations in the valley and have successfully killed 113 militants in the first six months of the year. Not only this, they have framed a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to tackle militancy effectively.
The new SOP brought into force in March aims to prevent publicity to militants by not disclosing their identity and outfit to which they belong, not allowing any public funerals for them, cracking down on social media accounts of militants and actively pursuing militants in the valley.
Since the new SOP came into force, which was after the nationwide lockdown was imposed, security officers have killed more than 83 militants. After the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution last year, anti-militancy operations were almost stopped. Only 19 militants were killed after August 2019.
The anti-militancy operations received fresh impetus after Vijay Kumar took over as Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir range. “My main focus was to enhance generation of human intelligence, speeding up of technical intelligence and to increase police-public interaction. All officers of district police were energised and motivated to the optimum level,” he said.
Kumar said that developing healthy competition within police and among security forces was the game changer that led to major success against militants in Kashmir this year. The IGP said that so far 113 militants have been killed, more than 150 weapons recovered, a dozen militant hideouts busted and more than one hundred Over Ground Workers (OGWs) of militants arrested.
In 2018, 271 militants were killed and in 2019 the number came down to 163 after the anti-militancy operations were curtailed for a few months after August 5 when Kashmir was put under curfew.
The troops have killed operational chiefs of four main militant outfits in the last four months: Qari Yasir, a Pakistani national of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM); Burhan Koka of Ansar Gazwatul Hind and Reyaz Naikoo of Hizbul Mujahideen; and Haider, a Pakistani national of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Apart from them they have also killed the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen, Junaid Sehrai, who was the son of senior separatist Hurriyat Conference leader Mohammad Ashraf Khan alias Sehrai, and top JeM commander, Fauji Bhai, the man who made the deadly car bomb that was detected on time and destroyed by security forces in South Kashmir last month.
The IGP said that there was confusion among security forces regarding the anti-militancy operations during Covid-19 pandemic. “I decided not to stop the operations and took a lead and devised a new SOP with the approval of higher authorities. We decided not to hand over dead bodies of terrorists to their families and not to conduct burial at their native places. So far more than 73 terrorists have been buried in isolated places in border districts of Baramulla, Ganderbal and Kupwara”, he said.
“This practice also helped in stopping glorification of terrorists during funerals and recruitment of new youth in terrorist ranks. There was about 45 per cent decline in recruitment which is a positive indication. Several new recruits have been handed over to their parents too,” said Kumar.
However, recruitment figures projected by the police and army may actually be lower. Sources said that more youth are missing from Kashmir and they may have joined militancy, thus indicating that the government’s new SOP to stop recruitment may not be completely working. A fresh recruit includes Hilal Ahmed, a PhD scholar from Bemina in Srinagar, who went missing in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district. He is believed to have joined Hizbul Mujahideen and was a close friend of the recently killed Sehrai.
Security agencies believe that the new SOPs will help them in finishing of militancy from Kashmir. But the anger in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 is running deep. People feel alienated, both the supporters of the separatists and those who believed in idea of India.
Even former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, who was booked under the draconian Public Safety Act (PSA) last year is angry over what is happening in Jammu and Kashmir. “We should not be disheartened. Today you see darkness around you. They will fall one day; they will not be able to win this (referring to heart). They might have our land, but not our mind and heart,” he added.
Abdullah stressed upon the need for a united fight. “I want total unity of purpose, not for the sake of elections and all this. It has to be something of purpose. Be united against the evil that is being thrust on you. Without unity you will have nothing”, he said.
The success of security forces against militants under these circumstances seems to be short-lived as the battle of winning hearts and minds of Kashmiris has already been lost. And security forces may no longer encounter militants who have been killed like sitting ducks recently.
Militancy in the future would not be the same as seen presently and this became evident with the emergence of The Resistance Front (TRF). The idea of the TRF was floated by a group of Kashmiri youngsters in October 2019. The new outfit, as per security agencies, is being supported by Pakistan and is one of the deadliest outfits. It has carried out two audacious attacks in North Kashmir, killing six Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel. Five of TRF’s militants were killed in April this year when trying to infiltrate into the Keran sector.
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