Kashmir on the Edge

In the absence of a political process, the ground situation becomes murkier

Fayaz Bukhari

Srinagar: The murder of four cops in Shopian district of South Kashmir a week after Eid is a chilling reminder of the grave security scenario ahead of Panchayat elections which will be held by the end of the year.

Members of Industrialists Association Khonmoh-Srinagar protesting against the revocation of articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution

Four policemen were killed at village Arhama in South Kashmir’s Shopian district on August 29. The escort party of the DSP had gone to the area to repair a police vehicle when they were attacked. The cops were at the workshop for an hour, thus giving militants enough time to plan the killings.

This major attack on the police comes a week after three policemen including an officer were killed by militants while two others escaped. This happened on Eid day. The cops had gone home to celebrate Eid with their families and were targeted by the militants.  Director General of Police (DGP) S.P. Vaid said they had ignored the advisory against going home unprotected. “Both had ignored the advisory issued time and again asking policemen not to go home without seeking permission and unprotected,” he said.

Militants have also abducted half a dozen relatives of policemen in South Kashmir. These abductions were done after security forces arrested Asadullah Naikoo, father of Hizbul Mujahideen top commander Riyaz Naikoo, from Baighpora in South Kashmir.

Hizbul commander Naikoo has warned those planning to contest the upcoming Panchayat elections. He has said that they should bring shrouds along with election forms and be ready for acid attacks. In an audio message uploaded on a militant website, Naikoo said, “India plans to hold Panchayat elections in the Valley and wants to prepare for it. For that people are being beaten up and houses are ransacked without any justification so as to bring people into submission.

“Those people who are thinking of participating in the elections, they should also bring a shroud for themselves along with election forms. They should also remember that we have bought sulfuric and hydrochloric acid, and so, be prepared for it.”

For the government and security agencies, use of social media by militants and separatists has turned out to be a bigger threat. Vaid has said that a big campaign is underway on social media from Pakistan to trick the youth into militancy on the basis of false propaganda. The police have taken effective measures to counter it and even managed to block many such accounts. “Our neighbouring country has launched a major campaign on social media to lure the youth into terrorism and violence through wrong information. We have taken measures to cover it and, accordingly, media cells have been created at the range, district and zonal levels. We have opened 26 Facebook pages at the district level, 189 at Police Station and zonal levels and 31 Twitter handles and have occupied the social media space to counter the malicious campaign,” he said. Also, he added, many accounts feeding wrong information to mislead the youth have been successfully blocked.

Despite militant threats and campaigns by separatists, security forces have managed to put pressure on the militants, and so far, 146 of them including their top commanders have been killed this year. However, 68 security force personnel and 51 civilians have also been killed so far.

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