Anti-militancy ops comes to standstill in caged Kashmir

An elderly woman seeks permission from security personnel during restrictions, in Srinagar, Friday, Aug. 23, 2019. (PTI)

As restrictions and communication blockade continues in Kashmir, anti-militancy operations have almost come to a standstill in the Valley for the past 19-days.

Only one anti-militancy operation was reported since August 4, the day Parliament scrapped Article 370 and bifurcated Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories sending the valley in a grip of panic and fear, with restrictions, shutdown and communication blockade crippling normal life.

The encounter was reported from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on Tuesday night, in which one local militant and a cop were killed, while a police officer was grievously injured.

In July 2016, when summer unrest broke out after the killing of Burhan Wani – poster boy of new age militancy in Kashmir – anti-insurgency operations remained suspended for almost six months as security forces were battling with huge protest rallies and stone pelting mobs.

Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, V K Birdi declined to comment when asked whether security forces have this time also suspended anti-militancy operations due to the ongoing unrest in the Valley. “I can’t divulge the details as it is of operational nature,” he told reporters without elaborating further.

However, a police official, involved in counter-insurgency operations, said the focus of security forces at the moment was to maintain law and order. “Besides, the flow of information regarding the movement of militants has almost dried up in the absence of mobile and internet connectivity,” he said.

In several cases, the official said, security agencies would trace the movement of militants by keeping certain mobile numbers under scrutiny. “As militants were using mobiles and internet frequently, it was easier to terrace their location. But now that option is temporarily unavailable. Also, our source network has become defunct in the absence of mobile connectivity,” he revealed.

The official said they fear present unrest may give militants time to regroup like 2016. “As anti-terror operations remained halted from July 2016 to January 2017, militants utilized that space to regroup and replenish their ranks. In 2017 militants took advantage of previous year’s situation to step up attacks on security forces and civilians. We fear the same this time if the situation doesn’t improve quickly,” he added.

In the first seven months of this year, security forces had killed over 135 militants, including top commanders of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind outfits in “well coordinated and relentless operations.” Last year 272 militants were killed by the security forces while the number was 217 in 2017.

Earlier this year, Pakistan had shut most of the militant camps, offices and launch pads operating in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) in the wake of May 2019 deadline set up by Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-government body based in Paris.

The biggest evidence of change in Pakistan support on militant camps was the fact that there were almost no reports of infiltration along the Line of Control (LoC) this year till July 31. It was for the first time in nearly three decades of militancy in Kashmir that cross-LoC infiltration had almost come to a halt.

However, with Pakistan reportedly reactivating militant camps and launch pads along the LoC in PoK, amid heightened tensions with India, there is possibility of infiltration attempts in coming weeks.

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