The violence in Kashmir sustained by just-over 100 militants, replenished annually

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SRINAGAR: June has been an exceptionally violent month in Kashmir. According to South Asia Terrorism Portal, twenty militants and fifteen security personnel were killed in various encounters and the ambushes including the one at Pampore which killed eight CRPF personnel. 

And in the past six months, 73 militants, thirty security personnel and five civilians died in militancy related incidents.  This shows a conspicuous rise in the militancy as against 2015 during which 113 militants, 41 security personnel and 20 civilians lost their violence in militant violence.

Similarly In 2014, 110 militants, 51 security personnel and 32 civilians were killed.  The number was by and large similar for 2013, 2012 2011, except for the fact that the violence plunged to its lowest in 2012 when only 84 militants, 17 security personnel and 16 civilians were killed.

However, in all these years, government figures for the militancy have hovered between 100-150, comprising local recruits and the foreigners, who were in majority until the last year when suddenly the equation altered. Now for the first time in a decade, local militants outnumbered foreigners. Out of 142 active militants in Valley, 88 were locals and the rest from Pakistan or Pakistan Controlled Kashmir.

The militant figures revealed by the government for 2016 are identical to the last year. Around 145 militants are active in Valley out of which 91 are locals and 54 foreigners. This despite the fact that around 176 militants have been  killed in security operations since 2015.

But the militant figures remain static, underlining a constant replenishment of the depleted ranks through fresh recruitment and the infiltration.

What is, however, manifest is the amount of yearly violence generated by this small band of the militants which keeps Kashmir in national and international spotlight. The strategy has worked to a great effect.  Coupled with intermittent cross-LoC firing which extends the trouble to Jammu and its border areas, a perception of the violence hangs over entire J&K. 

The situation in 2015 casts this reality in sharp relief. Last year, according to the data presented by the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti in Assembly, 15 out of the 22  districts in Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the militancy-related violence. Only districts which didn’t register any violence included Ganderbal in central Kashmir, Leh and Kargil in Ladakh region and Rajouri, Reasi and Kishtwar in Jammu region besides the Jammu district itself.

Srinagar where for the past five years, no one has joined militancy – except for a recent controversial killing of a militant at Kud on Jammu-Srinagar highway – recorded 15 violent incidents in 2015. This year, the number is likely to go up.  On May 24, two successive attacks in two parts of the city left three cops dead.

Similarly, three north Kashmir districts of Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipora together accounted for 57 incidents of militancy in 2015 which resulted in the death of 92 persons including 60 militants and 21 security personnel. And the four south Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian accounted for 61 incidents of militancy, resulting in the death of 54 persons including 12 security men and 34 militants.

As for ceasefire violations, 93 border firing incidents were reported along the International Border in Jammu between January 15, 2015 to January 15, 2016 which resulted in the death of six civilians and injuries to 43 others including three security personnel. Jammu district accounted for 54 violations followed by 22 from Samba and 17 from Kathua districts.

In comparison, only 15 such incidents took place in Kashmir Valley. While 11 persons including three security personnel were killed along the LoC in Jammu, five security personnel were killed in the valley.

So both Pakistan and the local component of the jihad have it all covered up. Over a hundred militants tie down thousands of the Army, BSF, CRPF and police personnel backed up by the cross-LoC exchanges to cover the areas where militants can’t operate.

Already, to replenish the 73 militants killed this year, around 50 militants, sources in police say, have infiltrated into Valley in recent months. “Even the Pampore attack was executed by the freshly infiltrated militants,” said a police officer. “They were part of the fidayeen group who are charged to carry out suicide missions”.

This has brought the security agencies face-to-face with the changing nature of militancy whereby a small band of local and more battle-hardened foreign militants are able to inflict maximum damage.

“There is certainly a drastic shift in the tactics of the militants,” says a police officer. “A smaller number of motivated militants, who are also difficult to detect, are able to launch high-profile attacks in places where these get the maximum media attention”.

And in the process, they create a perception of militancy that is disproportionate to their number. A police officer called it a “smart militancy” which serves its purpose of maintaining a troubled perception about Kashmir to complement the separatist political activities or compensate for their denial by the government.

 

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