The past week has witnessed several extraordinary developments on militancy front. First, government forces arrested seven militants. It was followed by the killing in one encounter of six militants at Hajin, among them Lashkars top leadership including its chief Mehmood Bhai, the divisional commander Abu Zargam and another commander Abu Owaid, the nephew of Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi. So far, three members of Lakhvi family have lost their lives in Kashmir, two of them his nephews and one his son. One militant, a footballer who had joined Lashkar ranks a week ago quit militancy after his distraught mother appealed him to return. Majids decision to join militancy had triggered a wave of hand-wringing across the Valley, a sentiment heightened by the fact that Majid is the only son of his parents. The video of his distraught mother wanting him to return had gone viral. And many of his friends had taken to social media to beg him to give up gun. All these developments contributed to Majids return.
Though these successive events do not fit the otherwise predictable turn of events in Kashmir, the security situation in Kashmir has continued to be grim. The violence has continued and much more intensely than anytime in recent years. Until recently, security forces have killed more than 170 militants, most of them the local militants. The number is the highest in the past seven years. As against this, 146 militants were killed in 97 encounters during 2016. The rising killings highlight several aspects of the Valley situation. One, the increase in the number of militants which had since last year suddenly doubled to around 300 has again been brought down to around 150, something that has been an annual average over the past several years.
Second, it reflects the growing success of the security forces in tracking down the militants, a turn of events that is seen as the direct result of the greater troop concentration in South Kashmir. Two additional army battalions were moved to the area in summer to reinforce the existing troop presence, most of them to Shopian and Pulwama where the Army encampments were revived. This has deepened the penetration of the security forces comprising Army, CRPF and J&K Police.
On the other hand, the arrest of the seven militants and the quitting of militancy by one in just five days has imparted a sudden momentum to the ongoing government campaign to get the local militants join the mainstream. Though since the unrest last year, the state government has been following a policy of discrimination in favour of the local militants, no fewer than an estimated 20 militants have given up arms in a period spread over more than a year. Similarly, the killing of six Lashkar militants in one go including its top leadership has dealt a blow to the outfit in North Kashmir. But whether these arrests and the killings will result in the containment of the militancy is something that remains moot. It is unlikely to happen. As the history shows the militancy has gone on despite the drastic reverses. And it will unlikely die down as long as the conflict over Kashmir lingers. For militancy to end, New Delhi will have to take meaningful steps to resolve the lingering conflict over the state.
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