OVER the past three weeks, state forces in successive operations have killed over 30 militants, most of them at Shopian in South Kashmir. With these, the number of militants killed in less than six months this year is around 140, almost a militant a day. Just three days ago, the forces had killed eight militants in a day. At this rate, it appears that the militancy could very well be wiped out unless there is replenishment, something that has been the case over the past three decades.
According to police estimate there are around 250 militants in the Kashmir Valley and in the absence of fresh recruitment, around sixty percent of them have already been killed so far. This has given some confidence to the security forces who think they should be able to usher in peace in a matter of few months. In a recent interaction with reporters, the commander of Srinagar-based 15 Corps Lt Gen Baggavalli Somashekhar Raju said that with every operation there was a “palpable change” in the situation in Kashmir.
But if the past is any guide, the militancy may still survive, with the recent killings simultaneously compensated by the new recruitment and the infiltration. Will past replicate in the near future remains to be seen. Meanwhile forces are notching one success after another and not suffering any loss themselves. The killings have raised the level of violence. And, the violence at such a scale has taken place for the first time after the revocation of Article 370 in August last.
Significantly almost all the militants killed this year have been Kashmiris, revealing the presence of the foreign militants has drastically thinned out in Kashmir. What would be interesting to see is if more Pakistan based militants join the battle now. Ever since the new wave of the local militancy triggered by the advent of Burhan Wani in 2015, Kashmiri militants have generally outnumbered their foreign counterparts. Any considerable change in the ratio in favour of the foreigners could dramatically change the landscape of violence in Kashmir. As of now, however, much of this scenario is in the realm of speculation. But the altered state of affairs following August 5 move has made this prospect a more realistic proposition than it otherwise would have been. The security establishment appears to be cognizant of this reality and is trying hard to ensure that any such prospect is pre-empted. Will they succeed? It remains to be seen. But it is also true that in the absence of a genuine political outreach that seeks to address disaffection in Kashmir, it will be difficult to maintain peace for long.
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