Srinagar- They can be easily spotted in a bustling marketplace buying vegetables or dropping their children to school. The everyday ordinariness of their lives has rendered the Jammu and Kashmir police personnel “soft targets”, as they fight a seemingly endless battle against militancy in the valley.
Assistant Sub-Inspector Mushtaq Ahmad Tuesday became the 49th victim of militant violence in the past over six months in Jammu and Kashmir, where militant attacks on soft targets have shown an upward trend despite successful counter-insurgency operations by the security forces.
Ahmad (56) was killed and his two subordinates – constables Fayaz Ahmad and Abu Bakar – were injured w hen militants opened fire on their patrol at Lal Bazar on the outskirts of Srinagar.
He is the 11th state policeman to have been shot dead by militants in Kashmir since January, officials said on Wednesday. Six army personnel and five paramilitary jawans have also laid down their lives this year taking the total number of fallen security personnel to 22.
Last year, a total of 42 security forces personnel were killed in the valley. Of them, 21 were from the Jammu and Kashmir Police. Ironically, Ahmad’s son Aaqib Mushtaq, an alleged “terrorist associate” was killed in an encounter in Kulgam in April 2020.
Among the 49 victims of militant violence, 27 are civilians who fell to targeted attacks in different parts of the valley, setting off panic among Kashmiri migrant pandit employees engaged under Prime Minister’s employment package and Dogra staffers who are on strike since May demanding relocation from Kashmir to Jammu.
According to a police official, militants are looking for soft targets to make their presence felt without encountering much trouble.
The officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said since the state police constituted the first line of defence, they were in the line of militant fire.
“Police is spread thin. It is the first line of defence. The Army is deeply entrenched in camps and rightly so as Army is the last resort,” he said.
“We are everywhere, we are easy targets. We have to go to our homes, get vegetables from market, drops kids at schools. We are soft targets,” he added. Quite a few of the felled police personnel like constable Ghulam Hassan, who was shot dead on May 7, were unarmed. Others like constable Saifullah Qadri were enjoying familial bliss when their lives were cut short by militants’ bullets.
Qadri was shot dead outside his home, while his seven-year-old daughter was injured in the attack. The 27 civilians killed by militants included government employees belonging to minority communities like Rahul Bhat and Rajni Bala who were shot dead in their respective places of posting in Budgam and Kulgam districts on May 12 and May 31, respectively.
Officials said stepped up counter-insurgency operations neutralised 133 militants across Jammu and Kashmir since January this year with June accounting for the highest 35 militant fatalities.
While 66 militants were eliminated between March and May, 22 were killed in January and seven others in February, they said, adding three militants were shot dead in the first two weeks of the current month.
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