Srinagar: While carrying out counter-insurgency operations, the security establishment in Kashmir continues to grapple with protesters, who often make attempts to help the cornered militants escape near the sites of gunfights.
With each counter-insurgency operation, especially in South Kashmir, the locals, officials believe, are increasingly becoming emboldened to obstruct anti-militancy operations.
As soon as the encounter broke-out between militants and government forces in South Kashmir’s Frisal area of Kulgam on Sunday, tens of hundreds of people began marching towards the encounter site. According to a police official, the protesters made attempts to break the security cordon. The encounter ended with the killing of a civilian, two army personnel and four militants, all locals.
Another civilian, identified as 22-year-old Mushtaq Ahmad Itoo of Srigufwara village, was killed in firing as hundreds of locals moved towards the encounter site and protested against the government forces’ action.
The protests near encounter sites has taken place several times in past as well, creating a law and order situation for security establishment and leaving them in a fix.
Many civilians have been killed during this action especially in South Kashmir.
More than a dozen civilians have been injured, at least two grievously, in Kulgam protests today.
Before engaging local militants, the police make attempts to involve the families of militants, Auqaf committees and local mohalla committees to convince them to surrender. Similar appeals on loudspeakers were made today during the encounter in Kulgam, the police official said.
Despite imposition of Section 144 near the encounter site, scores of locals move towards the site to hinder the ops. IGP Kashmir Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani told Kashmir Reader they have included several measures to tackle a situation like this.
Gillani, however, shared there is a lot of forces’ concentration near the encounter sites and most of the police and army personnel are armed with lethal weapons which can result in grievous injuries.
“It is a threatening situation for a police or military personnel when he gets distracted by protesters during an encounter with militants. We have also introduced non-lethal weapons, lathis to discourage people from breaking the security cordon. That’s what we can do,” Gillani added.
The two civilian killings in Kulgam come after nearly dozen civilians were killed in the area during the civil unrest last year. The valley simmered for nearly six months against the killing of a Hizbul Mujahideen’s militant commander Burhan Wani on July 8.
Amid the unrest, hundreds of locals from several villages in Tral, Wani’s hometown, moved towards Noorpora hamlet when they heard the slain commander’s successor Zakir Bhat aka Musa has been cordoned off by government forces. There was no exchange of fire later and Musa continues to remain the acting militant commander.
Central Reserve Police Forces’ Rajesh Yadav told Kashmir Reader that troops are deployed for such a situation also.
“Many a time CRPF companies are deployed for similar law and order situation which develop before, during or after the encounter,” he said.
The aim, Yadav pointed out, is to stop the civilians from entering the area where firing is on and to avoid any injury to them.
Yadav, however, confirmed about deliberations being carried out in the security establishment to carve out more measures to such avoid situation near the encounter sites.