SRINAGAR: It appears the government is pulling out all the stops to prevent people from coming to the aid of militants during gunfights or attending the funerals of dead militants in large numbers.
Apart from banning assembly of more than five people within 2-km radius of any encounter site, the government now snaps mobile phone communication and Internet in the troubled spot to maintain a disconnect between various areas. Such disconnect was earlier effected by bunkers and huge deployment of forces.
“It (assembly of people at encounters and militant funerals) has become a matter of grave concern for the government. Initially we tried to prevent people by imposing restrictions but the method has not been very effective. Now we have decided to snap mobile services. It stops quick mobilization of people,” a senior official in south Kashmir told Kashmir Reader.
During Drugmulla encounter, the government forces also closed the roads leading to the village to prevent the inflow of people from other areas.
The phenomenon of huge processions of slogan-shouting people, a reminiscent of the 1990s, began gaining currency in Kashmir again since the poster boy of new-age militancy, Burhan Wani, shot into prominence.
In scores of encounters, mostly in south Kashmir, people in large crowds began marching towards encounter sites to help holed up militants escape. Even women were also spotted backing up their male counterparts in their attempt to help militants escape.
In February this year, two civilians including a woman were killed when the government forces opened fire on a group of protesters close to an encounter site at Kakapora village in Pulwama district.
A week later, three militants engaged a heavy deployment of army and paramilitaries for three days inside the building of Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) near Pampore in the periphery of Srinagar city. This became one of the bloodiest encounters where Indian army lost two captain-rank elite commandos.
People from nearby villages gathered around the site. They played songs through the public address system of mosques extolling revolution and bravery of militants. This was reminiscent of situation in Kashmir in early 1990s, when such songs were played in mosques to drum up support for the anti-India rebellion.
Sources said that top officials in the counterinsurgency grid held brainstorming discussions to counter the emerging trend. “An inconclusive meeting was specifically held to study the phenomenon. The imposition of section 144 around the encounter site was decided in the meeting. Subsequently, it was also decided that the mobile phone service must be snapped in the area,” the officer said.
However, snapping phone service is more prevalent in south Kashmir as compared to the north where militancy does not possess too sharp teeth.
“If the encounter prolongs more than the expected time, the mobile services are halted. Otherwise, even if an encounter rages, the phone service continues as usual,” an official from north Kashmir said. “In the last encounter in Kupwara where a militant was killed, the mobile services were not snapped,” he said.
The area-specific snapping of mobile phone and internet services is not usually done following proper procedures. The authorities routinely shut mobile phones including internet services during India’s Independence and Republic day. The services are also snapped when a high-profile Indian leader is on visit to Kashmir.