‘Support system’ for militants growing in south Kashmir: officials

Srinagar: The government’s security establishment believes that since last year, there has been an increase in the civilian support system for militants in areas of south Kashmir, particularly in Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama, officials told Kashmir Reader.

“Although this support base is not directly involved in insurgency or willing to get involved, there is an increase in support from locals which includes providing food or shelter to them,” a security official said.

In north Kashmir, however, militants are finding it difficult to find a foothold, an official in the army pointed out. “We have eliminated most of the members of the group led by Abu Bakr of Lashkar-e-Toiba recently and there are only three people left in that group now, including Muawiah,” an army official told Reader.

“We have a strong humint (human intelligence) in place there which has made the survival of insurgents difficult. The militants also don’t operate in bigger groups there,” the official added.

In the south, the security establishment is facing several challenges, including with the humint.

PRO Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Rajesh Yadav told Reader that one of the concerns is of local youth joining militant ranks. “If a local youth joins a militant group, which has happened significantly in south Kashmir, it affects the security network primarily because it increases ground support for militant activities,” Yadav said.

The ground support among local population, especially in south Kashmir, is evident from the increasing stone-pelting and protests near encounter sites since last year. Locals have even attempted to break down the security cordon in several instances.

According to Yadav, when a local militant is engaged by security forces, there is a possibility, as witnessed, that locals create a law and order disturbace near the encounter site. “This is also a main concern that has emerged since last year,” Yadav confided.

Yadav pointed out that National Highway 1A in south Kashmir, which has witnessed several militant attacks on armed forces’ convoys, acts as an Achilles’ heel from the security point of view. “The highway has become vulnerable and provides easy targets for militant attacks,” he said.

Counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir continued even when the security establishment was occupied with the massive civil unrest that broke out after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s commander Burhan Wani and subsequent civilian killings that lasted for more than five months. Officials say that as many as 80 youth have joined militant ranks since the beginning of 2016, close to 60 since July last year. According to an army official, most of these youth have come from areas of south Kashmir.