No concession for non-local militants; Efforts to be made to persuade Kashmiri militants to surrender
Srinagar: The police intend to achieve “Terrorism-Free J&K” in 2017. Persuading Kashmiri militants to give up arms—there is no such concession for non-Kashmiri militants—is part of the strategy to achieve the goal. But given the history of the armed insurgency in Kashmir, it appears that people might have to brace for a year of funerals if the policy is implemented full throttle.
Director general of police SP Vaid told Kashmir Reader that a recent spurt in the number of Kashmiri youths joining militancy has prompted the police to aim for the “theme” of “Terrorism-Free J&K”.
The theme is one of the ‘Ten Commandments’, goals, the police have set for themselves this year.
Iconic Hizb commander Burhan Wani’s killing in July last year, which triggered a five-month-long uprising, is believed to have inspired 59 Kashmiri youths to join militant ranks.
In the run up to the uprising, the valley had been seething with resentment as people shouldered coffins of dozens of local and non-Kashmiri militants. Also, the phenomenon of local people marching towards the sites of gunfights in a bid to help militants escape had become a worrisome aspect for government forces as several civilians had been shot dead by army and police in these protests.
Probably keeping in view such popular support for militants, and probably to calm the seething population following a brutal crackdown, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had in October last year asked the police to win the local militants over to giving up arms rather than killing them.
After her appeal the security establishment devised a strategy to wean away local militants from arms.
“So far seven militants were brought back to the mainstream by convincing them through their families. We are in touch with the families of other local militants,” Vaid said.
A top counterinsurgency police officer said the forces provide local militants a chance to surrender during a faceoff or a cordon-and-search operation.
“We bring family members of militants to the site of the operation so that they can persuade their kids to surrender. If a militant has taken refuge in a house we ask the house owner to give him mobile phone so that he can talk to his family members and might surrender,” he said.
So far, in only one such case have the police succeeded. A Kashmiri Lashkar-e-Toiba militant, cornered in a house by government forces in Sopore in November last year, was persuaded by his mother’s impassioned appeals to surrender.
“Despite using these humane methods, it is a challenging job to make them surrender because they are highly motivated,” the officer said.
Not only families but “people who are in touch with militants” are also roped in the task. The toughest job, the officer said, is convincing the militant of a good life after he gives up arms. The process might take months, with hardly a prospect of success.
A fresh recruit into militancy in Pulwama, who had been “counselled” into giving up the gun, had again joined a militant outfit, the officer said.
In 2015, the family of a militant trapped in his own home, in Tral, had assured decorated army officer Colonel MN Roy that he would surrender.
But within minutes, the militant, Abid Khan, and his companion Sheeraz, rushed out of the house and killed Roy before being shot dead.
“So there is no guarantee. There is religious and political motivation for a militant. It becomes quite challenging to adopt an alternative narrative and convince a militant,” he added.
The army has tasked “special trainers” with “feeding an alternative narrative” to surrendered militants, like telling them about success stories of Indian Muslims.
Another police officer said in some cases the families of militants have approached the police to assist in the process of persuading their children to surrender.
“We tell those families to inform us as soon as they talk to their children. So accordingly we start keeping a track of them,” another police official said.
“But in nearly all the cases militants don’t relent. Their motivation points to the effectiveness of indoctrination they have received,” he said.