SRINAGAR: Top police officers in Kashmir are not in agreement on whether any change has occurred on the ground since 13 local militants were killed in south Kashmir on April 1. A top police officer in Srinagar, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Kashmir Reader that there has been no change. He said that local youths continue to join militant ranks and the civilian population continues to rush towards encounter sites to save militants.
The government forces described the April 1 operations (there were three of them carried out simultaneously) as a huge success. Since then, as per the police themselves, more than 16 local youths have joined militant ranks, among them an army man and a policeman.
“Yes, there is no change in the ground situation. The pattern of joining militancy has remained the same,” the top police officer said. “New recruits continue to upload their photo on social media brandishing a gun. There is no drop in numbers.”
The officer said that the problem with intelligence records about militants and their activities is that there is no data base of would-be militants or any mechanism for gathering such information.
“At present we can only say that this many militants are operating, but we cannot say how many are about to join militant ranks. After the killing of the 13 militants, we thought it would be a deterrent, but it was not,” the officer said.
Police records say that 88 youths joined militancy in 2016, when the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani triggered a massive public uprising. The number rose to 127 in 2017, the highest in the past five years. This year, among the new recruits are PhD scholar Mannan Wani from Kupwara and Junaid Ahmed Sehrai, an MBA graduate and the son of Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, the new chairman of Tehreek-i-Hurriyat who took over from Syed Ali Geelani.
Asked how police were looking to tackle the issue of militancy, the police officer said that personnel are being trained in dealing with protesting civilians during an encounter, as well with “usual” public protests. “But what can be done when a father asks his militant son to take a bullet on his chest?” the officer said. “What can be done when a bereaved father (whose militant son has been killed) pays money to the house owner whose house was burnt?”
“But still, we are working, and we will find a way,” he added.
Another police officer looked at it in a different way. He said, “52 militants have been killed this year and only 32 have joined militant ranks. These numbers are not equal. Also, the number of people attending militant funerals has gone down. There is no fierce gun battle now between local militants and security forces. They (militants) are not involved in high-scale attacks,” he said.
“The locals are joining militants because they are under pressure and feel vulnerable when their friends are killed,” he added.
Kashmir Inspector General of Police SP Pani told Kashmir Reader that the police are monitoring the situation closely. He said police are carrying out investigations to identify co-conspirators and the local nodes of militancy.
“The situation is better. Our work is on and it is yielding results,” Pani said.