Shopian: The harder it is being repressed, the more militancy is rising in Shopian. Relentless military operations, setting up of new army camps, and intimidation of locals has only led to more youth joining militant ranks from this south Kashmir district. As compared to 24 Shopian youths who joined militant ranks last year (2017), 30 youths have already done so during the seven months this year.
Counter-insurgency operations have led to the killing of 28 militants and 24 civilians in Shopian district in the past seven months. Seven new army camps have been set up in different areas of the district following a massive crackdown on 17 villages in Turkwangam area on May 4 last year. In that crackdown, thousands of troops conducted searches in villages, and four such operations were again conducted in about 20 villages in Harman and Hajipora areas. None of these operations proved fruitful for the government’s security agencies. Later in the year, a Srinagar-based top cop described the operations as merely a tactic to make militants change their locations.
A spate of killings in the district began in mid-December 2017, when government forces killed two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants in Batmaran village. The mother of an 8-month-old child was also killed during the operation, in which five residential houses were blasted to the ground.
A month later, two militants were killed in a five-hour-long gunfight at Adoo village. Protests near the gunfight site left two civilians dead in forces’ firing. A Class 4 kid died of injuries sustained from the explosion of a shell that he had picked up from the encounter site in Adoo village.
The army opened fire on January 27 on protesters at Ganowpora, killing three students. The army claimed that their vehicles came under heavy stone-pelting and “a mob tried to lynch a junior commissioned officer”.
In March, four civilians and two militants were killed at Pahnoo village after government forces ambushed a car that they said was ferrying militants. In a press conference, the army declared the four slain civilians as over ground workers (OGWs) of militants.
An uneasy calm prevailed in Shopian for about two months before two fierce gun battles took place at Dragad and Kachdoora villages. In these two operations, 12 militants and four civilians were killed. Two army soldiers also lost their lives. The Kachdoora and Dragad operations were celebrated by the army as revenge for the killing of Lieutenant Umar Fayaz who was abducted by gunmen when he was at his maternal home to attend the marriage of his cousin sister.
After the heavy loss of men suffered in Dragad and Kachdoora, the Hizb leadership met, according to videos and photographs that went viral on social media, at an undisclosed place in south Kashmir. Soon after the meeting, on May 6, government forces killed five important Hizb militants, including commander Saddam Padder and assistant professor at Kashmir University, Dr Muhammad Rafi, who had joined the Hizb just 24 hours before. In firing on protesters near the encounter site, six civilians lost their lives.
In the month of July, two Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants were killed in a seven-hour-long gunfight at Kundalan village which also left a Class 9 student dead. The student sustained a bullet injury during clashes with government forces that left as many as 135 persons wounded, mostly by pellets.
A senior police officer in south Kashmir said that in the past two months, militant recruitment has come down from the high level it achieved in the month of June.
December 18, 2017: Batmaran: 2 militants, 2 civilians killed, 5 houses destroyed.
January 25, 2018: Adoo: Two Hizb militants, three civilians killed.
January 27: Ganowpora: 3 civilians killed in army firing.
March 4: Pahnoo: 2 militants, 4 civilians killed.
April 1: Dragad and Kachdoora: 12 militants, 4 civilians killed, 150 injured.
May 2: Turkwangam: Militants survive gunfight, 1 civilian killed in clashes, 2 houses destroyed.
May 6: Badigam: 5 militants, 6 civilians, killed, 116 injured, one house destroyed.
July 5: Vehil: Policeman abducted and killed.
July 10: Kundalan: 2 militants, 1 civilian killed, 135 injured, 2 houses destroyed.
August 3: Killora: 5 militants, 1 civilian killed, 43 injured.