The security officials are worried about growing public support for militancy in Kashmir as not only has a strong Over Ground Workers (OGWs) network ensured increase in successful "infiltration" attempts from across the border, during repeated cross-border skirmishes, but also people have openly come out to help the militants by protesting to foil counter-insurgency operations.
The government statistics of the successful infiltration attempts from across the border and participation of the people in the protests after the killing of militants has corroborated the police findings on the growing public support for the militancy.
As per government figures, in last 10 months, the number of infiltration attempts from across the border was 105 from which 30 were foiled and 75 militants managed to sneak into this side. Against this in the year 2014, while 222 infiltration attempts were being made only 65 militants had managed to sneak in. In 2015, out of the 121 infiltration attempts that were made, 41 were foiled and 33 militants managed to cross over to this side.
Senior Superintendent of police, Kupwara, Shamsheer Hussain, said that once militants manage to infiltrate to this side, "they reach the different places in Kashmir through local support.’’
Another senior police official said, "The technology and the support of locals have given a big boost to the militancy. The local support has only grown and militants are also making use of maps and GPS devices to reach different places after they infiltrate from across the border. The OGWs receive the militants at the LoC and even help them identify the targets."
Police sources said that in a number of encounters, people have tried to foil the anti-militancy operations by taking out protests and have also expressed their ire by damaging the public property after the militant killings. A senior police official said that they were worried about the overt support that the militants are receiving, particularly in the south Kashmir areas of Pulwama, Anantnag, and Kulgam, which has seen the highest number of casualties in the over four-month-long 'pro-freedom' unrest.
"When militancy had started in Kashmir, boys remained mostly underground but militants have shown up in public too and defiant people are breaking the security cordon to help the militants escape from an encounter site," said a senior police officer. Officials said that a worrying trend was that the police advisory that the people shouldn’t assemble around the encounter sites was not being followed.
Sources said that in January this year, a civilian was killed at Nain in Batpora area of Pulwama during clashes between the police and villagers, who were protesting over the death of a militant in an encounter. A police vehicle was also set ablaze by the protesting people who had assembled around the encounter site to foil the operation by the forces against the militants.
Also, following the death of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant, Naseer Ahmad Pandit, in an encounter with the forces in Shopian area of south Kashmir in April this year, officials said, the local people had taken to the streets and they had burnt a police vehicle in Pulwama. Pandit had joined the militancy in 2015 after fleeing with the weapons while he was on the guard duty of the Roads and Buildings Minister, Syed Altaf Ahmad Bukhari. He was killed along with another militant Waseem Malla in the encounter at Shopian, following which massive protests were witnessed in south Kashmir.
Similarly, the killing of another HM militant commander, Burhan Muzafar Wani, on 8 July, which triggered the unrest, after angry people of the Tral – hometown of the slain militant commander – hit the streets and even set on fire a court building in the township. Thousands of people attended the in-absentia funeral prayers of the militant commander in a number of areas of south Kashmir, including at Damhal Hanjipora, where angry protestors even set ablaze a police station after a girl was killed in the firing of the forces.
Special DG CRPF, SN Srivastava, said that the year was a big challenge in view of the participation of people in public protests and in tackling of the anti-militancy operations. Before the current unrest began in the Valley, CRPF faced a biggest militant attack in which a number of its personnel lost lives and many others were injured.
As per a Ministry of Home Affairs report, on 25 June, after completion of the "annual range classification firing at Lethpora, which is around 23 km from Srinagar, a convoy of 161 Bn of CRPF consisting of 4 vehicles carrying 74 personnel while returning towards their unit in Sriagar was attacked by militants in Pampore town. Two militants armed with AK-47 Rifles appeared all of a sudden and opened indiscriminate fire in which 8 CRPF personnel died 27 were injured."