13 militants killed in Kashmir this week, but has it put brakes on violence in Valley? Forces say no

Shopian: Since the beginning of this year, almost every week a militant was killed by the security forces in the Kashmir Valley. This week, 13 militants were killed in three counter-insurgency operations. In the week before, seven militants were neutralised by forces. However, have these encounters put a brake on the turmoil in the Valley or have they helped in stopping youths from joining militant groups? The Indian Army and the police involved in these operations say no.

The Kashmir police, after the massive operation this week, said it was a “special day” for them, and that the process will help bring peace in the Valley. But on the ground, their own officers claim that those militants who surrender, compared to those being killed in these encounters, have a larger impact on stopping the inflow of new recruits into militant ranks.

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Representational image. AP

At least 30 youngsters in Kashmir have joined militant groups in the first three months of 2018, top police sources told Firstpost. Last year, around 124 youths had joined insurgent groups. In 2017, as many as 213 militants were killed in massive counter-insurgency operations. The exercise was termed 'Operation All Out' by security forces. According to sources, there are at least 250 militants currently active in the Valley, foreign as well as locals.

Shopian, a southern district of Kashmir, witnessed encounter of close to 16 militants in the last three months. Around 20 local militants of Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba are active in the district, the police said. There is no information available on how many foreign militants are seeking refuge in the district. Kashmir has become a fertile ground for new recruits.

"Even if we kill them all, I wonder if that will bring peace," senior superintendent of police in Shopian Sriram Dinkar told Firstpost. "The approach has to be multi-pronged to counter new boys from joining the outfits. That includes providing jobs, creating awareness on private sector employment and, most importantly, a fresh narrative." Dinkar said that the role of civil society, parents and educational institutions is very important because the government can’t entirely be blamed for the ongoing crises.

For a few months now, whenever a local militant falls into an encounter trap, the Jammu and Kashmir police tries to motivate them to surrender. This was started in Sopore in November 2016 by Harmeet Singh Mehta, a police officer of the SP-rank, when he brought the father of a militant, Umar Khaliq Mir, to the house where he was surrounded by security forces, and after five hours the Mir's father motivated his son to surrender. "It was miracle but you need to have patience," Singh told Firstpost.

However, every case does not always get a happy ending. Last Saturday, when police chief of Anantnag Altaf Khan, a seasoned counter-insurgency cop, got the parents of a 22-year-old militant holed up in a safehouse. "It was heartbreaking to see their faces when they failed to get their son to surrender," Khan said.

Senior police officers on the ground in south Kashmir claim that rabble rousing and emotional speeches at the funeral of a militant becomes a take off point for fresh recruits. The process, however, which leads young boys to join these groups, remains a mystery.

Few kilometers from Shopian, in the neighboring district of Pulwama, the police said that more than 25 local militants of Hizbul, LeT and Jaish-e-Mohammad are active. Muhammad Aslam, SSP of Pulwama district, said about six Pakistani militants are active in the region and their biggest support are the local boys. We are not just fighting militants, but their ideologies too. An ideologically-motivated and grounded person is more dangerous than the one who is holding a gun in his hands," Aslam said.

Top police officers in the state’s security grid have been arguing that alone killings is not the answer to stop the turmoil in Kashmir and it will not prevent others from joining militancy. A popular slogan that reverberates during anti-India and pro-freedom protests in Kashmir these days is: 'Tum kitne Burhan maaro gay, har ghar se Burhan niklega' (How many Burhans will you kill, every house will give birth to a new Burhan).

News of every encounter in the Valley spreads like wildfire through the region with young boys running towards the encounter sites  — some on their motorbikes, some in cars, while others just walk dozens of kilometers to catch a glimpse of the action. They fight pitched battle with forces, after the gunfight is over, and once the forces retreat, the youths take over. They get their cell phones out and start taking pictures of destruction left behind. These pictures soon find themselves on Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media sites raising questions.

At the funeral of Zubair Ahmad Turay, a militant from Shopian which was led by his father, Turay's childhood friend offered funeral prayers, stood in front of the crowd, donned a combat dress, exhibited his gun publicly, and joined the militants.

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Updated Date: Apr 04, 2018 13:50:19 IST

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