A year of demonetisation: Despite Modi govt's claims, militancy and stone-pelting continue unabated in Kashmir

Srinagar: Contrary to claims made by the central government that demonetisation will help curb incidents of militancy, Kashmir has continued to witness deadly attacks while people continue to resort to stone pelting to help militants escape from encounter sites. It is clear that a wide network of over-ground workers (OGWs) and militant sympathisers is intact, due to which they have managed to procure a regular flow of funds.

Even as better security surveillance has ensured that the militants don't openly raise funds through public donations – a practice prevalent in the 1990s – security officials said that the dependence on funding from sympathisers and OGWs in Kashmir continues.

Demonetisation impact in Kashmir. Representational image. AP

Representational image. AP

According to officials, there has been no check on the number of youths who have joined militant ranks and demonetisation has not been able to curb the incidents of militancy in the Valley. As per records of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and Jammu and Kashmir police, in 2013, as many as 53 security force personnel and 67 militants were killed. In 2014, it was 47 and 110 respectively, while in 2015, the number was 39 and 108. In 2016 the number remained as high as 82 and 150.

This year, while 160 militants have been killed so far, the number of security personnel killed is around 40. Director general of police SP Vaid said that of the 40 security personnel killed since January, 24 are police personnel.

According to security officials, militants had faced a shortage of cash for some time after demonetisation, due to which they turned to bank robberies, but their primary source of funding was from local businessmen. Police earlier disclosed that the militants of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Hizbul Mujahideen were behind the incidents of bank robberies.

On 10 September, the government forces killed two Hizbul militants in Barbugh area of Shopian while a third militant had surrendered.  Among the slain militants, Tariq Ahmad Bhat was involved in an incident of a bank robbery which had taken place at Turqwangam area of Shopian on 16 February this year, said a top police official.

Four masked gunmen had looted Rs three lakh from a bank. Senior police officials said that the south Kashmir areas of  Shopian, Kulgam and Pulwama have seen increasing number of bank robberies. In Shopian district, officials said, at least six incidents of bank robberies have been reported while as in Kulgam as well half a dozen such cases took place.

But police officials said that the militants depend largely on OGWs for both arms and money. Days after forces killed Tariq in south Kashmir, on 24 September, they arrested two youths working as OGWs for Hizbul. Identified as Waheed Ahmad Bhat and Mohammad Shafi Mir, they were found to be working for Hizbul's divisional commander, Pervaiz Ahmad Wani, who was killed in September in the Sopore town of Kashmir.

The police also recovered hand grenades and other ammunition from them. "The OGWs are not only used for ferrying weapons, they also help the militants hide in some houses and arrange money for them," a senior police official said.

In the last one year, after the killing of Hizbul militant commander Burhan Muzafar Wani, public support for militants has only increased which has helped them grow their network of sympathisers, officials said.

"The militants are short of money, but nevertheless they depend on their sympathisers for funds. Demonetisation is one factor which partly created a cash shortage for them, but the killing of top militants is actually responsible for drying up of cash. Financial dealings are done by the militant commander... we killed many commanders due to which the rank and file is facing a shortage of money," superintendent of police, Shopian, AS Dinkar said.

Former chief commander of Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Javed Ahmad Mir, said that the "freedom movement in Kashmir has been running on public support". He said that when militancy started in 1989, the "ongoing resistance movement was supported by the people by giving cash".

Mir, who had become a part of the separatist movement in 1979, by remaining associated with the Students League, said that the public support for militancy has not dwindled and they depend on the "money from their sympathisers" to carry on with their activities.

"Home Minister Rajnath Singh is wrong when he says that militancy incidents have declined in Kashmir after demonetisation. The arm-twisting policies will have no impact on Kashmir. The armed movement has been continuing for several decades and there is no impact," he said.

Mir remained active as a JKLF militant for five years since 1989, seeking independence from Indian rule before the Liberation Front declared a ceasefire. "JKLF has a record of receiving money from people... because we were seeking independence," he said.

Former Hizbul commander Zafar Akbar Bhat, who was part of the group lead by slain militant commander Abdul Majeed Dar, which had declared a ceasefire with the Indian government in 2000, said: "It was due to the public support that the ongoing movement is still continuing. The support for Mujahids has always been there."

Bhat was an active militant of Hizbul, which has been seeking a merger of the state with Pakistan, for over 22 years and was one of the only few commanders who remained associated with militancy since its start in 1989.

Read: Kashmir's economy still in doldrums; security at banks, ATMs remains a concern


Updated Date: Nov 03, 2017 11:38 AM

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