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Tral attack may augur escalation in violence in Kashmir, as militancy continues to rise after Burhan Wani's killing

The attack on the motorcade of Jammu and Kashmir’s Public Works Minister Naeem Akhtar on Thursday is one more indication that a horrifically lethal militancy lies ahead. Although the forces have had laudable successes over the past couple of months, worse lies ahead.

The attack caused a repeat of a terrible trend of the period after 1989: people in the area complained the security forces accompanying the minister had fired indiscriminately after a grenade hit the minister’s motorcade. The grenade was apparently fired from a gun. If so, the assailant would have been some distance away from the motorcade.

The sobering fact is that a large number of local and foreign militants lurk in various parts of the Valley. Their spread is amazing—apparently including Kupwara, Keran, Lolab, Bandipora, Hajin, Langate, Rafiabad, Beerwah, and various other parts of north, central and south Kashmir.

The army and the police in south Kashmir have killed several prominent militants in the recent past. Plus, two or three score new local militants have been persuaded to return to their homes. The forces’ morale and intelligence in south Kashmir too appears to have improved substantially over the past few months.

 Tral attack may augur escalation in violence in Kashmir, as militancy continues to rise after Burhan Wanis killing

Representational image. PTI

While the forces can justifiably take pride in all this, there is no getting away from the fact that more local and foreign militants are now in the field than before. For every new militant that returns home, others take to the field, and are joined by Pakistani and other infiltrators.

Tral seclusion broken

Tral, where Akhtar’s motorcade was attacked, has been largely left alone by both sides since April 2016, when the army brutally killed Khalid, militant commander Burhan Wani’s elder brother, in the area. There have been militants there, but have remained careful about not undertaking operations in the area.

The most intense areas of operations have included other parts of the sprawling Pulwama district, such as Newa and Kakapora. It is relatively easy to hide around Tral, which is in the mountains to the east of the Valley.

Foreign militants are said to have recently settled into the mountains on the other side of south Kashmir—in Shopian district on the west. There are also said to be militants in the dry and rocky Wachi belt between Shopian and Kulgam.

Fear runs deep in those areas now. Over the past few weeks, people have taken to getting home before dusk and staying indoors thereafter. As in the 1990s, there are constant phone calls to check on those who are out even during the day.

Gradual escalation

That Thursday’s attack was on the first day of Moharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, could signify heightened militancy over the next year. Militancy traditionally reduces during winter but this is still just the beginning of autumn—and next spring could augur a hot summer.

The current militancy has been building since 2009, about three years after the militancy which began in 1988 ended. Many of the young people who were brutalized by the police in the months after the `stone-pelting’ uprising in 2010, took up arms. These included Burhan, who took to the gun in October 2010, aged about 15.

Militants became widely popular in south Kashmir in 2015, when militancy converged with street protests. For a couple of years, people from neighbouring areas emerged with stones, slogans and demonstrations to try and help militants caught in an encouter to escape.

The killing of the iconically popular Burhan, on 8 July 2016 gave a huge fillip to both street demonstrations and to the recruitment of new militants in south Kashmir.

A stream of foreign infiltrators too has come across the Shamsabari range from that time. Many of these Pakistani and other foreigners are lurking in areas of north Kashmir.

The army has increased its counterinsurgency grid, mainly in south Kashmir. Only over the past couple of weeks have the forces taken on the foreigners in north Kashmir in a couple of encounters. Far more violence could lie ahead.

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Updated Date: Sep 21, 2017 16:33:45 IST

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