The spurt in militant attacks has set alarm bells ringing within the security establishment, indicating the revival of the militancy in the Valley and underlining the need for a political initiative rather than looking at the K-problem from security prism



         On June 25, two Lashkar-e- Toiba (LeT) militants ambushed a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy along the Srinagar-Jammu highway killing eight security personnel before they were shot dead in the retaliatory firing by the forces. This was the highest single-incident casualty of security forces in three years in Jammu and Kashmir wherein the militants fired indiscriminately at a 52-seater CRPF bus near Pampore, which was returning from the Pulwama firing range. Claiming responsibility for the attack, the LeT said it was carried out by the “fidayeen squad” and warned of more attacks in future.

         The attack came a month after more than a month after unidentified militants struck twice in the in the summer capital of Srinagar, killing three policemen. While in the first Srinagar attack, unidentified militants shot dead two policemen – an assistant sub-inspector Nazeer Ahmad and constable Bashir Ahmad – who were caught offguard outside the Zadibal police station. The second attack was carried by the militants near Tengpora on the outskirts of Srinagar, killing another policeman, Muhammad Sadiq before fleeing the spot with his service rifle. The spurt in the militant attacks have set alarm bells ringing within the security grid, indicating the revival of the militancy from south of Kashmir to the summer capital of the Srinagar which has remained relatively calm in the past three years. Last time it was in June 2013 when the militants had carried out an attack in Srinagar, killing two policemen. But in the recent times not only the south Kashmir, which has emerged as the centre of new age militancy in the Valley, but the summer capital as well has been in the news for the attacks.

       Since April this year, militants have carried a series of attacks on the security forces, killing six police personnel and 11 troopers – three BSF men and eight CRPF personnel. “The militants of the special squad killed three policemen of the special operation group of J&K police and also managed to snatch a rifle from the cops,” the Hizb spokesman had said, soon after Srinagar attacks. The police have however been terming the attacks a desperate bid by militants to make their presence felt in Kashmir. “It is an act of desperation from militants. The militants who infiltrated recently have been wiped out and security forces have been achieving very good success,” DGP Rajendra told reporters after the Srinagar attack. But the statistics suggest the militancy is slowly making a comeback in the Valley. What has been worry for the security agencies is that people mostly young people have been coming out of their houses to try and break cordons to ensure safe passage for the militants trapped in the houses. Also, the presence of the large number of people in the militants’ funerals has been adding to the concern within the security grid as well as the Government.

         For the first time in past more than two decades, on February 18, Jammu and Kashmir Police issued an advisory asking people to stay away from scenes of gunfights involving the police. “People need not venture out as any stray bullet can hit and cause damage. The residents are also requested not to come out of their houses or peep out of the windowpanes,” a police spokesman said. “The elders, chowkidars and village headmen are requested to advise people to stay away from encounter sites.” The statement came days after two young students were killed by stray bullets in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14, during a shootout between militants and Indian security forces.

While the situation in the Valley has forced the security agencies to rethink their antimilitancy strategy, it has once again underlined the need for a political initiative, rather than looking at the Kashmir problem from the security prism.

          A senior police official admitted that security agencies were facing a “difficult situation” in Kashmir which was not the case in the past. “People would run for their lives from the encounter sites but now locals mostly youth march towards the sites of the encounter to help the militants flee,” said the police official. “This is worrying.” The last two years have seen total change in the complexion of militancy in Kashmir with the 21-year old Burhan Wani, the top militant commander from Tral in Pulwama emerging as the face of the new age militancy in Kashmir.

        An icon for many, Buran, who carries a bounty, took to the social media to urge Kashmiri youth though his video messages to join the militancy. Since then an increasing number of educated youth from well-off families have left the comforts of life to walk with Burhan. While around30 youth had joined militant in 2013, the number grew to more than 50 in 2014, over 60 in 2015 and at least 15 young boys have chosen to enter the militant ranks in the first four months of this year. Even the Army’s top commander and chief of Northern Command, Lt Gen DS Hooda expressed concern about dealing with the “situation” in Kashmir while admitting that the forces may be “losing the battle for the heart and minds” in Kashmir. “Army was not comfortable doing anti militancy operations as the crowds favouring the militants had become a huge problem. It’s a big problem, a challenge for us to conduct anti-militant operations now,” said Lt. General Hooda.

        The General then went on to say what many within security establishment see but refuse to believe. “Frankly speaking, I’m not comfortable anymore conducting operations if large crowds are around,” Hooda told AFP. “Militarily, there’s not much more to do than we already have done. … We’re losing the battle for a narrative,” Hooda said. “Frankly speaking, I’m not comfortable anymore conducting operations if large crowds are around. Militarily, there’s not much more to do than we already have done. … We’re losing the battle for a narrative.” What could now add to the worries of the security agencies is the latest warning by Burhan of more attacks on armed forces including police. “Since last month, we have carried out many actions in which the Indian Army and the police were a target… The Indian Army is our enemy, but police is forcing us to act against them… We will act against every man in uniform who stands for Indian Constitution,” he said in his six-minute video message that was released on June 7. Burhan also asked youth “who want to join them”, to keep a record of every policeman and police officer of their locality. “Get complete details about every policeman or police officer of their role towards the society with regards to movement and inform us about them…When the time is ripe, we will induct you,” he said, asking police not to “harass youth or erect check-posts on roads.”

         As the frequency of the militant attacks has grown the Government has felt the heat within and outside the State Assembly which is in the session. Opposition National Conference and Congress have cornered the PDP-BJP government over the killings blaming the “unholy” alliance for the attacks. “The attacks are a direct result of the unholy alliance between PDP and BJP,” Congress’s Nawang Rigzin Jora said in the Assembly on June 14.

         The government however unequivocally condemned the attacks. “The only purpose of such blood-spattered acts of violence is to add to the tragedies and miseries of the people and subvert the Government’s efforts aimed at bringing permanent peace and prosperity to Jammu and Kashmir,” the Chief Minister said in a statement. While the situation in the Valley has forced the security agencies to rethink their anti-militancy strategy, it has once again underlined the need for a political initiative, rather than looking at the Kashmir problem from the security prism. With BJP, which is part of the coalition regime in Jammu and Kashmir, heading the Government at the center, it remains to be seen whether the PDP will succeed to make its ally walk the talk on the Agenda for Alliance that promise to end the political uncertainty in J&K.