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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Security forces suspend all CI ops in Kashmir for fear of mob attacks

On 5 occasions since Burhan Wani’s death on July 8, armed militants passed by bunkers in the Valley plains

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz


SRINAGAR, Aug 9: Unprecedented turbulence springing out of the Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death, in an encounter in Kokernag area of Anantnag district on July 8, has upset the counterinsurgency grid to the extent that the security forces have for the first time in the last 26 years suspended all operations in Kashmir valley plains. Even as Army has intercepted the infiltrating militants and neutralised some of them in Nowgam and Machhil sectors on the LoC, while suffering some collateral damage, not a single raid or counterinsurgency operation has been conducted in the plains in the last one month.

Official sources not authorised to speak on record to media revealed to STATE TIMES that the flow of information to security forces and Special Operations Group of the Jammu and Kashmir Police has continued notwithstanding open threats to Police, counterinsurgents and mainstream political activists. However, all the field units have been directed to only maintain vigil over the activities and movement of the militants and avoid conducting any raid or counterinsurgency operation in the populated areas “during the period of turbulence”.

“No reason has been specified, though it is clear enough that the operations have been suspended for fear of mob attacks and civilian casualties”, said a senior official. He pointed out that on over a dozen occasions in 2015-16, people of neighbouring villages had gathered around the site of Army and SOG operations and disrupted or attempted to disrupt them, particularly in South Kashmir. He said that on one occasion, people of Padgampora and neighbouring villages in Pulwama district helped a group of six heavily armed militants to escape from a cordoned area. Besides, Army suffered damages, including death of two Captains, when it was forced to end the operation "quickly" following reports that thousands of people in Pampore villages were planning to storm the EDI complex on February 22 this year.

Even when 8 CRPF soldiers were killed in a fidayeen strike in Pampore on June 25 and forces did not cause any harm to the civilians around, hundreds of residents gathered and celebrated the bloodbath with hooting and slogans. Police and security forces' vehicle were torched on several occasions in the current year.

On certain occasions, sources said, militants hiding in a civilian demonstration opened fire on Police or security forces who observed restraint, fearing civilian casualties. Even in North Kashmir, one of such militants opened fire on SOG Sopore at Batpora, days before Eid-ul-Fitr. However, nobody was injured. “Even today (Aug 9) we spotted three armed militants in a protest demonstration at Lalpora in Lolab area of Kupwara district. We did not strike on them as there was every apprehension of civilian casualties”, said an officer of security forces.

Forces and Police have received reports that earlier this week, at least three armed militants appeared in Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s hometown of Bijbehara and they handed severe physical torture to some residents who had allegedly attended the RSS-BJP get-together on the Kashmir turmoil at Patnitop. The ‘suspects’ were punished publicly at a community park.

Previously, a group of militans, including LeT chief Abu Dujana, attended Burhan Wani’s remembrance ceremonies at Kareemabad, Arwani, Kaimoh and other villages in South Kashmir. Gun salutes were given to slain militants at Tral, Bijbehara and Mattan. Army and Police, according to sources, had full knowledge about the militants’ presence at their hideouts but no operations were carried out to arrest or eliminate the militants.

“Our senior officers have repeatedly flagged this issue to Chief Minister in a series of meetings and requested the State Government to create Police barriers between the population and the security forces in an operation. However, in absence of revision to Standard Operating Procedures, we have been completely handicapped and unable to conduct the operations as per our planning”, said an officer. He insisted that it was primarily the job of the State Police to ensure that the civilian population did not reach close to the forces or the site of an operation.

Frequency of the encounters on LoC indicates alertness of the security forces but it also serves evidence to high levels of infiltration. Officials revealed that in recent times most of the hideouts had been established in the localities and districts believed to be completely free of militancy. They pointed out that Wani and two of his associates had been traced to a militant-free area in Kokernag and killed there in an operation of surgical precision. “LeT supremo Hafiz Sayeed has publicly bragged that the Ameer of his organisation had led Wani’s massive funeral procession in Tral”, he added.

“Militants can currently stay and sleep at their hideouts without any fear as they know that even if someone passed information to the security forces about their presence, there would be no raid or operation”, said another official. He said that a formidable guerrilla group’s printed posters, asking people to enforce social boycott to all pro-India political activists and warning the youths against joining a Police recruitment drive, had surfaced in several areas of Anantnag district on Monday.

According to the reports available with security forces, Police officials have been directed in the posters to resign and stay away from the counterinsurgent activities of their organisation. Besides, all the Deputy Commissioners have been “directed” by three separatist leaders to avoid putting any pressure on the government employees for their punctuality or regular attendance in offices.


[Published in today’s STATE TIMES]

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