Kashmir witnesses decline in gun battles with government forces focussed on preventing public protests

Kashmir witnesses decline in gun battles with government forces focussed on preventing public protests

Encounters between government forces and militants which had become a daily routine before the revocation of Article 370 have declined in number as the forces remain occupied in preventing public protests against the scrapping of Kashmir’s special status.

There has been a decline in both cordon and search operations as well as encounters between the forces and militants. The militants have however lobbed grenades at several places targeting the forces patrolling the streets, resulting in injuries to several police and paramilitary personnel. Police officials cited the involvement of the forces in “law and order” duties to prevent public protests as a reason for the decline in anti-militancy operations.

They however also added that the lack of communication with informants — due to the snapping of mobile services — has also affected the flow of information about the presence of militants.

The authorities have only recently resumed postpaid mobile services even as both the internet and pre-paid mobile services continue to remain suspended here. The Valley has witnessed a shutdown since the revocation of special status, while scores of youth were also arrested for taking part in pro-Pakistan and anti-India demonstrations/ There are no reports of public demonstrations, but authorities have maintained a heavy deployment of forces on the roads.

The government earlier ran advertisements asking people to lift the shutdown and any protests at the encounter sites are seen to be only a trigger for the deterioration of the situation. Senior police and CRPF officials only commented on the condition of anonymity that the gun battles have declined in numbers. Police officials said that at least three encounters were witnessed between
the forces and the militants since 5 August. They added that the number of gun battles launched was higher in the week prior to the revocation of special status than in the past 96 days.

The revocation of special status now allows non-residents to buy land and property in Kashmir.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kulgam, Gurinder Pal Singh, said that while none of the encounters as launched in the militancy-prone districts of Kashmir since 5 August, cordon and search operations were underway. A senior police official posted in the Pulwama district said that the personnel dealing with anti-militancy operations couldn’t contact informants by phone due to the snapping of mobile services.

A senior police official of the superintendent of police (SP) rank however also added that “the decline in the anti-militancy operations was on account of the fact that the forces were busy in law and order duties”. Across Kashmir, the forces have raised bunkers at several places and remain permanently stationed on roads and public squares.

However while there has been a decline in the anti-militancy operations here, the incidents of grenade attacks by the militants on the forces have increased. In the northern Kashmir area of Sopore last month, five policemen including a sub divisional police officer (SDPO) were injured and a militant died during the grenade explosion. The militant tried to lob the grenade on the forces but it exploded in his hand resulting in the splinter injuries to the policemen, a senior police official said.

He also said that militants recently also lobbed a grenade in the Sopore market which resulted in injuries to at least 20 civilians. A civilian died and 45 people including the personnel from the Sashtra Seema Bal (SSB) were injured when the militants hurled a grenade at Maharaj Gunj market last Monday. A police official said that the militants also hurled a grenade earlier near the Karan Nagar Police Station which resulted in the injuries to at least six members of CRPF personnel.

Police officials said that while the gun battles have declined militants have become active in Srinagar city as well where their presence was far sparser earlier. The movement of militants in the city
has also increased following Article 370 revocation, they added. A police official said that the bike-borne over ground workers (OGWs) of the militants were involved in hurling grenades at some places in Srinagar city.

Following this, he said, the police has intensified the vigil and security has been particularly beefed up across Srinagar city. The security presence has also increased in many towns and district
headquarters. Members of the forces are seen be patrolling roads and frisking people routinely now. At several places however local residents have complained that the forces have thrashed people during the patrols.

In many parts of Kashmir including Pulwama, while people have not witnessed any gun battles after 5 August, they have been woken up by cordon and search operations in the middle of the night.

By: First Post