What's the GAIN?

  • Shabir Ibn Yusuf
  • Publish Date: Jan 8 2018 1:50AM
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  • Updated Date: Jan 8 2018 1:50AM
What's the GAIN?

Takeaway: Killing of militants won’t wipe out militancy as long as political factors underpinning it remain

 

The year gone by was particularly difficult for militants in Kashmir: as many as 218 were killed, the most since 2010. Of them, according to the police, 120 were foreigners and the rest Kashmiris. At least 73 militants were arrested as well.

Still, 229 militants remain active, 90 of them in South Kashmir, the current hotbed of militancy in the valley. “In Pulwama and Awntipora belt, 48 militants are active,” Deputy Inspector General of Police S P Pani said. “The rest are in Shopian and Kulgam districts.”

At the start of 2017, the police and the army, had put the number of active militants in Kashmir at 282, over half of them foreigners, so, in absolute numbers at least, the militancy has declined. “All of them have suffered,” Pani said, referring to the militants groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Police records obtained by Ink reveal that in South Kashmir in 2017, Hizb had 63 local cadres and one foreigner, the Lashkar had 35 locals and nine foreigners, Jaish had three foreigners, and Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami had a lone armed operative. In North Kashmir, Hizb had 20 locals, Lashkar two locals and 102 foreigners, and Jaish 16 foreigners. Al Badr counted a lone militant.

Most of the 218 militants killed last year fell in encounters in South Kashmir and along the Line of Control. More than 70 militants were killed in anti-infiltration operations along the LoC. The slain included several top commanders such as Lashkar’s Abu Dujana, Hizb’s Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, Jaish’s Khalid as well as, reportedly, the nephews of the organisation›s leader Masood Azhar and operations chief Zakir Ur Rehman Lakhvi.

In the records accessed by Ink, security agencies credit their successes in 2017 to “synergised hard intelligence-based joint Search and Destroy Operations by army, special operations group of police and paramilitary forces”.

The records also reveal that 178 militants tried to cross the LoC into Kashmir last year and 108 succeeded. The army, though, claims that the infiltration declined to a “trickle” in 2017 as compared to previous years. Most of the infiltration attempts happened in Kupwara, Bandipora and Baramulla districts.

As to what the new year holds for the militancy, police and army officers maintain that it won’t be much different. “At least 133 local youth joined the militancy last year and 36 of them have been already killed,” said a senior police officer, adding that the security agencies will keep up the pressure on the militants.

Another key aspect of the counter-insurgency strategy that attracted much attention in the latter part of last year was the security agencies’ outreach to the families of Kashmiri militants, urging them to persuade their children to “surrender and rejoin the mainstream”. The initiative came after Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti asked the security agencies to prioritise arresting local militants rather than killing them, and landed a high-profile sucess when a well-known footballer from South Kashmir returned home a few weeks after joining the militants.

Whether such successes of the security establishment in 2017 would weaken the militancy in the new year remains to be seen.