The past few weeks have witnessed some major strikes by militants in north Kashmir, where four CRPF personnel were killed last week. It was followed by some targeted civilian killings in that area.

Jammu and Kashmir may see more violence in the coming months as the militants have successfully regrouped themselves and there is qualitative shift in their handling and strategy.

The renewed effort on their part is becoming possible with the increasing support of locals.

These impressions are from internal deliberations taking place within various security agencies operating in the State. The past few weeks have witnessed some major strikes by militants in north Kashmir, where four CRPF personnel were killed last week. It was followed by some targeted civilian killings in that area. But it did not stop there and they managed to travel to Srinagar and attacked security personnel in Lal Chowk.

Reports being gathered by various intelligence agencies have painted a grim picture ahead especially when the snow melts in the spring. Defence Minister A.K. Antony also confirmed on Saturday that a large number of militants were waiting across the border. “Even now there are a large number of terrorists waiting along the border to infiltrate into Kashmir. This is a matter of serious concern because Pakistan is not doing anything in this regard,” he told reporters.

His views are corroborated here by the officials who say that infiltration never stopped. Police sources say that there were 389 attempts of infiltration from across the border in 2009. In these attempts, 62 militants were killed and 16 arrested. “So roughly not less than 300 militants might have managed to sneak in even if one deducts the killed and the arrested one,” a top official said, adding that concern on these lines is justified.

Going by the attacks in Sopore and other parts of north Kashmir, the security brass is gearing up to neutralise their offensive. “But the real problem is that they are getting local support,” admits the official. He cited the spontaneous support two militants holed up in Punjab Hotel got when a group of youth shouted “ Mujahido aagey bado hum tumharey saath hein” (militants go ahead we are with you). Similarly, a strike was observed in Sopore on Friday in protest against the killing of one of the militants in the Lal Chowk encounter. The support, one top security official said, was linked to the political problem in Kashmir.

Inspector-General of Police Kashmir zone Farooq Ahmad admitted that militants had made a comeback. “Intercepts also reveal that they have managed to regroup here,” he told The Hindu. About the groups which are active, he said, “mainly it is Lashkar-e-Taiba.”

“We are ready to fight them out only people should cooperate,” he says.

The authorities are now grappling with another challenge -- of fighting the street violence. Lal Chowk is closed for the last four days and business could not resume as shopkeepers are demanding removal of CRPF bunkers. The authorities see the hand of hardline separatist groups in what they call “fuelling a situation like that of 2008.”

A top official told The Hindu that a mainstream political party was “hand in glove” with these “separatist elements” to keep the pot of agitation boiling.

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