Almost three weeks after the demonetisation, militants in Kashmir are desperate for new banknotes to pay up their monthly bills, especially those of mobile phones and SIM cards, the police say.
The Lashkar-e-Taiba’s attempt to loot the Malpora branch of J&K Bank in Budgam district of Rs. 14 lakh on November 21 is a case in point. “The fact that the conspiracy was hatched by LeT militant Arif Dar, a Pulwama resident, along with foreign terrorists Abu Ali and Abu Ismail, points to the cash crunch hitting the outfit,” Pulwama Senior Superintendent of Police Muhammad Rayeed Bhat told The Hindu .
Of the Rs. 14 lakh looted, five LeT sympathisers — who were all arrested — succeeded in getting the new notes for Rs. 3 lakh. “An investigation is underway to find out how Rs. 11 lakh in the old banknotes would have been exchanged by the sympathisers,” a senior police officer said in Budgam.
According to a police assessment, the militants active in the Valley spend a lot every month on cellphones and SIM cards. “A militant commander or the head of a module keeps changing cellphones and SIM cards. At least two SIM cards are bought a month. Similarly, a cellphone is procured every month and discarded,” said a police officer involved in counter-insurgency operations in Srinagar. On an average, Rs.10,000 is spent every month on gadgets and internet. For 100 active militants, a group needs Rs. 10 lakh a month, the assessment reckons.
The other major expenses for militants are couriers, fuel charges and overground workers who ferry weapons from the border areas to the mainland and help in their distribution.
According to police records, 150-200 are active in the Kashmir Valley this winter against 100 in the same period last year.
The police reckon that the demonetisation may have affected the LeT’s logistics and striking capabilities.
Meanwhile, the security agencies have failed to identify any account-holder indulging in money-laundering for militants.
“Money-launderers are acting smart. It seems the militant outfits are exploiting the large web of overground workers to buy small properties. They are also laundering money in smaller amounts through a chain of sympathisers and their relatives,” said the counter-insurgency officer.