Centre changes tack in Kashmir Valley

Forces to focus on arrest of militants, rather than elimination

May 11, 2018 01:19 am | Updated 01:22 am IST - New Delhi

Demonstrators throw stones towards the police during a protest in Srinagar on May 8, 2018.

Demonstrators throw stones towards the police during a protest in Srinagar on May 8, 2018.

The Centre is set to roll out a calibrated policy for Jammu and Kashmir, with security forces asked to “arrest” newly recruited members and go after the hardened militants. The police, the Army and the CRPF are being asked to ensure that militants surrender during encounters.

A senior government official told The Hindu that according to an assessment by the Central agencies, the emotional upsurge at funerals of militants killed in encounters was aiding recruitment by terror outfits.

‘Men spurred to join’

He said there was consensus that the killings and encounters were not yielding the desired results. “Funerals of local militants attract a large number of people; this acts as fodder. There is a correlation between the funerals and men joining terror groups thereafter. Villages are a close-knit society; we have to reduce the number of killings,” said the official.

Notching up a record, 64 terrorists were killed till May 6 this year in various operations — the highest in a decade for the period. In the same period, as many as 42 men had joined the terrorist ranks. For whole of 2017, recruitments to various terror groups stood at 147. There has been a surge in local Kashmiri youth joining terror groups after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8, 2016.

Rafi Bhat issue

The change in approach has been reflected in operations. In the past two weeks, terrorists active since 2011 were killed in operations.

However, there were deliberations in the government if Mohammad Rafi Bhat, an assistant professor at Kashmir University, who was killed in less than 40 hrs after he joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, could have been arrested. Bhat was killed on May 6 along with Hizb commander Saddam Padder, who has been active since September 2014.

“The young militants are barely trained and don’t last more than a couple of hours when cornered by the security forces. It has been decided that efforts will be made to either arrest or convince them to surrender,” said the official.

1999 experience

On Wednesday, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had asked the Centre to consider a “unilateral ceasefire” in view of the coming month of Ramzan and the annual Amarnath Yatra. Ms. Mufti, after a meeting of all regional parties in Srinagar, suggested that the Centre offer the ceasefire as former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee did in [November] 1999.

‘Lasted for 5 months’

A senior Home Ministry official said the non-initiation of combat operations implemented in December 1999, lasted for only five months.

“The operations started again after villagers complained of harassment. The militants who never used to stay at one place for more than few hours, started parking themselves in homes of people for days together. The Army was getting information about the whereabouts of the militants but could not do much due to the suspension of operations,” said the official. Farooq Abdullah was the Chief Minister then.

Expressing caution about Ms. Mufti’s proposal, the Home Ministry official said, “In 1999, the number two person in Hizb — Abdul Majid Dar — agreed to the new arrangement. He ensured no attacks on security forces by the HM cadres. His move riled his counterparts in Pakistan and he was shot dead in 2003. The present movement is faceless and we don’t know if the plan will succeed.”

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