Only 200 Militants active in Valley now

Srinagar: Sustained counter-terror operations in Kashmir hinterland coupled with strengthening of the Jammu and Kashmir border grid to prevent Pakistan from pushing in militants, has brought down the current number of active militants in J&K to around 200. This, according to J&K DGP Dilbag Singh, is the lowest in past many years, when up to 350-400 militants would be holed up in the Valley at any given time.

Till July 31 this year, 150 militants including 120 local and 30 foreign militants, were neutralised by the security forces. In fact, of the 80 local militants recruited so far this year, 38 have already been eliminated in counter-operations and 22 arrested. The remaining 20 are still active but the forces are on their trail, said the police chief.

Since 2019, the focus of the police and other security forces has been on dismantling the militants’ support infrastructure. Most top Hurriyat leaders were sent to jail, creating a vacuum in separatist leadership; hundreds of overground workers and stone-pelters taken into custody and made to sign bonds of good behaviour before being released; and a massive crackdown on weapon dumps across J&K and arms consignments sent by Pakistan via drones into Samba, Hiranagar in Kathua and Khour or in truck consignments entering from Punjab.

“Apart from creating a shortage of weapons for militants, the seizures have affected local recruitment since the youths are fascinated with the prospect of being armed,” said Singh.

While Militants are being confronted or neutralised in sustained cordon and search operations (CASO) that totalled nearly 5,000 this year, the border grid has been made more robust to restrict militants being pushed by Pakistan. This, Singh noted, has brought down successful infiltration attempts to 26 till July 2020, which is half of the levels in the corresponding period of last year.

Pakistan, said Singh, tries to sustain militancy in the Valley by ensuring that around 300-400 militants are active there at any point of time. If Militant’ numbers start depleting due to fatalities imposed by the security forces, they try to make up by pushing in more foreign militants from across the border. So there has to be a simultaneous neutralisation of active terrorists in the Valley and foiling of fresh infiltration bids duly facilitated by Pakistani forces through ceasefire violations, as per the DGP.

“Ceasefire violations by Pakistani forces grew by 75% from 267 till July 2019 to 487 in corresponding period of 2020. Our forces managed to reduce infiltration by half despite the 75% rise in attempts facilitated by ceasefire violations by Pakistan. However, we need to sustain this as around 350 militants are waiting at launch pads across the border, to sneak into J&K,” said Singh.

While the future strategy would continue to focus on “clean” intelligence-based counter-terror operations with minimum collateral damage, dismantling terrorists’ support network and squeezing terror funding, a Kashmir expert said emphasis must also be laid on tackling radicalisation including self-radicalisation among Kashmiri youths; stepping up youth engagement through sports promotion, skill development and increasing their employability; and bridging the development-aspirational gap. (TOI)