Srinagar: On Sunday when a fierce gunfight was underway in south Kashmir, youth from the area made a desperate attempt to help the local militants escape. The locals threw stones not only on security personnel laying the cordon but also on the operation teams engaging militants.The tendency of helping out militants which started last year, especially in the four districts of south Kashmir, continues to be “worrisome” for the forces, which have stepped up anti-militancy operations.This year, at least 15 militants, 10 of them locals, have been killed in various gunfights. During most of these operations, local youth in an attempt to show support to the militants threw stones to distract the security forces engaged in the operations and helped militants escape the cordon.“In a few places militants succeeded in escaping, taking advantage of the law and order situation,” an Army officer said. “In Sunday’s encounter in Kulgam, the locals helped three militants flee, even as their four associates were killed.”Director General of Police Shesh Paul Vaid said stone-throwing during encounters was a “difficult situation”. “It is a difficult situation. We have been advising people not to come out of their homes during gunfights and allow the security forces to do their job. There are clear directions to avoid civilian casualties,” Vaid told The Tribune.The forces have been regularly asking people to stay away from encounter sites and in fact restrictions are usually put in place by the District Magistrate of the districts on the movement of people under Section 144, CrPC, around the encounter site, but it does not seem to yield any result.“No one seems to pay heed to the advisory during encounters,” admits a police officer in south Kashmir. “We have a law and order component ready at encounter sites to stop stone-throwers. The stone-throwing is carried out by vested interests who to try to shift the focus of the forces from neutralising the militants.”Earlier this month, when a newly recruited local Lashkar-e-Toiba militant was arrested from a mosque in the volatile Pulwama after he was persuaded to give up arms, forces had to face a tough law and order situation.“Whenever a cordon is laid, announcements are made from mosques, requesting people not to come out,” said CRPF spokesman Rajesh Yadav. The CRPF is engaged in the dual roles of fighting militants as well as handling the law and order situation in Kashmir.Last year two persons, including a college student, were killed in firing by the security forces after a crowd tried to break the security cordon in Pulwama.
Tribune News Service