No let up in civilian killings in Kashmir even after increasing military footprint; Action shifted to Srinagar

Last month, 11 civilians including five members from minority community, were killed in a string of attacks in the Valley

Representative image
Representative image

Gulzar Bhat

In less than 24 hours, two persons including a policeman were shot dead in targeted killings by militants in Srinagar city.

On Sunday evening, a Jammu and Kashmir police official Tawseef Ahmad Wani was killed in Batmaloo locality . Barely 24 hours later, the social media was flooded with the news of the killing of Mohammad Ibrahim Khan.

Khan, a salesman from Ashtangoo village in North Kashmir's Bandipora district was shot in Bohri Kadal area of the city.

Last month, 11 civilians including five members from minority community, were killed in a string of attacks in the Valley.

At least eleven soldiers were also killed in the Poonch and Rajouri districts in long-drawn-out anti-militancy operation.

Following the last month's targeted killings, which shook the entire Valley, hundreds of migrant labourers and a few members of Kashmiri Pandit community fled the Valley in a tearing hurry.

The killings which mostly took place in Srinagar suggest that the action has now been shifted to Srinagar and it's adjoining areas from the powder keg south Kashmir.

The four districts of southern Kashmir-- Pulwama, Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag-- had emerged as epicentre of militancy following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who re-animated militancy in the Valley.

The militant organisations active in the Valley drew its cadre largely from these four districts. Most of the top militant commanders killed in the recent past also belonged to south Kashmir and were largely operating out of the area.

This year, however, Srinagar city witnessed an abrupt uptick in violence, blindsiding the security agencies and political observers alike.

"Over last many years Srinagar city was comparatively calm. There were less number of militancy related incidents and civilian killings, but this year the graph of violence has abruptly shot up", said a Valley based political observer, on condition of annonymity.

It seems that the militants have changed their tactic and base, he added.

The fragile security situation of the Valley prompted Home Minister Amit Shah to visit the Valley last month to review the situation.

Soon after Shah's visit, new bunker and additional security forces began dotting the cityscape in a bid to stem the violence.

Sources said that additional companies of CRPF and BSF are being moved in the city. The troops have already taken over two marriage halls one in Shatrashahi and another Ellahi Bagh locality of the city. The forces, however, vacated from the densely packed Shatrashahi locality after the move drew flake from the political leaders and local residents.

Media reports in the Valley suggest that 11 CRPF companies and 19 BSF companies would be deployed in Srinagar while additional companies are to be stationed in Pulwama, Shopian, Ganderbal and Anantnag districts.

The amassing of troops in different localities of the city has begun unsettling the denizens.

"The heavy military presence scares me. Every time I find myself ring-fenced by the troops. Since the third week of October, I have been patted down by forces at least five times", said Javed Ahmad, a resident of Ram Bagh.

Javed added that it feels like the troubled 90s.

The Jammu and Kashmir government last month gave approval for the transfer of 524 Kanal and 11 marla of land in favour of CRPF for establishing proper camps in Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian districts.

Despite constantly expanding military footprints in the Valley, there hardly seems any let up in the militant related violence.

Over thirty civilians including political activists were killed this year.

Even reading down the special constitutional provisions of Jammu and Kashmir, which Modi led BJP government believed was the root cause of all problems in the Valley, could not prevent the violence in the region.

"The use of hard power and intransigent approach by New Delhi could not yield any result. New Delhi must walk back it's August 5, 2019 decision and restore the political process immediately before the things spiral out of control", said a senior political leader, who did not wish to be named.

He added that militaristic means would only worsen the things.

(Gulzar Bhat is a Srinagar based journalist. He tweets @Gulzarbhatt).

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