Srinagar: In the first six months of this year, Indian security forces eliminated around 120 jihadists in Kashmir. Two dozen of them were killed in June alone, official data reveals. However, only two have been neutralised since August 5.
What has changed? Officials in the security establishment say restrictions on internet and mobile telephony services in the Valley have emerged as a fresh challenge as the counter-insurgency grid is striving to communicate with sources and keeping track of militant movements has become more difficult.
There have been over six hundred cordon and search operations (CASO) in the hinterland recently, sources say, but only two have been successful. These two encounters took place in north Kashmir: one in old town of Baramulla district and another in Sopore town of the same district.
Internet and mobile phone services in the Valley remain fettered since August 5, the day the Centre withdrew Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and restructured the state into two union territories.
“Most of the encounters in the Valley take place because of human intelligence and surveillance of phones,” a top police source told News18. “As phones are not working, our sources are not able to pass on the information and we are not able to keep surveillance.”
Sightings of jihadists has shot up, say police sources.
“We would not use the term ‘militant sighting’ before August 5. We would consider it input about a militant, which would lead to the launch of operation,” an official said. “Now, we get reports of militant sighting after many days or sometimes even after a week.”
Giving an example, a police officer told News18, “We would get four inputs about a particular militant in a month, but since August 5 we have received over 35 reports of his sighting.”
In Srinagar city alone, police sources said, there have been over 40 sightings of jihadists. “We are getting inputs about militants moving in cars, appearing in villages, praying in mosques, threatening fruit traders, but input reaches too late,” said an official.
Government snapped mobile phone services in the Kashmir valley on the night of August 4. Top officials of the state were given satellite phones for communication. However, BSNL post-paid phones of some police and civil officials were soon restored. The number of these phones, official sources say, is around 7,000.
The government also started restoring landline phone services in a phased manner around mid-August. This, however, is not helping the counter-insurgency grid.
“There is no suspension of anti-militancy operations in Kashmir. Actually no specific information is coming in,” corroborated a top CRPF official.
Since August 5, the infiltration level has also increased. According to police sources, around 60 jihadists have infiltrated into Kashmir valley in the past forty days.
“There were suggestions from some counter-insurgency and Army officials that phones of a few sources should be opened up which will help them conduct the operations,” said a top official of the state. “However, the home ministry will have to take a call on this.”
Army chief General Bipin Rawat also told the media less than a week ago that the terror camp in Pakistan's Balakot bombed by India in February has been “reactivated”. He also revealed that terror camps were active along the Line of Control and about 500 terrorists were waiting to sneak in.
“After the restoration of landline telephones, we were expecting some flow of information from the sources. But till date, there has been no successful input, which could lead to an encounter,” said a police officer.
The security grid, in order to restrict the movement of militants, has added more checkpoints in Srinagar, and other towns. The Army, according to sources, even launches random search operations in areas which have been jihadi hotbeds previously.
“Without phone services being restored,” said a top police official, “the counter-insurgency wing will have a tough time ahead.”