The killing and resulting turbulence proved a huge catalyst for the Hizb to attract local youths.
Srinagar: The security forces combating a nearly three-decade-old militancy in Jammu and Kashmir have been asked to take an aggressive stand to prevent people from joining militant groups.
Also, a tough campaign has been launched against alleged overground workers of militant outfits and locals who often turn up in large numbers near encounter sites during cordon-and-search operations and make conscious attempts to help militants break the security forces’ dragnet and escape.
Officials admit scores of Kashmiri youth have joined Hizb-ul-Mujahedin and Lashkar-e-Taiba groups after the killing of popular Hizb commander Burhan Wani by security forces a year ago.
The killing and resulting turbulence proved a huge catalyst for the Hizb to attract local youths. Over the past one year, the outfit is recruiting heavily in the Valley, particularly in southern districts of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian.
This set off alarm bells in the corridors of power in Srinagar and New Delhi. However, about two dozen militants were killed in stepped up military campaign during the past two months. Also, security forces have come down heavily on locals accused of supporting or shielding militants.
Acknowledging the ‘trend’, a senior Army commander said recently “Everyone is worried, be it the central government, the state government, the security forces or Army”. He added, “There are no easy answers that we will do this or that which will stop it.”
Also the security forces including Army have come down heavily on residents accused of supporting or shielding militants. During a series of cordon-and-search operations launched mainly in southern parts of the Valley during past couple of weeks, the security forces torched or blew up several residential houses being used as hideouts by militants or where from they came under militant fire during these operations. Also in past one year as many 21 civilians including two women were shot dead during protests held around the encounter sites. However, the authorities say that some of the civilian deaths took place in crossfire between militants and security forces.
The latest incident in which five residential houses were destroyed during an encounter took place in Bamnoo area of Pulwama earlier this week. Three militants had died a fire fight spread over two days in the village.
The authorities including Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley, have in the past while asking the security forces to go tough against militants also instructed them to avoid collateral damage during counterinsurgency operations and “ensure safety of the innocent people while dealing firmly with the inimical elements” and step up people-friendly initiatives under its Sadhbhavana (goodwill) campaign.
However, the extent of damage caused to properties during the recent encounters with militants proves otherwise. Rajesh Yadav, the spokesman of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) which is in the forefront of the tough campaign launched against militants and separatists said that the security forces even now take “utmost care” and show “maximum possible restraint” during the armed clashes with the militants to avoid collateral damage. An Army official who spoke on the condition of anonymity added, “When a cordon and search operation is launched militants do take positions in more than one residential house and keep firing their automatic weapons and hurling grenades at the security forces. In order to minimize casualties among the security forces, we go in for tough measures.”
Many people have, however, complained that the security forces have let lose a reign of terror in south Kashmir villages. “They break-in the residential houses in the dead of night, abuse and even beat up inmates and damage properties,” said a villager of Pulwama.