India: Security Forces in Kashmir Ratchet Up Crackdown on Rebels

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2016-06-08
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160608-BD-kashmir-militancy-620.jpg Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti lays a wreath on the coffin of a Border Security Force soldier killed when militants ambushed his vehicle, June 4, 2016.
AFP

Security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Wednesday intensified their crackdown on banned separatist faction Hizbul Mujahideen, by hunting two suspected members of the group that has claimed a string of deadly attacks on Indian personnel.

“We have intensified searches in the district to track down the militants responsible for latest attacks. I hope there will be a breakthrough soon,” K.K Sharma, deputy inspector general of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), told BenarNews.

The two suspects are believed to be hiding in Anantnag, a southern district in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and are accused of killing two policemen on Saturday, police said.

The decision to clamp down on Hizbul Mujahideen came during a meeting on Tuesday of senior security officials in the district, which is gearing up for elections on June 22. The security officials are determined to control the situation after a series of recent attacks on Indian government forces.

Saturday’s killings came a day after three Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers were killed and eight others injured in an attack on a convoy in Anantnag. Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for both attacks.

“Militants are desperate to show their presence and they often choose public places to target security men and escape. The government forces are committed to fighting militancy and restoring peace in Kashmir in all situations,” Sharma said.

‘Action will be taken against them’

On Monday, seven security personnel were wounded in a separate attack by suspected militants in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

Jammu and Kashmir police that day issued a public notice and released pictures of two suspected militants involved in Saturday’s attacks, asking people to assist in their capture. Police identified the duo as Junaid Ahmad Matoo, 30, and Ali Mohammad, 28, both residents of Anantnag.

On Tuesday, Burhan Wani, the 23-year-old chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, posted a new video on the Internet in which he warned police to stay inside stations and not compel his group to launch attacks.

“Last year, I asked policemen not to act against separatists, but they ignored my message. Now, action will be taken against them without any further warnings,” said Wani, who was dressed in a white shirt and carried guns on both shoulders during the six-minute video message.

Wani, who has a bounty of 1 million rupees (U.S. $ 14,992) on his head, said his group was against a proposed government plan to set up separate townships for members of the Pandits, the Hindu minority in the Muslim-majority state.

‘Revival of militancy’

Since the late 1980s more than 70,000 people have been killed in a separatist insurgency in Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Although security officials denied that militants had returned to the region, experts said that frustration among Kashmiri youths and political uncertainty was contributing to a “visible revival of militancy in Kashmir.”

“We cannot call it a revival of militancy. In insurgency, phases of increased militant attacks and a slowdown do occur,” CRPF’s Sharma said.

Noor Mohammad Baba, a Srinagar-based political observer, said security agencies could fight militants with force but not fight the mindset that creates militancy.

“The government should make concerted efforts to address a sense of growing alienation among youths and restore hope among them. A meaningful peace process should be initiated with all stakeholders to gradually end the political uncertainty,” Baba told BenarNews.

“What makes the things worse is there are not many economic opportunities for youths in Kashmir. A very small number of educated youths can afford to go abroad for jobs, but most of them are forced to stay idle due to growing joblessness and hence turn to militancy purely out of frustration,” he added.

‘Not working for HM’

Relatives of three men arrested by police from north Kashmir’s Sopore town last week for their alleged role in recruiting local youths for Hizbul Mujahideen on Wednesday claimed they were being falsely implicated.

Police denied the claims and said the trio was “trying to revive the terror activities of the group,” particularly in north Kashmir.

Mohammad Shafi Bhat, 40, Liyaqat Ahmad Lone, 37, both Sopore town residents, and Tariq Ahmad Najar, 31, of Handwara, were arrested last week in separate police raids.

“My brother was arrested while he was sowing paddy saplings in the field. He is a law-abiding citizen and I wonder why police leveled false charges against him,” Bhat’s brother, Abdul Rahim, 47, told BenarNews.

“His arrest on such a serious charge has shocked us. I appeal to the police to thoroughly investigate the matter and release him,” he added.

Harmeet Singh, Sopore police superintendent refuted the claim.

“They were tasked to motivate and recruit local youths for the group so it could expand its base,” he told BenarNews.

“These arrests are a major setback to Hizbul Mujahideen, which is desperately making efforts to engage more youths into terror activities and disrupt peace in the region.”

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