The bloody encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pattan area on Monday (August 17) which resulted in the death of seven people – two personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a soldier of the Indian Army, a Special Police Officer (SPO) of Jammu and Kashmir Police and three armed militants – was just one example of the recent surge in militant activity in the Kashmir Valley and their increased attacks on security personnel. Such incidents, however, contradict the Centre’s claim of reduced militant activity in the valley.
Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh said the slain militants include Sajjad Haider alias Raja, a most wanted commander of the proscribed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in the volatile Pattan area, Usman, a Pakistani national, and Anayatullah Mir, a resident of Pattan.
Early Monday morning, a group of militants attacked a CRPF party in Kreeri in Pattan which resulted in the killing of two CRPF men and an SPO of J&K Police, said a counter-insurgency officer. The entire area was cordoned off in the aftermath of the firing.
“After their initial attack the militants were tracked down in the same area,” the officer said, adding that “in the subsequent gunfight, a soldier of Indian Army lost his life while all three militants were also killed.”
Addressing a press conference at Srinagar’s Police Control Room (PCR), DGP Singh said Sajjad Haider was the “most wanted LeT commander who was active in the area for a long time.” According to Singh, “Sajad Haider operated like Burhan Wani and had joined militancy in the winter of 2016. Like Burhan, Sajad too would lure the youth into militancy.” He added, “we have arrested at least 20 youths who were recruited by Sajad besides many OGWs (Over Ground Workers).”
Increased ambushes, attacks
In recent months, militants active in the Kashmir Valley have raised the intensity of their attacks against government forces personnel.
On the morning of August 14, militants launched a surprise attack in which two policemen were killed while another was seriously wounded. The casualties took place after a police party came under attack from militants on the outskirts of Srinagar, Nowgam Bypass.
According to details available with The Federal, the J&K police party was on a routine security exercise in Nowgam Bypass area of the Srinagar city when it came under heavy firing. The militants managed to escape after the attack, but their action was captured by CCTVs installed in the area.
Two days before the Nowgam attack, an army soldier was injured after a Quick Reaction Team (QRT) of India Army was attacked at Hygam along the Srinagar-Baramulla highway.
In a statement, the police said, “three police personnel were injured in the attack and were shifted to hospital for treatment. Two of them died during treatment.”
According to Kashmir Zone Police, militants fired “indiscriminately upon a police party near Nowgam Bypass.” Three police personnel (were) injured. They were shifted to hospital for treatment where two among them died.
In May, two personnel of Border Security Force (BSF) were killed in Pandach, around 17 km off Srinagar in an attack by unidentified motorcycle-borne militants. After the attack the militants decamped with the weapons of the soldiers, the BSF had said in a statement. The slain soldiers were identified as Rana Mondol and Zia-ul-Haque of C’ Company of 37 Battalion BSF.
The government claims that militants are on the run and the levels of violence are considerably down, but the facts on the ground suggest otherwise.
Prior to that, five government forces personnel, including an Army Colonel, a Major and a sub-inspector, and two unidentified militants were killed during an 18-hour gunfight in north Kashmir’s Handwara. In yet another militant attack in the same month in the same area three personnel of the CRPF were killed.
In the first six months of 2019, at least 270 persons were killed. According to Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a prominent human rights organization based in Srinagar, there were “229 killings, 107 Cordon and Search Operations (CASO’s), 55 internet shutdowns, 48 properties destroyed in the first half of 2020 in Kashmir.”
The bi-annual report of JKCCS on the situation of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir covered the period from January 1 to June 30, 2020. The first six months of 2020 witnessed at least 229 killings in different incidents of violence, including “the extrajudicial executions of at least 32 civilians, besides killings of 143 militants and 54 armed forces personnel.”
“Children and women continued to be victims of violence in J&K as three children and two women were killed in the first half of 2020,” the JKCCS report said.
On August 9, a BJP party worker, named Abdul Hamid Najar, was shot at by suspected militants in Ompora area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district. Najar was Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) OBC Morcha district president. Before Hamid Najar’s killing, suspected militants shot dead a BJP-affiliated sarpanch named Sajjad Ahmad in South Kashmir’s Qazigund area on August 6.
On July 8, suspected militants shot dead a former district president of BJP Sheikh Wasim Bari, his father Bashir Ahmad Sheikh and brother Umer Bashir Sheikh in north Kashmir’s district of Bandipora.
Apart from the intensity in militant attacks on government forces there has also been a spike in attacks against members and sarpanchs (village chiefs) affiliated with the BJP in various parts of the Kashmir Valley. Routine attacks on government forces and BJP workers belie the government’s claim of return of normalcy in Kashmir.