Communication shutdown helps militants roam freely in Kashmir

The security forces would also stay in touch with their informers and other sources , mainly through their mobile phones.

Kulgam: The 105 minute long drive from Srinagar to this scenic town in the lap of beautiful hills and ranges of Pir Panjal was smooth and hassle-free; except for this correspondent’s car being stopped by the security forces at three makeshift barriers en route for quick search.

The men in combat-dress holding automatic fire arms and surveillance equipment were somewhat affable while making queries about my identity and that of my friend, a local resident.

The scene in streets, alleyways and bazaars of Kulgam, 68-km south of Srinagar, is not any different from that being witnessed in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir for past many days, however. Shops and other businesses are shut and public transport is off the roads. Only vendors are seen doing some business. I was told groceries, bakeries and outlets selling other eatables are opened for a couple of hours in mornings and evenings to enable people to buy essential commodities.

Some of the residents interviewed by this correspondent saw in abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution and splitting of J&K into two Union Territories “India’s one more betrayal”. A few others said it has only vindicated their aazadi quest. Some people spoke about youth being routinely harassed and even thrashed by the security forces in the villages of Kulgam and neighbouring Shopian. This correspondent did not come across any such “victim” during a visit to half a dozen hamlets deep inside Kulgam.

On the contrary, it was revealed during the visit that the security forces’ pressure on militants has only eased since August 5 when Valley and parts of Jammu region were brought under security lockdown. Since, no formal cordon-and-search operations have been conducted by the Army and other security forces in any of the south Kashmir districts, the hotbed of militancy, or elsewhere in the Valley.

On August 20, a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) militant Momin Gojri and a J&K Special Police Officer Bilal Ahmed were killed and Sub-Inspector Amar Deep Parihar and an Army jawan were injured in a fire fight in Ganai Hamam locality of north-western Baramulla district. This was the first such clash between militants and security forces since August 5. But the officials privately say that it was a “chance encounter” only.

It was also learnt during the visit to Kulgam villages that many militants celebrated Id on August 12 with their families in south Kashmir villages. They were also seen roaming freely in villages during past four weeks.

Though no official is willing to speak on the issue, it is believed by many people here including some government officials that the security forces have avoided confrontation with militants during past four weeks apparently because of the apprehension that the killing of a militant could trigger rage among the people and the same may lead to violence which can spread to other Valley areas as well. This is something the government does not want to see happening at this stage.

Also, it seems the communication blockade particularly snapping of mobile phone services has gone in favour of militants and against the security forces combating a three-decade old insurgency in the state. It is an open secret that the security forces were in many cases in the past able to hunt down militants by keeping track on the use of mobile phones by them.

The security forces would also stay in touch with their “informers” and other “sources”, mainly through their mobile phones. This option of getting “tipped off” about the militants’ movement has helped the security forces greatly in their counterinsurgency operations in the past. But the correlation stands severed due to the communication blockade; hence the flow of information about the militants’ movement has only squeezed for the security forces.

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