The Army has moved out two additional infantry brigades deployed in Kashmir in September following public disturbances after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s killing in July. “We moved in these troops when the situation warranted it. We have pulled them out when the situation so warranted,” an Army official said. He added that the pull out started in December and was completed in January.
The brigades were deployed as part of ‘Operation Calmdown’ that was launched to restore normalcy two months after Wani’s killing that led to massive unrest and killing of scores of people throughout the summer of 2016. They were deployed in volatile areas of Kupwara, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts in South Kashmir.
The brigades operated along with Rashtriya Rifles to restore normalcy.
“These were our reserve formations which were sent by (the Army’s Udhampur-based) Northern Command to Kashmir. They are required for our conventional role, which remains our utmost priority,” said the official.
The move to pull out the troops suggests an improvement in the security situation despite the recent spate of firefights between the security forces and terrorists particularly in South Kashmir, which has led to nine casualties for the Army this year. The Army has killed 25 terrorists in retaliation. This is more than double the number of terrorists eliminated in the same period last year.
The Army has of late adopted a proactive approach in taking on the terrorists in Kashmir. The official said that there has been an increase in intelligence-based operations against them in the Valley.
The Army has been concerned about civilian protesters trying to disturb these counterinsurgency operations, which has allowed militants to escape in some cases in Kashmir.
According to Jammu and Kashmir State Multi-Agency Centre (MAC) data, over 90 local youths have joined militancy in Kashmir since last year. MAC estimates suggest that there are around 400 terrorists on the loose in South Kashmir. They include 150 foreign terrorists. There are another 100 terrorists active in the state including 30 foreigners south of the Himalayan Pir Panjal range.