With increasing attempts at infiltration from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), revival of separatist sentiment in South Kashmir and spreading of public protests and agitations to North Kashmir, the current summer in Jammu and Kashmir poses a serious challenge for the army. Acknowledging this challenge, GOC of Srinagar-based 15 Corps, Lt General Satish Dua said that Kashmiri separatist movement is also being helped by the ongoing global internet and social media based radicalisation campaign.
According to Lt General Dua, “Owing to a failure to revive armed militancy in the Valley in any significant measure, the separatists have been under pressure for orchestrating protests and agitations, including in thus far dormant areas of Northern Kashmir.”
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Officials assert that the security forces have had an upper hand over the militants in the state for the last two years. They, however, view the current summer as a major test for everyone: Pakistan, cross-border elements, separatists as well as security officials and political leadership in the state.
In the last few months, the situation in Kashmir has been marked by increasing restiveness. A few educated, local youth have taken to militancy in a high profile manner in South Kashmir, and funeral processions of militants killed in encounters with security forces have drawn large crowds across the state. Moreover, security forces have also been hampered by public protests by locals, including women, to disrupt an ongoing operation as soon an encounter with the militants starts.
Security forces have eliminated 39 militants in the state this year, which include 15 local militants and 13 foreign militants. In 2015 and 2014, security forces had killed 94 and 101 militants respectively. This was after an all-time low of 2013, when only 63 militants were eliminated by the security forces.
Military officials acknowledge that separatists have made significant gains in reviving separatist sentiment in South Kashmir by targeting the youth. They contend that this revival has been concurrent with the major global online radicalisation campaign launched by ISIS.
Lt General Dua agrees with the premise, “We are aware that the separatists’ design is also drawing mileage from the ongoing global internet and social media based radicalisation campaign, which is impacting adolescent minds,”.
Police and political leadership in the state, however, have consistently maintained that the appearance of ISIS flags during protests in Srinagar are not directly related to the ISIS but are meant to attract media attention and “piss off” the state. Two Kashmiri youngsters who were picked up for their alleged ISIS links were based in the Middle East. There has been no evidence of a direct ISIS link within the Valley so far, police sources say.
Army assesses that more than 200 militants are currently ready to infiltrate at nearly 30 launch pads in PoK. “Owing to lesser snowfall, early melting of snow and onset of summers, the infiltration attempts are likely to increase this season,” Lt General Dua said.
As per official records, less than 20 militants have been able to successfully infiltrate across the LoC till April this year. “Our dynamic counter-infiltration and counter-terrorism grid has been calibrated to neutralise the threat where it originates rather than where it manifests,” explained Lt General Dua.
The army’s strategy focuses on the LoC to prevent militants from successfully infiltrating into Kashmir, instead of targeting them once they are operating inside the Valley. Two groups of militants were eliminated on the LoC while attempting infiltration so far this year, although no group has been foiled while attempting infiltration.
However, only 35 militants had successfully infiltrated last year, down from 65 in 2014 and 97 in 2013. Last year, 15 groups of militants were eliminated by the security forces while attempting infiltration on the LoC, and attempts by six groups to infiltrate were foiled by the army. The comparable numbers were 20 and nine in 2014, and 10 and 10 in 2013.