The unprecedented communications shutdown in Kashmir has hit the government’s counter-militancy operations, according to top J&K Police officials. A total of 82 operations took place in J&K so far this year, including two in Jammu region, down from 97 anti-militancy operations conducted in 2018.
Data accessed by The Indian Express shows this year’s figures for the number of militants killed are at a three-year low.
Since the beginning of the year, 155 militants have been killed in the Valley in these 82 operations, a sharp decline from last year’s figure of 246. A majority of these 155 militants — approximately 120 — were killed up to the end of July, before the lockdown began on August 5 with the announcement of scrapping of the state’s special status under Article 370.
The comparative figures in the number of militants killed in 2016 and 2017 were, respectively, 130 and 200, and going up to 246 in 2018.
Director-General of J&K Police Dilbag Singh told The Indian Express, “Communication does affect anti-militancy operations, so partially, yes, it is that. But this dip is also because of the police’s preoccupation with law and order duties during this period (since August 5, when special status to the erstwhile state under Article 370 was scrapped).”
While the state’s administration has argued that the communications shutdown was essential to curb the possibility of terrorist activities in the Valley, the measures have also come as a hurdle in gathering of human intelligence and technical inputs from phone intercepts, according to officials familiar with security operations.
According to officials, the figures are “relatively low” also owing to the fact that operations at the Line of Control (LoC) saw a sharp decline. “Compared to approximately 30 operations last year along the LoC, this year there was only one operation, in which two militants were killed,” a source said.
D-G Dilbagh Singh had told The Indian Express in September that lack of communication was affecting anti-militancy operations in the Valley. “The police also work with sources (informers), but if the sources’ phones are not functional how do we speak to them? To some extent, yes, information is a little delayed. But it is reaching us,” Singh had said.
Meanwhile, sources said 608 individuals are currently under “preventive detention” in J&K, including those booked under PSA, and more than 200 people are held in jails outside. “Not more than 1,400 individuals are in Kashmir jails, and that includes (people accused in) all crimes,” a police source said.
In terms of ‘law and order incidents’, police records show 310 incidents recorded since August 5, including 240 in Srinagar alone. In comparison, more than 1,500 law and order incidents were reported from Kashmir in 2016 in the uprising following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani.
The administration has claimed that no lives have been lost in action by security forces in Kashmir since suspension of special status. In comparison, 62 civilians lost their lives in the unrest in 2016.
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