February 2007 News

Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir is over, says top cop

8 February 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
M.R. Narayan Swamy

Srinagar: Insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir has ended and all that now remains is an out and out terrorist movement, says the police chief of the Kashmir Valley, the hub of a violent separatist drive that began in 1989.'We have graduated from an insurgency to a terrorist movement,' S.M. Sahai, inspector general of police of the Kashmir Valley, said in an interview to IANS at his office in the heart of the city here. 'What you see today is a complete terror movement.'Thousands of people - civilians, security personnel as well as militants and foreign terrorists - have died in a militant movement in Jammu and Kashmir that first broke out in Srinagar in 1989.It then spread rapidly all over the state, winning the all round support of Pakistan, and quickly assumed the form of an insurgency that became a major sore point between New Delhi and Islamabad.Sahai, who has worked in Jammu and Kashmir for two decades and served as the superintendent of police of Srinagar city at the height of the campaign in 1990, admitted there was a time when the Kashmiri militants did have mass sympathy.'Ten years ago the militants enjoyed a lot of public support. Not so any more,' Sahai asserted to IANS. This phenomenon, he insisted, was true today even for the rural areas of the Muslim-dominated valley.'Earlier in villages the militants were seen much as a hero. Now things have changed a lot. He (the militant) is not confident any more (of public support and sanctuary). So now we are looking at an end game. Till now all our strategies were open ended.'But Sahai added that while recruitment into militant ranks had dropped drastically and there was hardly any movement of militants to Pakistan for training, infiltration into the state from across the border continued.According to police officials, foreign militants, mainly Pakistanis, still operate in north Kashmir while the Hizb ul Mujahideen, popularly known as HM, is the dominant force in south Kashmir.According to Sahai, however, 'local lumpen elements' with no love for any ideology had taken to the violent movement in a big way, lured by money.'We are fighting now a criminal element of the militants, to whom the hardcore element has outsourced its violent activity,' he said.This, he said, made the police job much more difficult since many of those involved in grenade attacks in recent times had no previous links with organized militancy and so did not figure in police files.Police admit a dramatic surge in grenade attacks last year, calling 2006 'the year of grenades'. Unemployed youths from the rural areas were involved in most of them. They were given money and grenades to lob at civilians or security forces.In many cases, they caused deaths and panic, including of tourists, angering a population heavily dependent on the tourist industry.'This criminalization is going to alienate them (separatists) further, provided we ensure that fresh infiltration (from Pakistan) does not take place.'How many armed militants still exist in Jammu and Kashmir?'To be honest, nobody has the figure,' Sahai explained. 'Small numbers are operating from fringe areas, technically difficult to engage. Through overground elements, they are recruiting lumpen elements.'Jammu and Kashmir recorded a total number of 1,081 deaths related to the separatist campaign in 2004, the number falling to 997 in 2005 and 712 in 2006. Twenty-nine were killed in January this year.The militant-terrorist fatalities were 441 in 2004, climbing to 562 in 2005 and then falling to 365 (or one a day) in 2006. Fifteen militants were killed in January this year.


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