Latent Violence, Not Peace In Kashmir27 April 2011
Times of India
Srinagar: For head constable Abdul Khaliq, the short walk back to his thana through the narrow lanes of Pohru mohalla was a ritual for years. Known in the area and a regular at the mosque, he was caught unawares by the burst of bullets that hit him just 100 metres short of his destination. The militants had planned on Monday night's ambush well. The lane is narrow and streetlights don't work. The shots were fired up close, just five yards. Khaliq and another policeman, Farooq Ahmed, died instantly. 'It was 9:30pm. I heard the shots and hid. I knew Khaliq well; he was an honest man,' said Sajid Wani, showing us the bullet marks on his house's boundary wall. Nowgham is often described as the outskirts of Srinagar. It was once. Today it's a part of the city. Therefore, the audacious attack by the militants has shocked people. 'They were just yards from the police station. Look at their temerity,' said a security expert. While official statistics say only 400-odd militants are active in the state, the numbers conceal more than they reveal. The first four months of the year have seen a steady rise in violence. Not a day passes without an encounter or killing by militants. The round-the-clock tension is palpable, with widespread speculation that militancy might return this year. Monday's ambush is noteworthy for another reason. For many years now, Srinagar was considered militant-free. The police were confident of their intelligence grid. On Sunday, an officer boasted: 'Even if one stone is thrown, I'll know the name of the pelter in minutes.' The IED blast that killed Maulana Showkat and now the killing of the two cops belies this confidence. Although they don't say so, security officials are deeply uncomfortable with the 'political' move to remove bunkers from the streets. Some 40 bunkers have been removed this year. 'In the early 1990s, except for a few areas, most of Srinagar was no-go for security forces. Militants roamed freely. It took years of effort to clean them up. The bunkers denied space to militants. If we move out, they will again have safe heavens,' said a cop. In Pohru, the lone survivor of the attack, wounded constable Gulam Mohiuddin, was chased down the lane by the militants. 'I heard the firing. I switched off the lights amid gunshots. A man ran past my house screaming. He reached the police station and started shouting. That's when I realised he was a cop,' said Sajid Wani. Wani points out the pursuit of the wounded policeman by the marks left by bullets on the walls. 'This one is older. This one, that's Monday night's,' he says. The shops are open, bloodstains have been wiped clean, the dead cops have made their final journeys. Only the scars remain.