Pro-militant ISIS Graffiti, Gatherings Return To Kashmir Valley

21 June 2015

Srinagar: 'We want ISIS,' proclaims a graffiti in downtown Srinagar. Pro-militant slogans have reappeared on walls in the Kashmir valley and small religious gatherings exhorting people to join militancy are taking place with greater frequency. From Sopore in north Kashmir to Anantnag in south, there have been several incidents that have left the police demoralized. Sopore, the 'apple town' of the valley, recently convulsed repeatedly in the aftermath of killing of six civilians, including some former militants, suspectedly by a breakaway group of Hizbul Mujahideen, with four falling to terrorists' bullets in seven days. Despite the killings pointing a bloodied finger at Qayum Najjar alias 'Nazarwala', the police are yet to apprehend him as he goes about unleashing violence in Sopore with impunity. The Narbal incident on the outskirts of Srinagar in which an Assistant Sub-Inspector and a constable were jailed for firing at a stone-pelting crowd that attacked a police team has left the law enforcement machinery dismayed. The police officials claimed there was no magisterial enquiry conducted before slapping murder charges against the personnel. Anti-militancy operations have suffered a big jolt as police is losing fast on its 'sources' or informers within the public. 'Human intelligence, which is key to the success of all anti-terror operations, has gone dry. Many of our sources have fled the scene or switched over to other side as funds are not available to maintain them,' said a police officer, who has been in the forefront of anti-militancy operations. Sources in the police admit in private that a couple of those gunned down in Sopore were police informers who tipped them off about anti-national activities. 'But after these killings, many have fled to safer places and others may have switched sides. These sources used to be paid handsomely for the operations carried out earlier but now due to some of the policies of the state government, these sources find it hard to earn their livelihood and find it easy to return to militant ranks,' said a senior police official on the condition of anonymity. There has been no anti-militancy operation other than a 'chance encounter' in Kulgam last month where two Lashker-e-Taiba militants were shot dead by the army and para-military forces after some of their arms and ammunition got exposed in the public. 'We don't know who comes and paints in the night. These are some mischievous elements and not a cause of threat,' said an officer, downplaying the significance of the ominous graffiti in support of the Islamic State. His claims notwithstanding, fear is palpable with fresh diktats emerging on the streets quite frequently with a hand-written poster claiming to be from Jammu and Kashmir Tehrek-e-Taliban in Sopore directing people not to watch TV, consume liquor or allow movement of women without veil. The diktats bear a striking similarity with diktat imposed by the Taliban in Afghanistan and ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Lt Gen Subrata Saha, Corps Commander of Kashmir-based 15 Corps, feels that this trend needs to be checked at the earliest before this pattern takes a 'larger shift'. 'As far as I am concerned, it's a couple of incidents where handwritten notes or posters of Taliban that came in Sopore. Even if it is isolated, it ought be taken up very seriously and it has to be investigated and seen through to its logical conclusion before any trend or pattern sort of develops from that,' he said. Some unidentified youth recently hoisted a flag bearing resemblance to that of ISIS, while there have been several incidents of waving of Pakistani flags at meetings. Though the state's police chief K Rajendra had warned of stern action against them, sources in the police establishment admit in private that not much has happened on the ground. Close watchers of the Kashmir scene, including former Research and Analysis Wing chief A S Dulat says,'Something is not looking good. Some black clouds seem to have emerged on the horizon.' Police are unable to check or break up small religious pro-militant gatherings as those are held inside houses or at mosques after prayers. Police force in the valley is distributed traditionally in 13 areas from Anantnag in south Kashmir to Kupwara in the north. Of these only three District SPs have experience in counter-militancy operations. There is also the talk of the government planning to appoint only those officers as Senior Superintendents of Police who have no experience of working in the Special Task Force, a unit raised in the mid-1990s especially to take on the militants, apparently to keep hardliners in good humour. None of the 200 odd Special Police Officers (SPOs) has been inducted into the regular police constabulary since the PDP-BJP government assumed office.