November 2017 News

Running Out Of Militants And Arms, Hizbul Mujahideen Trying To Lure Kashmir Policemen

2 November 2017
The Hindustan Times
Azaan Javaid

Srinagar: Kashmir's home-grown militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, is trying to lure police personnel to fill its dwindling ranks and armoury after a string of reverses since last year, officials told HT said quoting intelligence reports. Out of three police deserters this year, at last two are known to have joined the Hizb with their official arms and ammunition, the officials added. The latest intelligence inputs were shared with security forces operating in Kashmir in October. Top police officials, however, said the issue was not a 'major concern yet' but admitted that the trend could be reflective of a strong pro-militant sentiments among a section of Kashmiris. 'The society is bound to have an effect on an individual. Police have a great reputation in terms of performing their professional duties and fighting off militancy bravely and that will continue but they are not completely impervious to changes within the society,' said SP Vaid, the Jammu and Kashmir director general of police. 'As of now, this is not a major concern but it is still a thing to be cautious about,' Vaid said, adding the incidents were not a trend or phenomenon. Kashmir has seen a groundswell of civilian anger since last July when then Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by security forces. The killing sparked months of violent street protests that left nearly 100 people dead, most of them in retaliation by security forces. The government responded with the muscular response, stepping up counter-insurgency operations that have led to the killing of at least 170 militants in the valley this year. Hizbul Mujahideen is one of the most affected outfits, losing several top leaders and many cadres in encounters with security forces. Officials said, killing of militants also means loss of weapons for the outfits and hence the ploy to lure police personnel with arms and ammunition. In May, constable Syed Naveed Mushtaq deserted the force with four INSAS rifles, including his own, and joined the HM. A couple of months later, one personnel of the Territorial Army also joined militancy. In October, another police constable, Ishfaq Ahmed Dar, announced on social media he has joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based outfit active in Kashmir. Police said they were yet to ascertain the claim of the 'missing' constable. Intelligence officials said the HM was also trying to procure arms from Pakistan and Afghanistan through their handlers based across the border. While some in the police force termed HM's plans as wishful thinking, Ajai Sahni, executive director of South Asia Terrorism Portal and Institute for Conflict Management, said desertions and defections from security forces is neither a new development nor is it limited to Kashmir. He cited Meghalaya's Garo National Liberation Army (GNLA) which was formed by a former deputy superintendent of police (DSP) named Pakchara R Sangma, more popularly known as Champion Sangma. 'We have to understand thta police is part of the population and it is that part which has laid faith in the state. There were always be a small section of police officers with ambivalent impulses and loyalties,' Sahni said. 'But the same can be said about other professionals like bureaucrats. In Kashmir, a lot of bureaucrats after retiring take separatist positions,' Sahni added. Kashmir expert and columnist Professor Shiekh Showkat Hussain views the desertions as 'well conceived responses'. 'There was a major rebellion by local police in early years of militancy but that was spontaneous. Today, the reaction is well conceived. The police officers are part of the Kashmiri society and they share the same sentiments as their neighbours,' he said.