June 2019 News

'Offer' Of Talks Comes Amid Bloodshed In Kashmir Valley

23 June 2019
The Hindu
Vijaita Singh

New Delhi: The reported offer of talks by the Hurriyat leadership comes smack in the middle of operations against terrorists in Kashmir, in which a record number of 88 locals had been killed this year. The Jammu & Kashmir administration has said that recruitment to militant ranks is at its lowest now. But since June 12 alone, 10 security personnel, five of them CRPF men, lost their lives, and 10 others were injured in various attacks, including the fidayeen strike in Anantnag on June 12 and a blast using an improvised explosive device (IED) in Pulwama on June 17. These took the death toll of security personnel to 73, the highest since the corresponding period of 2005, when over 100 were killed. As the battle against militancy continued, the Centre's Special Representative for Jammu and Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma, quietly visited Srinagar - his first trip after the Lok Sabha election results were announced on May 23. The visit followed J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik's statement on Saturday that the Hurriyat leaders were ready for talks and a change of guard in the Home Ministry, where BJP president Amit Shah has assumed office as Home Minister. Mr. Sharma was appointed in 2017 to carry forward the dialogue with all stakeholders, but his role had been undermined in the past by parallel action initiated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and the Enforcement Directorate. Several separatists, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, are being investigated by the agency for funding terror groups. 'Yes, this was the first time after the general elections that I went to Srinagar. I would not like to disclose anything about the meetings,' Mr. Sharma told The Hindu. Of late, terrorists in Kashmir have resorted to new tactics. Buoyed by back-to-back successful operations against local militants in the past six weeks without any major casualty, Major Ketan Sharma, 32, was confident of wrapping up within hours a pre-dawn operation started around 4 a.m. against a hiding militant at Badoora village in Anantnag on June 17. The Army, however, was taken by surprise by the level of training of the 'non-local' militant of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM). Major Sharma took bullets inches below the bulletproof headgear on the face, as he volunteered to neutralise the hiding militant with grenades while changing position in an uneven courtyard. 'As soldiers raised their heads to fire at his position, the militant would fire back with precision. He succeeded in hitting four jawans. The fact he hit the Major in the face shows his level of training. He was a freshly infiltrated militant [from Pakistan]. There is a bid to push highly trained militants from across from the border,' a senior police officer told The Hindu. As the operation drew to a close at Achabal, three soldiers suffered injuries, while Major Sharma lost his life. Top police officers of the counter-insurgency cell and the special operations group (SOG) said the surprise element thrown up by the militants by changing tack and technology resulted in higher casualties this year. 'First, the suicide car blast on a CRPF convoy on February 14 inflicted the highest casualties, when 40 jawans died. In June, we saw a fidayeen militant coming close to a stationed CRPF mobile bunker at Anantnag's busy market, killing five jawans and a police officer. In both these incidents, there was a surprise element,' a south Kashmir-based police officer said. The change in tack and technology by terrorists was because the surprise, short pre-dawn operations employed by the security forces were yielding results, with 113 militants killed this year, the police officer said. Of the 113, 25 were foreigners. 'Around 45% of them belonged to the Jaish-e-Muhammad. We stepped up operations against the group and its leadership after the February 14 attack and killed over 40 of them in south Kashmir,' another counter-insurgency cell officer said. Another new tactic employed by the militants is to make IEDs locally and stage attacks away from the now-secured Srinagar-Jammu highway, which was, previously, the main focus of the militants. 'The June 17 IED attack, where it was fitted to a Maruti car, took place on an interior road near Aarihal in Pulwama. Over 10 jawans were injured and two were left dead,' the police officer said. As the security forces take on the terrorists, it remains to be seen what happens with the reported offer of talks and the follow-up on Mr. Sharma's visit.

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