Encounters, protests at encounter sites kept forces on the edge
Srinagar: The year 2017 continued to witness violence as forces killed around 210 militants—most of them in hinterland and along the Line of Control. Besides 117 local youth joined militant ranks even as chief minister Mehbooba Mufti stated that only “killing militants was not going to wipe out” militancy in Kashmir.
The forces continued to remain on tenterhooks due to civilian protests near encounter sites to help militants escape from cordons. In the year at least 40 civilians were killed during gunfights and restrictions on public near encounter sites and public warnings didn’t quell the protests. As many as 78 force personnel were also killed by militants.
In Kashmir the first encounter in 2017 was reported from Pahalgam area of south Kashmir—the epicenter of militancy—in which three Lashkar-e-Toiba militants were killed on January 16. A total of 343 militancy-related incidents were reported in the state.
During the “Operation All Out”, top militant commanders including Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, Bashir Lashkari, Qayoom Najar, Yasin Itoo and Abu Ismail—the mastermind of the Amarnath yatra attack—two nephews of Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Lashkar-e-Toiba operational chiefs Abu Dujana and Mehmood Bhai were also killed.
The last encounter was reported on December 26 from south Kashmir’s Pulwama district where forces killed a 3-foot local militant, Noor Mohammad Tantary who had lately taken charge as operational chief of Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The JeM carried several fidayeen attacks on forces installations including Army Garrison in Panzgam Kupwara, CRPF camp in Hajin Bandipora, district police lines Pulwama and BSF’s 182 battalion camp in Humhama, near Srinagar Airport.
The ideological difference in the Hizb also became public and led to emergence of al-Qaeda affiliate, Ansar-ul-Gazwatul Hind, headed by Zakir Musa in Kashmir. While Hizb is believed to have survived as the biggest militant outfit in Valley, Musa’s group has few members. Musa vowed to fight for the imposition of Shariah in Kashmir. He even threatened separatist leaders of beheading “if they interfere” in his way of imposition of Shariah rule.
Zakir is among around five militant commanders who survived in “Operation All Out” in 2017. During the year videos and pictures remained again in circulation on social media but the trend of militants attending funeral of their colleagues and firing gunshots in the air to pay respects witnessed a slight dip in the later part of the year.
During the year as government asked people of Srinagar parliamentary constituency to vote by-election in April eight civilians were killed in alleged forces firing during protests on voting day. Even after re-election, the overall poll percentage declined 2 percent on May 10 from 7. 14 percent which was recorded on April 9. On the election day, also, Farooq Ahmad Dar of Chill, Beerwah, was made a human shield to avoid stone pelting in the area. The victim still awaits justice.
The poll day violence in Budgam compelled the government to cancel the Anantnag by-polls.
Cinematographer-turned politician, Tasaduq Hussain Mufti, who was fielded by ruling PDP as the candidate on the constituency, has now recently been inducted as Minister for Tourism.
In the summer of the year also as Army entered the premises of Government Degree College in Pulwama 50 students were injured in forces action. This spread the protests to University and Colleges and as a precautionary measure government shut down schools and colleges.
After student protests were tackled, forces resorted to cordon and search operations (CASOs) after over 15 years. Militants also attacked the house of policemen and even the forces advised their men to take extra caution during house visits.
The violence also claimed lives of politicians and workers in militant attacks. Also during the year DSP Ayub Pandith was lynched by a mob near Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on Shab-e-Qadr, while braid chopping of women in Kashmir also hogged much public attention. As the militant incidents went on government forces called for an amnesty to local militants with Mehbooba Mufti stating that she would doubly reward the cops who would get back local militants. Around 10 youth who had joined militancy are believed to have returned home after an ace footballer left Lashkar following mother’s passionate video appeal. Several other families of militants made appeal asking their militant sons to give up arms. Hizb and Lashkar had, however, blamed forces for compelling families of militants to make videos.
In the year series of raids on separatist leaders and businessmen by National Investigative Agency (NIA) were also carried out to track “hawala trail” as the probe agency registered a case and alleged separatists were receiving money from various channels to “fund unrest and militancy in Kashmir.” Ten people including seven separatists are under judicial custody in Delhi in connection with the case, the investigation of which is still underway.
As the government observed a decrease in incidents of stone pelting, Mehbooba Mufti also announced withdrawal of FIRs against first-time stone throwers in November under its amnesty scheme. In later part of this year, Union Government also appointed a former Intelligence Bureau chief, Dineshwar Sharma, as special representative to establish peace and normalcy in the state. Sharma recently concluded his third visit and has held talk with lot of delegations in Kashmir and Jammu.
January 16: Three Lashkar militants killed in forces encounter in Pahalgam in South Kashmir.
February 15: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat warns tough action against stone pelters, hampering anti-militancy operations in J&K.
March 22: Home Minister Rajnath Singh announces in the Rajya Sabha New Delhi’s intention to talk with all stakeholders in J&K.
April 9: 2% turnout in Srinagar Lok Sabha by-poll.
April 27: Militants carried out fidayeen attack on Army’s Pangam garrison near Line of Control in Kupwara district. Three Army troopers and two militants were killed in the encounter.
May 1: Five policemen and two bank officials killed by militants in Kulgam district.
May 2: The Election Commission cancelled the Anantnag Lok Sabha by-poll citing Valley unrest as the reason.
May 10: Army officer Lt Ummer Fayaz abducted by militants from cousins marriage ceremony and shot dead in Shopian district.
June 4: The NIA conducts a series of raids in Jammu and Srinagar to unearth hawala financing to separatists.
June 23: DSP Ayub Pandith lynched by a mob near Jamia Masjid in Srinagar on Shab-e-Qadr.
June 26: United States designated Syed Salahuddin, the head of Hizbul Mujahideen, a global terrorist.
July 10: Terrorists attack a bus carrying Amarnath pilgrims from Gujarat, killing seven of them.
August 1: Abu Dujana, a most-wanted Lashkar-e-Toiba militant was killed by security forces.
August 27: JeM fidayeen stormed highly fortified DPL Pulwama in which eight police and CRPF cops and three fidayeen were also killed.
October 03: Three JeM fidayeen militants carried out a fidayeen attack on BSF’s 182 batallian camp near Srinagar Airport. An Assistant Sub-Inspector of BSF and three militants were killed and three BSF troopers were injured in an encounter.
October 23: Centre appoints Dineshwar Sharma as its special representative for dialogue on J&K.
November 1: Syed Shahid Yousuf, son of Syed Salahuddin, sent to judicial custody by a Delhi court in a 2011 terror funding case.
November 22: Mehbooba Mufti announces withdrawal of FIRs against first-time stone throwers.
December 20: Centre says no proposal to abolish Articles 35A and 370 from J&K.
Courtesy: Rising Kashmir