A dangerous trend has emerged on the militancy graph of Kashmir this year, keeping the security agencies on their toes. There have been more targeted attacks on civilians and off-duty policemen compared to planned attacks, as was the trend in the past, on the security forces or their establishments in Kashmir in 2022.
Official data suggests militants carried out around 29 targeted attacks in Kashmir this year, especially on civilians that included non-local labourers and non-Muslim staff, and launched around 12 attacks, including grenade lobbing, on security forces posted in the Kashmir Valley.
The deceased included three local grassroots representatives (Panch and Sarpanchs), three Pandits, a local female singer, a bank manager from Rajasthan, a teacher and a salesman from Jammu apart from eight non-local labourers. At least ten non-local workers were left injured by militants in the attacks. Three policemen were also killed in the targeted attacks carried out near their native places, official data suggests. In fact, the J&K police faced more casualties compared to other security agencies, as 26 uniformed men lost their lives in 2022.
Militant attacks on outsiders, Pandits and Jammu residents have been the highest since the Centre ended the special constitutional position of J&K in 2019, figures suggest. The attacks peaked in the months of March, April and May, leading to mass migration of over 5500 Pandit employees, employed under a special employment scheme for migrant Pandits in the Valley, to Jammu.
To curb such killings, security forces launched a major offensive against the militants which left 72 militants dead, mostly in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam.
Responding to the new challenge, senior officials said the security forces all through the year had launched multiple-level crackdowns in Kashmir. Besides stepping up anti-militancy operations, security forces clamped down on militant supporters and sympathisers, went after old hands and kept an eye on new recruits and their chain of command.
“All known commanders are dead. Less than half a dozen local popular faces, on the run, are alive now,” another official, privy to the anti-militancy operations, said. “Those surviving have reduced their digital print, of late, to escape the tech surveillance,” he added.
This year, security forces killed 133 militants in 76 encounters in the hinterland of Kashmir. A total of 172 militants, including around 42 foreign militants, were killed in around 93 encounters in 2022, including armed infiltrators close to the Line of Control (LoC).
The security forces’ grip on the ground was evident from the fact that the uniformed forces had to brave the last attack from the militants on August 12 in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara, Anantnag, when a policeman was engaged in a stand-off fire, more than four months ago. However, the latest attack on a civilian was reported on December 25 when a district reporter came under fire from gunmen in Shopian. He escaped unhurt in the attack.
Dip in recruitment of locals
For security agencies, the heartening news is that the recruitment of locals into militant ranks has witnessed a dip compared to the previous years. Around 100 youth joined the militants ranks compared to 133 locals in 2021. The recruitment figures are the lowest figures since 2019. Sixty-five fresh recruits have been killed and around 17 arrested already, according to police records.
“Most of the militants behind the targeted killings have been neutralised this year. And the number of local active militants have come down to around 80-85. Of 65 new recruits killed this year, 58 were killed within the first months of their joining,” Additional Director General of Police Vijay Kumar said. He said two active militants, behind the targeted attacks, are being chased.
This is for the first time since 2019 that the number of local active militants has been reduced to double digits from three-digit figures. It seems the security agencies are maintaining an upper hand in Kashmir to pave the way for a peaceful J&K in 2023.
However, a senior CRPF officer, on condition of anonymity, warns against complacency. “The situation in Kashmir remains dynamic. Each month and each year have been different and required a different approach. Yes, the fact remains that there is a lull for the time being,” the officer said.
“Yes, the fact remains that there is a lull for the time being”CRPF officer