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Discontinued A Decade Ago, Cordon And Search Ops Are Back In Kashmir As Unrest Increases In The Valley

It is popularly known as "crackdown".

04/05/2017 8:40 PM IST | Updated 04/05/2017 8:46 PM IST
Danish Ismail / Reuters
Indian army soldiers stand guard inside their army base after it was attacked by suspected separatist militants in Panzgam in Kashmir's Kupwara district.

Cordon and search operations of villages and hamlets by security forces that was discontinued a decade and a half ago is now back in Jammu and Kashmir as the unrest and terrorism threatens to spin out of control.

Yesterday, the Indian Army rolled out at least four-battalions for a Cordon and Search operations – popularly known as "crackdown" in valley. The Army is backed by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Jammu and Kashmir Police to cordon and search specific villages and hamlets suspected to be safe havens for militants in Shopian District.

Shopian, around 60 km south of Srinagar, has witnessed a spurt in militancy. In the past few days, several banks have been looted and weapons snatched by militants. On Monday, five guards were disarmed by militants. The next day, five policemen were killed.

Top sources told HuffPost India that the operation is spread over 10-12 villages. The prominent ones include Truka wangan, Heff-Khuri, Nagbal, Maldera.

"Cordon and search operations were discontinued in the early 2000. These operations caused undue hardship to local population alienating them from the forces, therefore they were stopped," a senior official in the security establishment said. Instead of cordon and search operations, the forces had moved to "intelligence backed operations". Sources also said that the security forces used drones and helicopters for aerial reconnaissance during the search operation.

Indian Army columns returning after the operation were fired upon at the Imam Sahib area of Sophian, late this evening. "We are trying to trace the terrorist," a senior Indian Army official said.

Top brass of the Indian Army have been told that the operations will have to continue and the Indian army will have to get "physical control of the area," sources told HuffPost India.

Earlier today speaking to reporters in New Delhi, Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat said the army was carrying out "combings operations because several banks have been looted." He also told reporters as "snows melts and passes-open up, Pakistan based terrorist are trying to infiltrate."

The Modi-led NDA government has refused to engage with the separatists in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, it favours a hard-line policy of "no- negotiations". Unrest in the valley has been continuing since last July when Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Buran Wani was killed in an encounter. The Jammat-e-Islami, Kashmir and the Tehreek-e- Hurriyat brought the valley to a stand-still for about four months last year. The Modi government has also said that the continuing unrest in the valley is being funded and supported by Pakistan. Infiltration attempts and ceasefire violations along the Line of Control have increased many fold since last year.

According to estimates of the security forces, there are at least 300 terrorists who infiltrated from Pakistan. And, at least 100 local Kashmiri boys are believed to joined terror groups as well in the last year and a half.

"As the number of terrorists in the valley goes up, violence goes up too. Local populace is forced to join stone throwing mobs," security officials explained.

The Indian Army has also told the government that Pakistan based terror groups like the Lasher-e- Toiba (LeT), Jaish- e-Mohammed and Hizbul Mujahedeen are operating together and sharing resources – a phenomena that was common in the early 2000s. "They are not only sharing resources and man-power but information and intelligence as well," top officials said.

By–elections for the Lok Sabha seats of Anantnag and Srinagar had occupied the attention of the local police and the para-military. "Counter-terror operations are now in focus," senior officials said.

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