In Photos | Manhunt at Nowgam

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Pics by Abid Bhat

The strike came when the security grid was gearing up for the August 15, the day when Kashmir witnesses an intense security cover and curbs.

By Abid Bhat

WHEN Friday fireworks rang out in an unruffled neighbourhood of Srinagar’s Nowgam locality, Saleem Dar, a government teacher, dismissed them as the drawn-out Eid celebrations. But soon as his lane got filled with cops and counterinsurgents, he understood that those weren’t festive crackers, but the rattling strike ringing in the region from last three decades now.

“The sight of house searches was unsettling,” Dar recalled the sudden turn of events on Friday. “It felt like old times when such security storming wouldn’t keep any calendar in Kashmir.”

The attack happened after militants managed to sneak in the summer capital and killed two cops and left another injured. The strike surfaced when the security grid was gearing up for the August 15, the day when Kashmir witnesses an intense security cover and curbs.

Kashmir police chief, IGP Vijay Kumar confirmed that the attackers involved in the Nowgam attack belonged to Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), the Pakistan-based outfit. “They fired indiscriminately and two of our jawans were killed … they [attackers] belong to JeM group. We will neutralize them soon,” IGP told newspersons at the shooting site.

The attack came weeks after IGP Kumar said that all militant recruits from Srinagar have been “neutralized”.

“Five encounters took place in the city this year,” IGP Kumar told The Hindu on July 26. “Of 10 terrorists killed in these gunfights, four were from Srinagar. Now, no resident of Srinagar district is in any terrorist rank.”

Notably, multiple checkpoints and frequent residential cordons have returned in Srinagar since 2019. Senior police officers attribute such security measures “to stepped up militant activities” in the summer capital.

So far, over 140 militants have been killed in anti-militancy operations in Kashmir this year, mostly in south Kashmir.

Lately, Srinagar-based 15 corps commander, Lt. Gen. B.S. Raju, announced the militant rehabilitation program, saying advanced plans had been submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Referring to the Kashmiri militants as “young boys who need to be taken care of,” Raju said the policy “will help and give confidence to those who are opting to surrender.”

Earlier, Lt. Gen. Raju’s predecessor, Lt Gen Kanwal Jeet Singh Dhillon ran “Operation Maa” to bring the young Kashmiri militants home.

By involving the mothers in surrender appeals, the general asserted, has reduced the militant footprints in the valley.

New-age militancy in Kashmir swelled its ranks following the killing of the popular militant commander, Burhan Wani in 2016. But the militancy suffered massively in 2018, when some big guns along with dozens of new recruits were killed in different gunfights, mostly in south Kashmir, which became both the cradle as well as citadel of the post-2010 militancy in the valley.

Apart from targeting the cult figures, the counterinsurgency operations also came down heavily upon the militant sympathizers and supporters, termed as Over Ground Workers (OGWs).

By 2019, especially after Pulwama Attack, which left around 40 CRPF men dead in the highway suicide attack, the militancy faced the multi-front offensive, with JeM bearing the major brunt.

Most of these operations were halted after 5 August 2019, when New Delhi scrapped the special constitutional status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The anti-militancy operations resumed with the partial resumption of telecommunication services in the region later that year, and intensified with the dawn of 2020.

With the arrest of Naveed Babu along with his aide, DSP Davender Singh on January 11 this year, the militancy in Kashmir lost another prominent face. After Naveed’s arrest, Hizb commander, Riyaz Naikoo’s killing in an encounter was termed as “a big success” for forces.

As part of tough dissent management policy, DGP Dilbag Singh said police will continue intensifying its anti-militancy operations in the valley.

Security forces are terming the rising vigil on the Line of Control and the falling funeral attendance and militant joining as dent to militancy.

On Friday, Saleem Dar, the teacher from Nowgam, stood outside the residence after the armed forces left checking the area. For a while, he thought over the sudden turn of events in his largely calm locality.

“Life is so uncertain in this part of the world,” Dar said. “It just takes a few minutes to change everything in Kashmir.”

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