(This was originally posted in The Sunday Guardian Live by Aarish Bilal)
Three targeted killings in fewer than 10 days have broken the brief lull in the Kashmir situation, when no major encounters or attacks were being reported for some time. While a young probationer sub-inspector, Arshid Mir was targeted by a lone attacker in Khanyar area of downtown Srinagar, two back-to-back killings were reported from South Kashmir’s Kulgam on Friday night where an off-duty cop was killed, followed by the shooting of a labourer from Bihar about an hour later. These killings have cracked the claims of the security agencies that “things are under control”.
Security experts say that of late, terrorist handlers in Pakistan have changed their strategy as far as attacks and targeted killings are concerned. “They are investing in cheap assets now. Which means instead of focusing on commander level terrorists, they are training over ground workers (OGW) who need just one pistol and a target to keep the pot boiling,” an expert said, adding that when a particular commander gets highlighted, security forces start hunting for him and neutralize him in days.
According to IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar, there are only a couple of terrorists active in Srinagar, while the number of OGWs is more than a dozen. “OGWs are more like sleeping cells. They operate only when asked to hit a target. It is more like what you see in mafia movies of Bollywood,” the expert said. “They do their routine work for the rest of the time and turn shooters when directed to do so,” he said. “They keep a very low profile and are usually not on the police radar,” he added.
IGP Kumar believes that the latest killings of policemen and a labourer by terrorists was “out of frustration”, following the neutralisation of top terrorist commanders recently. “(Terrorists) and (their) handlers in Pakistan are frustrated with recent elimination of top commanders of (terrorist) outfits and the peaceful environment maintained even after the death of separatist leader SAS Geelani,” the top police officer of Kashmir said in a tweet.
“That’s why (terrorists) have cowardly killed one unarmed policeman (PSI) recently, one unarmed policeman and one innocent outside laborer today in Kulgam district.”
On Saturday, while replying to a question that on one hand, security agencies claim that the militancy graph has been brought down and, on the other hand, incidents of militancy keep getting repeating, DGP Dilbagh Singh said: “Claims by police and security agencies are based on facts. We have carried out many successful counter militancy operations. The number (of terrorists) has come down. Militant infrastructure has been destroyed to a large extent and many leaders have been eliminated.” He added: “These incidents are the outcome of such frustration by pro-Pakistan terrorists that they kill innocent people. Yesterday, one of our colleagues was killed. A non-local labourer was killed. Tell me which religion and faith allows it?”
He further said that “these elements will be given severe punishment here and they will be punished (in the world hereafter) also”. “I will reiterate that peace is taking roots and this environment is not conducive for those who are working against it,” Singh said.
Another problem security agencies are dealing with is a social media war launched by the propagandists from within Jammu and Kashmir and across the border. They are using media channels like Telegram and WhatsApp to glorify the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, claiming when it can happen there, why not here (Kashmir). Termed as “White Collar Terrorists” by Jammu and Kashmir Police, many of them have been called to local police stations and questioned by the security agencies. Most of them are, however, operating from outside the UT and country, thus are not reachable. The issue is so serious that it got a mention in a speech of Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha the other day. The L-G asked the security agencies to tackle the problem to protect peace.