2018 strategy: CRPF to go tough on militants, soft on public

The two-pronged strategy—anti-militancy operations and going soft on public—by forces would continue in 2018, a top central Reserve Police Force Officer (CRPF) said on Saturday.
Inspector General of CRPF Kashmir, Ravideep Sahi, told Rising Kashmir that forces will continue with the anti-militancy operation and civic action programmes—aimed to bridge gap between forces and public especially youth—in the approaching year in Kashmir.
“The strategy will be to continue with operations against militants while we should have programs like sports to build good rapport with local youth. The forces will continue to operate against militants in any area in Kashmir. The area domination will also continue,” Sahi said. In 2017 203 militants and 75 force personnel got killed in militancy-related incidents in the state.
Minister of State for Home, Hansraj Ahir, recently informed the Lok Sabah that up to December 14 this year 337 militancy incidents were reported in J&K in which 40 civilians, 75 personnel and 203 militants were killed and 321 people injured.
Ninety one militants were also arrested. Apart from infiltration from across the border, highway shootouts, grenade attacks, targeted killings, militants particularly groups of Jasih-e-Mohammad (JeM) also carried out some audacious fidayeen attacks in Valley this year—including one on CRPF camp in Hajin area of Bandipora district, district police line Pulwama and Border Security forces Camp in Humhama near Srinagar Airport. Early this year militants also stormed into Army base camp in Panzgam area of Kuwpara district.
Following the attack on BSF camp in Humhama forces conducted a meeting in October to review the security grid of forces installation in Kashmir.
“As far as forces’ camps are concerned, the security has been reviewed and whatever loopholes were there we have tried to plug it. The review of security is a continuous process. It depends on what kind of modus operandi is being adopted whether it is fidayeen attack or any other militant activity, the strategy for each is different,” IG Sahi said and added, “We are getting coordination from police and civil administration.”
2017 also witnessed a surge in incidents of clashes between people and forces near encounter sites—as whenever anti-militancy operations are launched especially in south Kashmir; people come out on roads and try to flock towards the encounter site in a bid to help militants escape from forces trap. When the trend picked pace in February this year, authorities announced the imposition of restrictions—barring civilians from assembling near encounter sites. But the people have been defying the government dictates and warnings resulting into civilian killings.
Latest victim Rubeena Jan of Butmarran village of Shopian is among over 30 civilians who were killed near gunfight sites between Army, police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and militants in Kashmir. Jan was hit by a bullet on 19 December inside her home in Butamurran where the encounter had taken place in which two JeM militants were also killed and houses razed to rubble by heavy blasts.
“Youths flocking to encounters sites is the cause of concern. Once restrictions are imposed, it becomes a duty of every citizen to follow the rule of law. Practically, on the ground when the encounter is on and there is a firing on both sides, a bullet can go anywhere,” said Sahi.
He said people should follow the instructions and don’t come out whenever the encounter is going on. “It is always unfortunate to lose the innocent lives but it is also the following the law is also the responsibility of people.”
About the number of deflectors available or used by CRPF for crowd control, IG Sahi said that the number deflectors was lesser than pellet guns.
“I can’t tell the number of deflectors being used with pellet guns. The number of deflectors is sufficient but less than pellets guns. But all the pellet guns are not used simultaneously,” he said.
While the number of militants killed this year was higher in last seven years, the local militant has not decreased.
According to the top CRPF officer, local youths joining militancy is a “matter of concern and challenge for all of us (forces).”
Recently, the state government announced to withdraw cases against first time stone pelters in Kashmir while several youths lately left the militancy and surrendered.
“The first-time stone pelters have been given amnesty and in last few months we have seen local militants coming back to their families—the trend is positive and hope youth minds evolve change and take part in positive activities rather than taking the path of militancy,” said IG Sahi.
He said that the Government’s amnesty will give an opportunity to around 4500 first time stone pelters, whose cases are being withdrawn, “to realise that they can focus on positive activities—education, sports and others so that these youth excel in their future.”
IG Sahi said that forces are active in Kashmir.
“We keep getting information about the militants and we are quite ready to deal with militants.”

javid@risingkashmir.com