After the completion of one year of the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu & Kashmir, active militancy is in its “lowest” phase in the erstwhile state in decades and all terror groups are “leaderless” due to the continuous anti-terror operations by the security forces as well as the administration.
Dilbag Singh, J&K Director General of Police, shared the details about the current situation in the Union territory since the nullification of Article 370 on August 5 last year.
“The number of active terrorists in J&K has been around 200 compared to 350 or 400 earlier. All the terror organisations are leaderless now and those militants who are recruited as leaders of any group by Pakistan-based handlers are caught or killed,” Singh said.
“In 2019, a total of 131 militants were killed till July but only 29 were killed from July to December that year as we were busy maintaining law and order, and our operations had declined. In total, we killed 160 militants in 2019 in 67 successful operations and over 5,000 cordon and area search operations,” Singh said.
This year so far, Singh said, a total of 150 terrorists have been killed.
Of these 150 terrorists, 30 were foreign and 120 were locals, including 39 top commanders of all major groups. “All terrorists are almost leaderless now,” the DGP said.
Calling 2018 a “landmark” year compared to 2013, the DGP said that security is “much better now than ever before”.
“The number of poster boys of militancy started increasing in 2013 and major recruitment was done till 2017. Poster boys like Manan Wani, Burhan Wani and Riyaz Naikoo were so famous here at that time. Youths used to carry their photos and girls got attracted to them. New recruits earlier indulged in militancy for several years after joining terrorist groups.”
“Operations against such groups improved in 2017 and 2018 was a landmark year as far as our operations were concerned. Governor’s rule came in 2018, and there was a huge difference in the first six months and second half of 2018 in terms of law and order and militancy operations,” Singh said.
As per the J&K police chief, the graph of anti-militancy operations reached a high that was not achieved in the last 10 years.
Of the 350 to 375 active militants in 2018, 260 were killed in 2018 itself, said the 1987-batch IPS officer who was given additional charge as the Director General of Police (DGP) of Jammu & Kashmir, replacing S.P. Vaid.
The officer said 93 successful operations took place in 3,600 cordon and search operations in 2018, and the trend set in 2018 was maintained in 2019.
In 2018-2019, the officer said, “we managed to target the support structure of the terrorists.”
“Earlier, there was a free hand to kill terrorists but it was difficult to touch their handlers. In 2018-2019 we kept targeting group leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, separatist groups, JKLF and their leaders. Hundreds of leaders were caught during this period. It was the biggest solid damage to terrorism in 2019. And its results were seen on the ground.”
“We targeted a very big group of Over Ground Workers (OWGs) who provide ‘oxygen’ to militancy, help militants. All help to militants was cut off and a time came when militants used to record messages on mobiles and then give them to others to pass on to their commanders for further orders. They even stopped giving letters.”
The officer said “the only target was to better the situation which had worsened in 2016, and we were successful in 2018 and further improved it in 2019.”
“We almost had the situation in control till August when the abrogation period came. In one week since the abrogation of Article 370, we picked up around 5,500 people, told the stone pelters to fill a ‘Good Behaviour Bond’ and handed them over to their family members after keeping them in custody for 4 to 5 days. We kept only 1,200 people in custody who were a threat to law and order,” Singh said.
The 1,200 people in custody include Hurriyat members, some stone pelters and some OWG workers.
The officer clarified that the number of people in custody never crossed 1,200. “Our total present custody is 560 in which a majority are booked under substantive cases. A former J&K Chief Minister is the only politician in our custody, some belong to Hurriyat and other categories. The remaining are hardcore stone pelters.”
The officer said a total of 144 stone pelters aged below 18 were picked up under legal procedures and all of them, except 17, were handed over to their families after warning them. “These 17 were put in juvenile homes and court cases were filed.”
The shelf life of new recruits joining militancy is one day to 90 days in the present security scenario in Jammu and Kashmir, said Dilbag Singh, Director General of Police (DGP).
A total of 80 boys have joined terrorist groups this year so far as per the DGP and 38 of them have been killed between day one to three months of their joining.
Singh said that 22 of them were caught because they were involved in some cases and 20 are active and are on the security forces’ radar.
According to Singh, police stopped the operation in almost half a dozen encounters when they learnt that there were children inside the premises where the militants were holed up.
“We even brought their family members from 20 kms away in some cases so that they could surrender on their appeal. Police assured them of not taking any action against them but they did not surrender because they were threatened by their associates who were hardcore terrorists.
“We came to the conclusion from these cases that the boys might have thought that their associates would not only kill them but their family members also. It might be one of the factors probably,” said Singh, who took full-time charge as Chief of the J&K Police in 2018.
“There is confirmation of only 26 infiltration bids so far this year. It was almost double last year during the corresponding seven month period from January to July while the number of ceasefire violations increased to 487 this year,” the 1987-batch officer said.
The ceasefire violations, incidents of mortar shelling and covering fire on the border have increased to 487 from 267 such incidents in 2019, he said, adding that Pakistani ceasefire violations have gone up by 75 per cent compared to the previous year. Despite this, infiltration has come down this year.
“They could not succeed in their infiltration bids despite such provocation and attempts because we have improved our border grids compared to previous years and over half a dozen encounters have taken place on the border. Whenever they try to come out, they are killed. They adopt such methods to infiltrate terrorists in J&K,” Singh said.
“Pakistan always infiltrates terrorists when local youths do not join terrorist groups. The purpose is to maintain a critical number of militants on the ground. But this time, we have hit their critical number,” he said.
Singh said that Pakistan attempts to recruit the maximum number of terrorists but their poster boys have vanished from the scene and there is no provocation from our side.
The officer said the police now do “clean operations” and the civilian as well as security forces casualties are zero in anti-militant and law and order operations.
As per Singh, COVID-19 has helped in improving relations between the police and the public and “communication is now much better”.
“We are also trying to advise those who joined terrorist groups through their families and we keep their names a secret as militants may kill them.”