THE TACTICALLY USELESS LOCAL MILITANT POSES A STRATEGIC NIGHTMARE SCENARIO IN DEATH
The nightmare for security forces in Kashmir has always been the Pakistani militant—fighters from its Punjab province who pass through a three-month military-style training camp in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) and infiltrate the Line of Control to attack security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. They are trained to ambush and engage in long firefights with the security forces. This year, Pakistani militants laid three ambushes, killing 15 security personnel; the worst, the June 25 ambush of a CRPF convoy, killed eight troopers.
Security forces saw the local militant as more of a nuisance value element. A heavily guarded LoC fence meant crossing over into PoK for either arms or training was dicult. Without training, the local militants had limited utility, and were mostly in support roles, acting as guides for Pakistani militants. Their real utility seemingly lay in social media. Photographs and videos of local militants brandishing assault rifles snatched from security forces turned them into poster boys for militancy and fuelled fresh recruitments. And in death, they would prove to be far greater phenomena. The first signs of their posthumous appeal came in January this year when huge crowds thronged the funeral of a Hizb-ul Mujahideen militant in Pulwama. Shakir Ahmed had been gunned down by the security forces. The crowds were even larger than the one for J&K chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s funeral in Anantnag on January 8.
Senior army ocials point to a twopronged strategy Pakistan put in place after the violent 2010 stone-pelting protests: cross-border infiltration of terrorists and a focus on creating triggers for agitational politics within the Valley.
Fewer than 200 militants are now thought to be active in Jammu and Kashmir. Around 40 per cent of these are local militants. Recruitments of local militants, which began in 2010, peaked last year when over 60 locals, most of them from south Kashmir, joined groups like the Hizbul Mujahideen. In Burhan, local militancy found fresh life. His missives, eagerly shared by locals on social media, either reassured Amarnath yatris of their safety or warned security forces of attacks. Strangely, the Hizb-ul Mujahideen commander in J&K had no FIRs filed against him and no killings to his name. Army ocials say police would have found it hard to frame a case against Burhan if he had been caught alive.
Burhan’s death in a July 8 encounter has now triggered a maelstrom of violence in the Valley, reason why former chief minister Omar Abdullah tweeted on July 9 that “Burhan’s ability to recruit from beyond the grave would far outstrip anything he could have done on social media”.
Incidentally, recruitment levels of local militants had gone down this year. Less than 30 locals are thought to have joined the ranks of groups like the HM. After the fresh cycle of violence, no one is quite sure if this trend will hold. In any case, the local militant has established himself as a permanent thorn in the flesh of the security establishment.
THE CROWDS FOR THE SLAIN MILITANT’S FUNERAL IN JANUARY WERE EVEN LARGER THAN THAT FOR FOR THE LATE CM, MUFTI SAYEED