J&K mil­i­tants hide in Pun­jab

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THE New Delhi-driven, no-holds-barred mil­i­tary crack­down in the Kash­mir Val­ley is bring­ing on un­pre­dictable con­se­quences. While on one hand, the nightly CASO (cor­don and search op­er­a­tions) and ris­ing mil­i­tant killings are lead­ing to a wor­ry­ing surge in new re­cruit­ments, sus­tained pres­sure by the se­cu­rity forces seem to be driv­ing many ter­ror out­fits out­side the Val­ley, to the usu­ally mil­i­tancy-free Jammu re­gion, Pun­jab, and per­haps even Delhi.

The Novem­ber 1 as­sas­si­na­tion of Anil Par­i­har, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s state sec­re­tary in Jammu & Kash­mir, and his older brother Ajit Par­i­har, came as a shock to the J&K po­lice, which de­clared the moun­tain­ous dis­tricts of

Jammu “mil­i­tancy-free” years ago. The twin killings in the cen­tre of Kisht­war town came as a con­fir­ma­tion that Pak­istan-backed ter­ror groups like the Hizbul Mu­jahideen (Hizb), Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the long-for­got­ten Harkat-ul-Mu­jahideen (HuM) had suc­ceeded in es­tab­lish­ing more than a foothold in the Jammu sec­tor. The Pari- har broth­ers were gunned down, prob­a­bly with easy-to-con­ceal hand­guns, not far from their home shortly af­ter sun­set. It was the first suc­cess­ful mil­i­tant strike in the Chenab Val­ley since 2011.

The Kisht­war killings came in the wake of at least a dozen or so ar­rests of Hizb and HuM mil­i­tants and over­ground work­ers (OGWs), in­clud­ing the re­cov­ery of firearms and in­cen­di­ary weapons since May this year. In­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials have con­cluded for long and it is now ev­i­dent that the OGWs are ac­tively en­gaged in en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal young­sters to join mil­i­tancy. This Oc­to­ber, Ja­mal ud Din, a lo­cal of the Kesh­wan area, showed up on so­cial me­dia at­tired in mil­i­tary fa­tigues and bran­dish­ing a Kalash­nikov ri­fle. Since rechris­tened ‘Abu Bakar’, he is among the new­est mem­bers of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in J&K.

Kisht­war and Doda aren’t new to ter­ror­ism and ter­ror­ism-driven com­mu­nal flare­ups. This is sim­i­lar to the wide­spread Hindu-Mus­lim clashes in 2001, af­ter mil­i­tants killed about 17 Hindu shep­herds in the area. The last big com­mu­nal clash took place around Dussehra cel­e­bra­tions in 2013.

But while the trou­ble in Kisht­war is a con­cern, what is re­ally wor­ry­ing about In­dia’s se­cu­rity estab­lish­ment is the spillover out­side Jammu & Kash­mir.

Around 7:40 p.m. on Septem­ber 14, a se­ries of ex­plo­sions hit the Maq­su­dan po­lice sta­tion in Pun­jab’s Ja­land­har city. More than a month of col­lab­o­ra­tive inves- tiga­tions be­tween the Pun­jab and J&K po­lice have now re­vealed that four Kash­miri stu­dents who en­rolled at Ja­land­har’s St. Sol­dier Col­lege of En­gi­neer­ing and Tech­nol­ogy car­ried out the au­da­cious at­tack. Po­lice say all four – Shahid Qay­oom, Fazil Bashir, Mir Rouf Ah­mad and Mir Umar Ramzan – were re­cently re­cruited by the Zakir Musaled, Al Qaeda-af­fil­i­ated, An­sar Gazwat-ul-Hind (AGH).

The ap­pointed com­man­der of the Hizb in the Val­ley af­ter Burhan Wani was killed in July 2016, and Musa quickly found him­self marginalised within Kash­mir’s ter­ror hi­er­ar­chy af­ter he ques­tioned Pak­istan’s role and threat­ened to “be­head” the Hur­riyat sep­a­ratists in 2017. That is when he floated the AGH, which re­mained on the side­lines of the ter­ror ma­chine in the val­ley.

Po­lice of­fi­cers say that Musa has since mended his fences with Pak­istan’s In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence, which has ev­i­dently in­structed him to op­er­ate out­side the Val­ley – in Pun­jab and Delhi. Ac­cord­ing to them, in Au­gust, a Kash­miri youth car­ry­ing seven hand grenades, was de­tained in Jammu. Th­ese were meant to carry out ran­dom at­tacks in crowded spots in the na­tional cap­i­tal.

IN the Maq­su­dan case too, Rouf and Umar flew in from Srinagar to Chandi­garh on Septem­ber 13. They took a bus up to link up with Qay­oom and Bashir, who had trav­elled by road from Kash­mir to Ja­land­har. The grenades used in the at­tack on the po­lice sta­tion were in all like­li­hood sourced from the val­ley. Qay­oom and Bashir have since been ar­rested and are presently in the cus­tody of the Ja­land­har po­lice. Their ac­com­plices are ab­scond­ing.

Po­lice say the four stu­dents from Ja­land­har aren’t the only Kash­miri youth sus­pected of be­ing in­volved with the AGH and other val­ley­based mil­i­tant out­fits. A num­ber of oth­ers have been re­cently nabbed from lo­cal uni­ver­sity and col­lege hos­tels, where many of them are pur­su­ing cour­ses paid for through cen­tral schol­ar­ships.

The most re­cent in­stance is that of Ehtisham Bi­lal, a na­tive of the Khan­yar lo­cal­ity in down­town Srinagar, who went miss­ing on Oc­to­ber 28. A stu­dent of Sharda Uni­ver­sity in Greater Noida, Bi­lal who went miss­ing on Oc­to­ber 28 may have been upset af­ter be­ing mis­taken for an Afghan stu­dent and roughed up on the cam­pus. Four days later, he showed up on so­cial me­dia as a new mem­ber of the Is­lamic State (JK-IS) group known to be ac­tive in the Kash­mir val­ley.

Many in the in­tel­li­gence estab­lish­ment view the ex­pand­ing ter­ror foot­print as the ISI’s bid to re-op­er­a­tionalise its erst­while K2 (Kash­mir-Khal­is­tan) plan.

It is ev­i­dent that the OGWs are ac­tively en­gaged in en­cour­ag­ing lo­cal young- sters to join mil­i­tancy.


(Above) Army pa­trolling in re­gions of Jammu & Kash­mir; (in­set) Late Anil Par­i­har, BJP’s state sec­re­tary in J&K

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