The Kashmir valley of Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) is seeing an unusual autumn as the central government has been deploying additional troops in the region to “instill a sense of security among civilians” as 12 civilians have been killed by suspected militants in targeted shooting in the region since October this year.
The Ministry of Home Affairs last month gave a nod to the deployment of additional troops of 50 fresh companies (5000 personnel) of the central forces in the valley in the wake of targeted civilian killings.
Sources told The Kashmir Walla that nearly 20 companies of central forces have been deployed in the capital city of Srinagar alone; where at least nine civilians were killed in targeted killings.
Earlier in September a police officer was also killed by the suspected militants in the downtown area of Srinagar. Among the nine killed in Srinagar two were non-local labourers, a school principal from Sikh community and a non-muslim teacher from Jammu division.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on Tuesday said that additional five companies will be sent to J-K in addition to 25 companies of the force.
A Delhi based news agency quoting CRPF sources had said, “30 additional companies of CRPF have been sent for deployment in J-K over the past one month in the wake of surge in civilian killings”.
The deployment of additional troops has taken the residents of the region by surprise and different reasons for the deployment are being speculated. However, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the CRPF, Abhiram Pankaj told The Kashmir Walla that the deployment is to deal with the security situation in the region.
“Additional deployment is being done to instill a sense of security among the residents. Around twenty companies have arrived in Srinagar and more companies will arrive in the coming days,” said Pankaj.
Last week, at least two community marriage halls were occupied by the CRPF personnel leading to intense opposition from the local residents and politicians. After The Kashmir Walla exclusively reported the story one marriage hall was vacated by the forces.
Pankaj, the PRO, added that the overall deployment of the CRPF is looked after by the Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar and in Srinagar it is looked after by the Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar.
“The arrangements of their accommodation in Srinagar is being taken care of by District administration Srinagar,” he added.
Civilian killings and “security measures”
In the past one and half months, attacks on civilians intensified as nearly 14 civilians were killed, among them two were killed by the CRPF allegedly after they jumped security checkpoint in south Kashmir.
The spurt of killings in the region by suspected militants has created havoc as nearly 32 civilians have been killed in the region this year. Following the rise in violence, authorities detained hundreds of people for questioning related to the civilian killings.
Among the people detained, sources had told The Kashmir Walla, most of the detainees had affiliation with the banned Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, stone-throwers or people on the suspected list of Over Ground Workers (OGW).
In October the National Investigation Agency (NIA), took over the investigation of civilian killings and raided multiple locations to have breakthroughs in the killings. The NIA had registered a case (RC 29/2021/NIA/DLI) on 10 October 2021 and raids were carried out in the process of the investigation.
A NIA spokesperson in October said that searches were conducted at 16 locations in Srinagar, Pulwama and Shopian districts of Jammu and Kashmir and arrested four accused in connection with the “militancy conspiracy case.”
In the same month a freelance journalist of Srinagar and his brother were arrested by the NIA in the same case.
Around the same time, the authorities “as a measure to combat terror activities” have been detaining two wheelers and have intensified frisking of commuters and vehicles in several parts of the region.
The seizure of two-wheelers had been started at the time Union Home Minister (HM) Amit Shah was scheduled to visit Kashmir last month. People suspected that it was due to HM’s visit that bikes were detained but police denied any such reports. Shah was on a visit to Kashmir for the first time since August 2019 – when the limited-autonomy of the region was revoked.
“Seizing of some bikes and shutting down the internet of some towers is purely related to militancy violences. It has nothing to do with the visit of the HM [Home Minister],” the Kashmir police chief had said.
Most of the civilian killings were carried out in Srinagar district; the district witnessed establishment of several bunkers in different parts, however CRPF PRO said that the number of bunkers has not been increased.
“The number of bunkers in the city has not changed but they have been rationalised. Suppose there was a bunker in Iqbal Park, due to diversion of traffic the bunker has been shifted to another place,” Pankaj, the PRO, said.
Formation of State Investigation Agency
Following an increase in the number of militant confrontations in J-K, the government earlier this month constituted a special agency – State Investigation Agency (SIA), with a mandate to handle most high-profile militancy related cases.
However, sources in the police department had told The Kashmir Walla, the decision to constitute SIA came after the Union Home Minister’s visit to Kashmir to take a review of the security situation.
“After the recent increase in the militant attacks, it was felt that there should be a well oiled agency on the ground who will specifically work on the counter insurgency threat in the region,” sources had said.
Sources said that Shah, in his briefing, expressed his dissatisfaction over curbing the militancy in J-K, especially after the state was directly overtaken by New Delhi following the removal of its special status on 5 August 2019.
Amid these new measures by the authorities in Kashmir valley, the situation seems chaotic with a sense of threat looming over people’s heads. The administration has been strongly advocating for wiping out militancy from the region but with each new attack or killing it has been a challenge.