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Militants creep back into mainland Kashmir as NC looks on - The Indian Express

AAsha Khosa ()
30 November 1996

Title : Militants creep back into mainland Kashmir as NC looks on
Author : AAsha Khosa
Publication : The Indian Express
Date : November 30, 1996

The Kashmir Valley has not seen a violent funeral demon-
stration for the past six years. But, when two Hizbul
Mujahideen militants killed by the Army at Pulwama town-
ship were laid to rest last week, a massive procession
was taken out. As the post-election euphoria recedes, the
Kashmiri militants are slowly making a tactical comeback
to the mainland. With the secularity forces lowering
pressure after the elections, militants seem to be re-
turning to the villages from their mountain and jungle

Less than two months after the formation of the National
Conference (NC) government, the militants - who are
tactfully changing their rough-and-tough image for social
acceptability-find it easy to penetrate the villages. The
reason: there still exists a political vacuum and securi-
ty forces are yet to come to terms with this post-elec-
tions reality. While cases of explosion and arson have
increased in towns such as Srinagar, it's the villages
where this trend is visible. "Militants are cashing in on
the decreased presence of the security forces and the
lack of government response to people's problems," says a
state minister.

A NC leader who recently visited his native South Kashmir
village says people are now welcoming the militants with
food once again. In some north and central Kashmir areas,
such as Kralpora in Trehgam, Shitlu in Rafiabad and Khag
and Toshamaidan in Budgam, armed pro-Pakistan militants
have been marching through villages. "Nobody is, howev-
er, ready to cooperate with us for nabbing them," said a
senior Army officer. Observers say that one reason mili-
tants have started regaining social acceptability is
their changing face. "They no longer resort to extortion
and anti-social acts," says a Congress leader from So-
pore. At some places, the Hizbul Mujahideen militants
have even started paying for their stay.

However, the most important reason for their resurgence
is the severely restricted political activity by the NC.
For instance, the NC has not organised a single political
rally in Kashmir after it was elected to power.

"People in rural areas have once again started looking up
to the militants for rescuing them from the red-tape,"
says the NC leader."The vacuum still exists and the
militants are- there to fill it in their own way." As a
result, as CLP leader Mehbooba Mufti puts it violence is
increasing and heavy outflow of youth into Pakistan for
armed training has already started. No wonder, then,
that militants feel bold enough to impose "bans" on
payment of taxes in some areas. The Hizbul has launched
publicity campaigns to highlight the martyrdom' of free-
dom fighters through local newspapers. Meanwhile, the
drive against insurgency is fast losing its sheen. "We
are getting no positive signals from the government,"
laments a top-ranking official. As most of Farooq's
ministers have shifted to Jammu for winter, the forces in
Kashmir are groping in the dark for a firm policy on
insurgency. "We lack manpower and equipment to handle

militants,," says a DIG of police. He says at times the
local police officers do not even have vehicles to visit
the spots of violence as they are diverted for VVIP
security. But the government isn't pressing the panic
buttons yet. Minister of State for Home, Ali Mohomad
Sagar, claims it is trying to "strengthen the police
force and working towards better cooperation with coun-
ter-insurgent groups."

Ironically, it's the counter-insurgent groups which
helped the NC in the elections-that are at the receiving
end of the renewed violence.

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