The combing operations launched by Indian Army in south Kashmir are biggest in past 15 years. According to a report, cordon and combing operations of “this magnitude has not been undertaken in Kashmir in the last 15 years”.
“The purpose of the operation is to exert pressure on militants and force them to move out of their comfort zone. The ravines and orchards around the Rambi Ara river (in Shopian) provide ideal hideouts for militants… they will not be able to congregate and move in large groups now,” a senior Army officer told Indian Express.
Army General Bipin Rawat on Thursday told media in Delhi that massive operations were launched by Indian Army after the recent incidents of bank robberies, attack on policemen and cash van loots by terrorist hiding in the region.
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Here are some points which will highlight the massive scale of the combing operations in Shopian, south Kashmir:
#Almost 4,000 personnel, comprising of four battalions of Rashtriya Rifles, eight companies of CRPF, and five platoons of J&K police, including 30 women constables, and the Indian Reserve Police have been deployed to conduct thorough search.
#The operation started in the early hours of Wednesday when soldiers and security personnel, using Mine Protected Vehicles (MPVs) and Bullet Proof Rakshaks, moved into 20 villages in Shopian district and laid a cordon around an area of 10kmx10km.
#House-to-house searches were reportedly conducted in the villages of Sugan, Turkwangam, Heff and Shirmal, from where many youngsters are suspected to have joined militant ranks. Some residents reported seeing helicopters and drones over the area.
#The areas being searched fall at the centre of Yaripura, Pulwama and Kulgam from where instances of rifle-snatching from police were reported last week.
#During the operations, protesters clashed with police at Sugan, Drazpora, Malduor and Turkwangam, with four persons said to have been injured, including one with a pellet injury on his forehead. They also alleged that four persons were arrested during the security operation.
#According to reports, police and Army had received information about the presence of militants in the area, including some involved in the attack on the J&K Bank cash van in which five policemen and two private guards were killed on Monday.
#Army is also conducting through search in the apple orchards of Shopian as it has been reported that terrorists have used those orchards to shoot several propaganda videos to share on social media.
#”Soldiers came to our village around midnight. In the morning, dozens of soldiers and policemen entered my house and searched every room. They conducted similar searches in other houses of our village,’’ said Gulzar Ahmad, from Sugan told a news daily.
#“The Army and policemen took us out of our houses and conducted searches. They inquired about the presence of militants and left the village late in the afternoon,” another villager Abdul Gaffar Sheikh, from Heff, was quoted by an English website.
#Mohammad Akram Khan, a resident of Shirmal, said they had not seen such an operation in the last two decades. “This is first time that such big crackdown was launched in our area,’’ he said.
Is Army reverting to 1990s policies?
The combing operations of this nature used to be common in 1990s but due reports of discomfort to villagers, the Army switched to specific intelligence-based operations undertaken by small teams. However, Thursday’s operations may indicate a shift in Indian Army’s operational philosophy in Kashmir.
Combing ops were due for a month
Indian Army had reportedly had planned this operation a month ago. But could not carry it out due to unavailability of CRPF in wake of Anantnag Lok Sabha bypoll scheduled for May 25.
“Once the bypoll was cancelled, police and the CRPF have moved from ‘law and order mode’ to ‘CT (counter-terrorist) mode’. It has little to do with any immediate provocation,” a senior official told Indian Express.
According to Army estimates, there are 100 active militants in south Kashmir, including around 80 local residents who have joined militancy in the last two years.