On the eve of 23 March 2021, a 12-year-old boy was taken as hostage and was killed by two Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in north Kashmirs Hajin village, Bandipora during gun fight with security forces. The parents of the boy were in shock. On learning about the incident, People started to gather, standing around in sullen silence. The father of the boy steps forward and says “why are you here? Can you bring our boy back? Can you punish his killers? So many people are killed in the same manner. Can you answer that?”
The early phase of the militancy in Kashmir emerged in late 1980s inspired by the success of the Afghan jihad. The deep state of India western neighbouring nation instigated a widespread insurgency in J&K, aiming to push out India out of the state. The aim was to fight against security forces and free Kashmir. In early phases of militancy, there were clear demarcation and there were no incidents which were planned against local population of the Valley. However, in the recent times the most significant shift in the pattern of militancy has been observed. The local Kashmiri youth are disoriented from the ideology of militancy. The recent violence by the various terrorist outfits indicate that they have been targeting politicians, police, locals and other VIPs in a bid to bring the region to a halt.
The recent activities by the militants in the valley has witnessed attack on soft targets. These attacks are carried out by the local radicalized youths who are not enlisted as militants. The desperate nexus is modifying methods. Now, pistol based targeting of soft targets is a new norm. Likely targets are unarmed and unlikely to retaliate like businessmen including ones from minority community, activists, political leaders and off duty policemen. The aim of such attacks is to spread fear and stop business and social activities, silence voices that are speaking against separatism and against perpetrators and instigators of violence that target militants and their ecosystem.
The new pattern of attacks has witnessed a spike over last few months. On June 27 militants shot dead a special police officer, his wife and daughter in Pulwama. On June 23, terrorists shot dead a 25-year-old shop keeper, Umar Ahmed outside his shop at Habba kadal in the interior of the city and the list goes on. These attacks may have been carried out by hybrid militants whose task is to carry out the specific task given to them and go back to their normal life. These incidents indicate that the terrorist outfits have lost their concern for the common Kashmiri, women and children.
The ISI and Pakistan has played a bigger role in changing the modus operandi of the militant outfits. The directions are being passed by people across to keep Indian troops distracted and cause international condemnation of India. Such attacks are unpredictable and it’s easy for militant outfits to carryout. The aim is to threaten and instill fear among local population who tend to work against terrorist outfits or who they feel are supporting security forces. Such attacks are not random. It involves in watching movement patterns and finding a weak part of the routine. The OGWs play a vital role in such attacks to constantly update their feeders and suggest a suitable time for carrying out attack.
With the rise in civilian killings and violence against common Kashmiri across the valley, it clearly indicates ideological drift. The recent data indicates that near about 100 civilians have been killed by militants in past two years. The militant outfits may also gain less popularity and local support due to violence caused to civilians. However, associates who run militant groups are smartly using social media platforms to showcase the victims as sinners and use religion as a weapon to prove that they were right in killings.
The recent incidents clearly indicate that there has been shift in ideology among the terrorist groups. Many Common Kashmiri, women and children have become victim of such recent attacks. It’s a matter of concern which needs to be addressed soon to stop violence against civilians in the Valley. The new modus operandi by the terrorist groups has challenged security forces to push their limits. In addition, it is also important to alert local population to be cautious of such attacks. (AR bhat)