Around “60 foreign militants” have infiltrated Jammu and Kashmir in the last one month, three government officials told The Hindu.
Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh, however, claimed that recruitment of locals into terror groups had been at an all-time low. In the past 45 days, only two men have joined terror groups, he told The Hindu.
An official said the number of foreign militants was arrived at after an assessment by multiple agencies, including the Army and the Border Security Force (BSF).
Several instances of movement of militants in Srinagar and other areas was being viewed with utmost concern in the security establishment. The senior government official said there had been incidents in Srinagar of militants firing in the air to threaten locals.
Another official said the local conduits of terrorist groups were travelling to Punjab to make calls to their handlers in Pakistan as mobile phone communication remains blocked in the Kashmir Valley and in areas along the Line of Control (LoC).
“We have intercepted a few calls that were made from Punjab to handlers in Pakistan and the security remains heightened in the wake of this. Pakistan is trying to push as many terrorists as possible,” said the official. There would be attempts to carry out spectacular strikes before September 27, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, he stated.
When asked how the foreign militants were communicating as mobile phone and Internet services remain suspended, he said, “they have split into groups and some are also using wireless sets. Their presence and movement was confirmed by villagers where they stopped for food.”
Yet another official said the spurt in shelling and firing along the LoC was a cover to push infiltrators.
In April, May and June there was zero infiltration from Pakistan but it peaked after August 5, when Union Home Minister Amit Shah moved two Bills to revoke the special status of J&K under Article 370 and bifurcate the State into Union Territories.
The official attributed the zero infiltration in the three months to various international engagements of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in the same period. “Before he was to meet dignitaries, including U.S. President Donald Trump on July 23, the Pakistan army had vacated terrorist camps along the LoC. But after August 5, these camps returned and there is a thrust on pushing terrorists into India,” he said.
Unprovoked ceasefire violations
According to the government, more than 2,050 unprovoked ceasefire violations had been reported this year along the LoC, killing 21 Indians.
The official said it was difficult to keep a tab on recruitment of locals in view of the communication blockade. “The Internet shutdown has also affected intelligence gathering. Earlier, when a local joined a group, he would post a picture on the Internet, announcing his affiliation to the terrorist outfit.”
The recruitment of locals had been low owing to lack of weapons with terrorist groups. On September 12, police intercepted a truck carrying six AK-47 rifles in Kathua district of Jammu region and arrested three persons. In August, around 3,000 people were detained in the Valley but subsequently two-thirds were released. Around 1,000 persons were still detained that includes troublemakers and habitual stone pelters who have more than five-six cases registered against them.
The official said militants were threatening shopkeepers with dire consequences. Almost 45 days since August 5, shops and establishments remained shut in most parts of the Valley. While police claimed normal business was affected due to threats from by militants, residents said they had shut shops willingly against the government's decision to revoke the special status of J&K.
Rows after rows of shops remained shut in Srinagar, Shopian, Pulwama, Budgam, Magam, Gulmarg and Kunzer where this correspondent travelled. Some shops and restaurants operated clandestinely by allowing customers from the backside while keeping the shutters down on the front.