It’s been more than three weeks that the army operation in dense jungles of the Kupwara district to flush out a group of militants is still on.
Being called one of the longest running operations, nearly 800 security personnel, including both army and CRPF, have been searching for a group of three to four militants in the forests adjacent to the Line of Control in the north Kashmir (only one-and-half hour walk from the LoC).
During the operation, Commanding Officer of 41 Rashtriya Rifles Santosh Mahadik was killed on November 17, while another officer, Lt Col Karan Bir Singh Nath and two soldiers sustained injuries. Two militants were also killed. One of them was killed in the encounter while another died after falling from the cliff.
A Srinagar-based army spokesman said the group had been contacted at least four to five times, but there was no deadline for calling off the operation yet.
While the army restrains from giving the exact number of militants, sources say a group of five militants who infiltrated in November was trapped in the forests. While two militants have died, police sources say another three might be present in the area.
“The operation has been scaled down. We know it is causing inconvenience to the people of the area, which we regret, but we cannot fully withdraw our troops,” he said.
Around 900 people living in the periphery of the forest are unable to carry their routine work since the operation has started.
The area has no permanent road as the four kilometer road between Glassdaji and Manigah village is not fit for vehicles. The villages are yet to get electricity. The only sources of electricity are solar panels set up by a few affluent households.
“People charge their mobile phones and other gadgets there,” said a resident.
The locals said it has become difficult to ferry pregnant ladies and sick outside the village.
The siege has hit the schools badly. Reports suggest that troops had occupied a primary school building, while other schools, including Government Middle School Glasdaji, Government Middle School Malikpati, Primary School Sangeepir, Primary School Hajinaka, Primary School Tanna, Middle School Brimbal, Primary School Chutwan and Primary School Bhack-Sabhaya, have started functioning. Although teachers have resumed the work, the attendance is generally thin as parents are keeping children away from the school.
Meanwhile some residents have complained that they were forcibly taken along as human shields, but the army refuted such allegations.
“The operation is taking time as we want to avoid any civilian causality.” said an official.
The army believes that the militants have been able to survive in the forest due to summer shelters, which are made by semi-nomadic population in the forests.
“There might be supplies in these shelters, which is keeping the militants alive,’ said the official.