Militancy in Kashmir is witnessing a tectonic shift. While the indigenous militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) is taking over from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militants are shifting their base from traditional stronghold to less suspect places.
A survey conducted by security agencies, a copy of which lies with the Hindustan Times, points towards migration of militants towards less suspect areas, like chief minister Omar Abdullah’s stronghold constituency, Ganderbal district.
From the usual militant hubs like south Kashmir’s Kulgam area, there are less militants there than perceived in peaceful areas like Ganderbal, where around 16 militants are active, with seven local boys and four suspected to be outsiders. Kulgam area has only 13 militants.
Another quirky revelation is that Srinagar has more militants than Shopian district, which once was a militancy hotbed. There are 14 militants active in Srinagar, belying inspector general of police SM Sahai’s contention of zero militancy, and only 13 in Shopian.
“Sopore is a springboard of militants. Those who cross over into Kashmir from Kupwara have to pass through Sopore and Handwara to fan out into other area. So it’s difficult to put finger on a figure about militants,” said superintendent of police Sopore Altaf Khan.
Police sources said there is a strategic shift in north Kashmir, which has the highest concentration of militants, with figures at 200. As security forces are tightening their grip in north Kashmir areas like Sopore, Kupwara and Handwara, the militants are shifting to Bandipora and Ganderbal, north-east of Srinagar.
In contrast to north Kashmir, south Kashmir’s areas of Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian have only 85 militants.
The new picture drawn up by security agencies shows the HM taking over from the LeT, which became a potent militant force in Kashmir from 1998 onwards, till the 26/11 attack of Mumbai.
“The HM figures stand at 143 while the LeT rank strength has shrunken to 92 only,” according to the survey. But the LeT remains No 2 in the militancy graph.
Similarly, foreign militants’ presence has come down to 134, while the local militants are 168 out of 325 militants active. The real security threat lies in 23 unidentified militants active in Kashmir.
“Although the militancy graph has been brought to a lowest level, the force has to remain on constant vigil to face any emerging situation effectively,” said inspector general of police Kuldeep Khoda in his address in north Kashmir’s Sopore area on Tuesday.
Earlier, the United Jehad Council (UJC), a fountainhead of militants’ outfits operating from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, would have at least 300 militants in Kashmir at any given time, but now it keeps around 150 militants active in Kashmir to keep the pot boiling.