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Uncertain times for Kashmir rebels

The number of guerrillas infiltrating into the Indian side reduces due to mounting pressure on militants by Pak, reports Neelesh Misra.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2007 12:00 IST
Neelesh Misra

It was just a small report in an Urdu newspaper in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir: 15,000 “refugees” would be forcibly sent back to India and their ration cards and national identity cards cancelled by September 15, because they had become a “financial liability”.

These would have included many Kashmiri militants and their families as well, after they got married across the border. The Pakistan wing of the separatist All-Parties Hurriyat Conference reacted furiously to the purported government plan, which eventually did not happen. But wireless sets and satellite phones were soon buzzing across the border from Jammu and Kashmir, with militants, especially those of the largest group, the Hizbul Mujahedeen, wondering what lay in store for them with Pakistan in turmoil.

<b1>“They are wondering what will happen to their supply lines, their resources, their camps,” a senior security official said on condition of anonymity, citing wireless intercepts. “The questions on their mind are: will it be Pervez Musharraf or Benazir Bhutto? Or someone else? And what does it mean for them?”

The official said some of the questions on recent intercepts were: “Our supplies are down… (Hizb chief Sayed) Salahuddin should clarify the position… Is there a possibility we could be asked to stand down?” The official’s assertion cannot be independently verified.

Increasing pressure by Pakistan on militants has brought a dramatic reduction in the number of guerrillas infiltrating into the Indian side: from 1,400 militants a year in 2002, it is down to about 600 now, security officials say.

“The boys in jihadi groups are demoralised that supplies are not at previous levels,” said a security official who monitors intercepts every day. Incidents of violence are down to less than a third of what they were before 2004 — a direct result of the reduction of militant numbers in the Kashmir Valley. From levels of about 3,500 a few years ago, the number of rebels in the Valley is believed to be under 800, officials say.

“If the number reduces, boys cannot be spared for fidayeen attacks, etc. Then the fear level goes up. So often, small groups of different militant outfits come together on the ground in common unit,” an intelligence official said.

“Violence has gone down considerably and their cycle of rotation of men and replenishment of resources has been badly disturbed,” an intelligence official said. “And with the crisis Pakistan is facing and the pressure from the government on some militant groups, the boys here wonder if their lives will be affected too next."