Srinagar: The Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir, Vijay Kumar on Monday said that stone-pelting was a larger issue than militancy in Kashmir, which the authorities were taking more “seriously”.
“Terrorism does not affect us as much as stone-pelting does. It impacts the economic activity, schools, shops and tourism in the valley, so we are taking stone-pelting more seriously,” IGP Kumar said.
The top police official said earlier that those involved in stone-pelting would be booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA). “Unlike two or three attacks, the law and order situation affects yatra, tourism and economic activities...the whole society gets involved and we don’t want that to happen,” the IGP said.
The police officer was speaking during a presser in Srinagar after an encounter between militants and armed forces ended with the killing of four local militants in Imam Sahib village of South Kashmir’s Shopian area. All the four militants were locals who were identified by police as Rayees Ahmed, who was active since October last year; Amir Mir who joined militancy in February this year; Raqib Malik, who picked up arms in December last year, and Aftab Wani, who joined militancy in November last year.
The IGP was accompanied by General Officer Commanding (GOC) Victor Force Rashim Bali who said that the army’s 44 RR reached out to the parents, to the wife and a four-year-old son of Raqib who was caught in the Shopian encounter. “But they refused to surrender. This is why the operation got delayed, otherwise it would not have last even for half an hour,” the GOC said.
According to GOC Bali, the security forces had also called the brother-in-law of Raqib to the encounter site to convince the militant to lay down arms but it failed as he refused. The GOC also pointed out that the army is ready to facilitate the “surrender by local boys holding guns even at the last minute.”
The police claimed that the slain militants were affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) outfit. IGP Kumar said that some reports suggested that they belonged to The Resistance Front (TRF), but he added, that for the police, newly created outfits like TRF and Lashkar-e-Mustafa (LeM) are the off-shoots of LeT and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM).
According to the police, so far nine encounter have been carried out in the region of which only one was carried out in North Kashmir. In these encounters, as many as 19 militants have been killed, of which nine were killed in Shopian district alone.
“Among those slain were two top commanders that include Gani Khawja from North Kashmir and Sajad Afghani from South Kashmir,” the IGP said.
One army soldier and three policemen have also been killed. This year, so far, 18 youth have joined militancy, according to official data, of which five were killed and three arrested while rest are active. “Those active are being reached out to and are being urged to return to mainstream,” IGP Kumar said.
The authorities have also planned new measures for the increase in the security network as part of the summer strategy, which the IGP said has been put in place. This includes setting up of fresh checkpoints, frisking, and deployment of extra security personnel across the region. “Our priority apart from the peaceful Amarnath pilgrimage is to ensure schools, colleges remain open and tourists arrive in large numbers,” the IGP said.