Costs of escalation

THE WEEK|June 28, 2020

Costs of escalation
Buoyed by the Chinese aggression in Ladakh, Pakistan steps up infiltration and cross-border attacks to stymie India’s ruthless pursuit of militants during lockdown
TARIQ BHAT

WHEN ARTICLE 370 was revoked last August, a strict lockdown and communication blackout was imposed all over Jammu and Kashmir to prevent any backlash against the move. Operations against militants were also suspended. In contrast, after lockdown was imposed early this year to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic, 59 militants were gunned down by security forces. Those killed include senior commanders of the Hizbul Mujahideen like Riyaz Naikoo and Junaid Sherri, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Haider, Jaish-e-Muhammad commander Qari Yasir and Burhan Koka, commander of Ansar Ghazwatul-Hind (AGH), an Al Qaeda affiliate in Kashmir.

Such has been the pace of anti-militancy operations during the lockdown that 23 militants were killed in the first 24 days of April. Meanwhile, 15 civilians and 20 security personnel lost their lives in encounters, targeted killings by militants and shelling by Pakistan this year till June 15. Since February, a new militant group called The Resistance Front (TRF) has been quite active in Kashmir. Security forces say TRF is LeT in disguise and has been formed to mislead the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), which has threatened to blacklist Pakistan for supporting terrorism. According to Kashmir inspector-general of police Vijay Kumar, TRF has members from the LeT and the Hizbul Mujahideen. He said the hunt for Naikoo, who was Hizb’s chief operations commander, was intensified after security forces suffered setbacks in north Kashmir.

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June 28, 2020