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80 security personnel killed in line of duty in Kashmir this year

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Wahid Bhat, Srinagar: The anti-militancy operations in the Kashmir Valley have been hit hard after the abrogation of Article 370 as security forces remained busy with less than a dozen encounters in the past four months.

After August 5, security forces had gone all-out against militants and their leadership and killed 105 in a bid to avenge the killing of 40 CRPF men in Pulwama district on February 14. Maximum 28 militants were killed in May.

Over 50 militants of the group, including the operational chief of the Jaish, were killed in massive offensives. At least 31 security men, including some officers of forces, were killed in the operations. Many senior officers of the forces were wounded in gunfights. In all, 80 security personnel have been killed in the line of duty in Kashmir this year so far.

The attack, analysts say, pushed the Union Government to make a drastic shift in its Kashmir policy. Nearly six months after the Pulwama suicide attack, the Narendra Modi government on August 5 scrapped the special status of the state and downgraded J&K into two UTs.

Post the abrogation of Article 370, security forces have been battling heightened tensions and to handle the situation, the Union Government inducted over 50,000 additional forces to ensure peace in the Valley.

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While the security grid managed the law and order situation and was successful in containing the situation, the anti-militancy grid was hit because of little information about the militants. As the government snapped the entire communication network as one of its measures to ensure “calm” in Kashmir post the abrogation of the special status of the state, it blocked information to security forces about the presence of militants.

With reports that militants were spotted in various areas, security forces slowly started carrying out anti-militancy operations. A gunfight broke out in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district on October 16, two days after the postpaid mobile phones were restored, leaving three Lashkar-e-Toiba militant dead.

Days later, the forces killed the chief of radical Ansar-ul-Ghazwatul Hind, who had replaced Zakir Musa. Of the 18 militants killed post the scrapping of the state’s special status, 11 have been killed after the restoration of the mobile phones. There has, however, been very few gunfights along the Line of Control in the Valley this year, which is in contrast to the killing of over 60 militants who tried to infiltrate last year.

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Post the abrogation of Article 370, the civilian killings by unidentified gunmen have increased. In October, data shows that 15 civilians were killed — highest in a month this year. Of them, 11 were non-local labourers, truckers and traders who were shot dead in volatile south Kashmir. Of the 50 civilian killings this year, a majority were killed by suspected militants.