Srinagar: Security forces posted in Kashmir have raised several bunkers in Srinagar over the past two to three weeks amid reports that as many as 60 militants may have been pushed into India from Pakistan.
The bunkers are primarily located in areas that house police and other government offices.
Bunkers were a common sight in Kashmir during militancy days. Their comeback follows the return of another marker of those times — the slogan, “only one solution, gun solution” — seemingly belying claims that the Valley was returning to normalcy.
Jammu & Kashmir has been under a severe communication lockdown since it was stripped of its special status in the first week of August.
Reports since then have pointed to an increased thrust from across the border to push militants into Kashmir to tap local resentment about the curbs.
A Valley on edge
Over the past decade, several bunkers were removed from Kashmir amid efforts to reduce security presence in the Valley.
According to government officials, more than 90 security structures — camps and bunkers — were removed from Kashmiri towns and cities in the last 10 years, including around 13 in Srinagar alone.
This was after taking into account the reduced levels of insurgency, the officials added.
But things have changed since 5 August, as the Valley was placed under severe restrictions to preclude violence in the aftermath of the Article 370 move.
Apart from the setting up of bunkers, frisking of residents and checking of vehicles, especially after evening hours, has increased in Srinagar. According to officials, the increased scrutiny is meant to prevent militant movement in the city.
Sightings in ‘large groups’
Ever since Article 370 was scrapped, many residents of Kashmir have claimed to have sighted militants moving in “large groups”.
According to police sources, sightings in the restive south, including Shopian and Pulwama, have seen a 60-70 per cent jump over the past two months.
“These could be new recruits as well as those who have managed to infiltrate through areas that are close to south Kashmir,” a J&K police officer said, adding that police were also trying to ascertain the location of over two dozen youths who have been “missing” since the first week of August.
The missing youth, the police believe, might have joined militant ranks.
In north Kashmir, the officer added, sightings have been “accounted for in areas that have a militant presence, which means the number of militants roaming around has not alarmed us”.
However, police have picked up “heightened movement” in several areas of north Kashmir that didn’t show much militant activity earlier, such as Bandipora and Ganderbal.
“In these areas, we are trying to find out whether the militant faces are new or those who were already in the Valley and are registered in our databases,” the aforementioned officer said.
An LeT group finds entry
According to another senior J&K Police official, infiltration attempts across the Line of Control (LoC) have been “extremely high” since 5 August, but only some have succeeded.
“The summer months are the period where Pakistani militants try to infiltrate into J&K and a lot of them end up being killed on the LoC itself,” the official said.
“Taking advantage of the terrain, some militants manage to enter each year and that has happened this year as well,” the official added.
A third senior police officer posted in Srinagar said the “militant sightings” had to be understood in light of the current circumstances. “Due to the snapping of communication channels, the intelligence flow has not been as regular as it was, but we are managing to find ground intelligence now. We are trying to ascertain the credibility of these sightings,” said the official.
The official, however, did mention that a 13-member group of the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) had managed to enter the Valley through the Kupwara-Handwara belt.
“An LeT party had received them but the 13 foreigners were then seen unaccompanied in multiple places,” the official added, “The fact that they were heavily armed and without guides shows they are well-prepared and acquainted with Kashmiri terrain.”