By Aarti Tikoo Singh
As civilian fatalities during stone-pelting dropped to almost negligible last year, Pakistan sponsored terror groups stepped up attacks on civilians by 36 per cent as against security forces in Kashmir. However, casualties of security forces were 38 per cent more than the civilians.
The official data accessed exclusively by the IANS reveals that this trend of Pakistan-backed terror groups attacking more civilians when the civilian casualties drop in the clashes with forces on the streets, is consistent with the previous major instances in the last decade.
In 2010, when 105 civilians were killed in street rioting and clashes, there were lesser number of terror attacks on civilians than on forces. But in the following two years, when civilian casualties during stone-pelting clashes dropped to zero, the trend changed with more terror attacks against civilians than security forces.
The tactics altered again in 2013, with terror groups perpetrating lesser attacks on civilians as fatalities of stone-pelters during stone-pelting clashes went slightly up from zero.
However, in the next two years, as civilian casualties in street violence did not increase significantly, terror groups attacked both civilians and security forces almost equally.
In 2016, the year when 83 stone-pelters were killed in their agitation over the encounter killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander and supporter of Islamic Caliphate, Burhan Wani, terror groups perpetrated lesser number of terror attacks on civilians as against forces in Kashmir.
After India’s surgical strikes against terror camps in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), in retaliation to the Uri terror attack in 2016, data reveals a change in the tactics adopted by Pakistan sponsored terror groups.
The same year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) also began probing and cracking down on terror funding coming from Pakistan through the import of California almonds into India via the Line of Control (LoC) through cross-LoC trade and various hawala channels.
As security agencies in Kashmir were able to bring down the casualties in street violence, the terror groups increased their attacks on the forces as against the civilians from 2017 to 2018.
In 2018, the terror attacks on security forces were 63 per cent greater than the terror attacks on civilians in Kashmir. The Jammu and Kashmir Police in 2018 also arrested a massive number of Over Ground Workers (OGWs), stone-pelters and rioters, around 800 of them — almost 10 to 20 times more than the number arrested each year in the last decade.
Last year, with the ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, a radical religious organisation and the political arm of the banned terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, the ban on Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) terror group, the air strikes at terror camps in Balakot, and the arrest of over 3,500 serial stone-pelters, the fatalities in street-clashes dropped significantly.
The data shows that with civilian fatalities during street violence almost touching nil, Pakistan sponsored terror attacks on civilians went up by 36 per cent as against the forces.
This change in tactic by Pakistan in 2019 is the same as it was in 2011 and 2012, when the civilian casualties during the street clashes dipped to zero. In 2011, terror groups increased attacks on civilians as against forces by 35 per cent and in 2012, by 32 per cent.
However, data shows that even as terror attacks against civilians increase whenever their fatalities during rioting decrease, more security forces as against civilians have died combating terror in the Valley.
In 2011, as against 28 civilians, 56 personnel and in 2012 as against 20 civilians, 35 personnel had been killed. As against 47 civilians and five stone-pelters, 77 security personnel laid down their lives combating terror and protecting civilians in Kashmir last year.
Security experts acknowledge that in the last decade or so, since the stone-pelting became an alternative means of Pakistan’s asymmetrical war against civilians and the state in Kashmir, civilians are targeted in one or the other way.
“If civilian rioters don’t get killed in clashes with security forces, Pakistan sponsored terror groups start targeting ordinary civilians and political workers. The modus operandi of Pakistan-sponsored separatism in Kashmir is clear — Kashmiri civilians should die so that it evokes outrage and hatred against India. But our men are sacrificing their lives so that the lives of civilians are not lost,” a senior police officer in Srinagar said