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Kashmir versus Kashmir: Valley now a war in which families maybe means for vengeance

Srinagar, Aug 30: The cat-and-mouse situation between the government forces and militants in Kashmir, especially in the south of the region, is changing for the worse, with use of insensible “pressure tactics” dragging families into the conflict.

On Wednesday night, suspected militants, probably for the first time ever, abducted a cop’s son at Tral, Pulwama.

An undergraduate student, Asif Rafiq Rather, son of Rafiq Ahmad Rather, was abducted by a group of masked gunmen from his home in Pinglish village.

Asif’s mother, in a video on Thursday, was seen crying and appealing to the captors for her son’s release.

The same night, the father of Hizb Commander Riyaz Naikoo, was arrested by the government forces during a raid at Awantipora.

Reports said the forces raided their Beighpora residence and detained his father, Asadullah Naikoo (70).

A police official said Asadullah was arrested for “questioning”.

Over a dozen more youth were detained in several raids in the villages of Pulwama during the night.

In Shopian, the families of two Lashkar-e-Toiba militants accused the army of setting their residential houses ablaze during the night.

The family members of militant Shahjahan Mir of Amshipora, Shopian, alleged that the soldiers set their single-story house ablaze and damaged the property during the intervening night.

Family of the militant Naveed Shah, of Nazneenpora, Shopian, too alleged that their house was ransacked and household items burnt down during the night.

A few days ago, on day one of Eid-ul-Azha, three cops, who had gone home to celebrate the festival with their families in Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts, were shot dead allegedly by Hizb militants.

The range and nature of such incidents, locals in south Kashmir, say point out to an “ugly change”.

“In certain pockets of Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama, there is clear polarising among the people. If you are a cop, you are witnessed as an enemy there. It is not like what is used to be a few years ago when cops could easily visit homes and not be afraid of getting killed,” a local of Awantipora, whose father is a cop, said while requesting not to be quoted by name.

“We talk of khanajangi (civil war) in future, let me tell you it is already happening in south Kashmir. It is very ugly. Kashmiris killing Kashmiris.”

He, however, said it was the fallout of “government forces’ pressure tactics targeting civilian and militant families”.

“Militants are only reacting to what has been happening with their families for some time now,” he added.

In an audio message that went viral on social media on Monday, Hizbul-ul-Mujahideen Commander Riyaz Naikoo said the “continuous harassment of militant families by government forces was a sign of frustration”.

Lashkar-e-Taiba too has accused forces of harassing the family members of the slain militants.

“Forces are harassing, intimidating and even arresting family members of militants. Just recently the family members of Zaid, Abu Muaz, Shahid-ul-Islam and Bashir Lashkari were arrested and subjected to torture,” LeT Chief, Mehmood Shah, was quoted saying in one such statement in July.

“Don’t drag families of the militants in the ongoing fight,” the LeT statement asked the government forces.

Police, however, say it is the militants who are making the tussle “grimmer”.

“J&K Police is a disciplined force. We are accountable for our omissions and commissions. Are these militants accountable to anyone? We are not making it grimmer, they are!” ADGP Law & Order, Munir Ahmad Khan told The Kashmir Monitor.

Asked why the families of militants’ were being harassed, Khan said: “As a professional police officer, I have nothing against the families of the militants.”

On the allegations of burning of militants’ houses, the ADGP said that he will “order an inquiry to ascertain the facts.”

On policemen getting killed, he said it was a “cause of concern for the entire police department.”

“There are many steps which we are taking to avoid such incidents. I cannot divulge them here because it is an operational matter. But once they are fully implemented, you will see an improvement,” he said.

Khan said they had launched search operations to trace out the abducted son of the cop.

“We are also verifying how and why it happened,” he said.