It has been called Kashmir’s “bloody Sunday”. Joint operations and civilian protests in South Kashmir on April 1 claimed 20 lives: four civilians, three Army personnel and 13 militants. Two days later, a young man injured by security forces during clashes in Central Kashmir succumbed to his injuries.
In the week that followed April 1, suspected militants killed two civilians in Hajin, in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Up in the hills, guns boomed at the Line of Control. One more militant was killed in a gunfight in South Kashmir.
A year that started with a fidayeen attack – a term used to describe suicidal strikes by militants with the intention of a prolonged stand-off – has left a trail of blood. The number of militants killed in the hinterland, or the area inside the Line of Control and the International Border, till April 1 has exceeded the figure for the same period last year – 51 in 2018, up from 33 in 2017. At least 32 security forces personnel and 25 civilians have been killed in the hinterland till date. According to the South Asian Terrorism Portal, 29 people, including civilians and security personnel, have been killed in ceasefire violations at the frontier, as of April 1.
The number of casualties in Jammu and Kashmir in 2018 is 138, which means that, on average, at least one person has died every day. That is excluding the number of cross-border infiltrators shot down at the Line of Control and security personnel killed in border skirmishes.
Broadly, four forms of violence claimed lives in Jammu and Kashmir: gunfights between security forces and militants, and the protests surrounding them; militant attacks on security instalments; abductions that ended in death; and cross-border conflagrations.
Gunfights not only claim the lives of security forces and militants engaged in battle but also of civilians who, increasingly in recent years, get close to these sites to pelt stones in an attempt to disrupt operations.
Before the deaths on April 1, at least four persons were killed after security forces opened fire on stone-pelting crowds. On January 27, soldiers of the Indian Army opened fire on civilians during a clash in Ganowpora, in Shopian district, fatally injuring three, including a minor. Five days later, a 10-year-old child injured by an unexploded shell in Shopian died of his wounds. On February 19, a 60-year-old man, believed to be mentally challenged, was killed as he wandered into an Air Force base in Central Kashmir. In March, four civilians were killed in reported shootouts in Shopian.
To prevent civilian casualties, the state police have reportedly devised a “new strategy”. Operations should start at night and wind up by first light, Jammu and Kashmir’s newly appointed inspector general, Swayam Prakash Pani, told Greater Kashmir. In the past, security agencies avoided conducting operations late into the night.