SRINAGAR: In Kashmir, if the stones have stopped, there must be gunfire ahead. After more than two months of violence, it's a bit eerie to hear no azaadi sermons issuing from the loudspeakers of mosques in the Kashmir Valley.
The Urdu taraney (songs) exhorting youth to take to the streets have fallen silent too. To the lay observer this might sound like the calm after the storm but some of the more seasoned personnel of the security forces think this is just the end of phase one.
This is a pause before phase two. "This is just a strategy of the terror outfits," one officer of the Jammu & Kashmir Police told me. The stone-pelting of the first two months is just meant to keep the forces engaged. While security forces redeploy their personnel from counter-insurgency operations to riot control duties, it gives terror outfits like Hizb-ul Mujahideen cover to recruit to their ranks. Once enough numbers are recruited and trained, phase 2 is ready to launch.
The stones stop coming and a fresh wave of militancy, more violent, commences. "The propaganda at mosques and street-level meetings is meant to aid the recruitment of Kashmiri boys into Hizb ranks,'' the officers said.
The ebbing of violence over the Eid holiday, officers of the paramilitary forces say, is likely a signal of the end of phase one and a breather before phase 2. As evidence, they cite intelligence reports that many youngsters have gone missing, mostly in South Kashmir, since the flareup of violence after the killing of Burhan Wani on July 8.
They probably have joined the ranks of Hizb-ul Mujahideen. According to one assessment by security agencies based on telephone intercepts and local intelligence, over 150 youngsters have been drafted by Hizb-ul Mujahideen for training in terror camps across the border.
Many more have gone 'underground' in different parts of the Valley and are waiting to be taken across the border. These are in addition to the hundreds who have become sympathizers of Hizb-ul Mujahideen. Most of them are from Shopian, Anantnag and Pulwama.
The J&K Police officer said the forces indeed have had their hands full dealing with the stones in the last two months. "There was not much focus on counter-insurgency during these two months. This allowed many areas in the Valley, particularly South Kashmir, to become a breeding ground for Hizb,'' he said.
The CRPF's inspector general of police for the Kashmir region, Atul Karwal told New Indian Express that though the Eid respite in Kashmir is welcome, the coming month is going to be crucial. "The number of militants has sharply increased and we are likely to face a surge of militancy in the Valley as a lot of boys have joined Hizb-ul Mujahideen ranks.
For us, this is just a pause. We have been dealing with stone pelting mobs for more than two months. Now we will have to deal with renewed militancy,'' Karwal said.
My name is Burhan Wani
Asked for their name for the hospital record, youngsters who suffered injuries in clashes with security forces say their names is Burhan Wani. "We had hundreds of Burhan Wanis coming in for treatment. When we insist they give us their real names, they wouldn't budge from Burhan Wani,'' an official in the state's health department said.