As the alleged militant links lately cost two more cops their jobs, the crackdown on the defiant support system became even more resounding in Kashmir.
At the heart of this offensive is the ‘hybrid doctrine’, now drawing new battle-lines in the region.
As revealed by the recent police terminations, the overground support system, seen as a “lifeline of militancy”, doesn’t always lie on the civilian side under vigil and watch.
Some combatants, says Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, do checkmate the security setup as ‘moles’.
“I know a case where a cop killed a retired police officer inside his Batamaloo residence,” says Fayyaz, whose decades-long dateline with Defence Beat in Srinagar has acquainted him about the shifting security scenarios of Kashmir.
The cop was later identified by human and technical intelligence and subsequently arrested.
“But till his arrest,” the scribe says, “a policeman was working in the security sector as a ‘hybrid’, as police call them. A hybrid can be anyone including a policeman. Practically, that cop was a militant who carried out an attack. Such silent characters are present in all institutions.”
This conjecture is now making government to review its own ranks and fire the wary workers. Besides unceremonious farewells, the fired government staffers live with the new tag.
As a latest lexicon coined by the counterinsurgency grid of Kashmir to widen its scope of operations, the term ‘hybrid’ has already shadowed the oft-repeated word of Overground Workers (OGWs) – termed as the “weaponless militants” by a former top cop.
“Since OGWs don’t remain OGWs forever, that’s why we call them hybrid militants,” IGP Vijay Kumar, Kashmir police chief, said while flagging-off Bharat Darshan Tour in Budgam recently.
“These hybrids live normally within the society but carry out terror attacks like ‘sleeper cells’ after being trained online. It becomes difficult for us to identity them even though we have arrested 150 OGWs this year so far.”
Clearly, some security analysts say, the shift towards the unseen support system of militancy is getting gritty in Kashmir.
And while the intent remains to “cull the sentiment”, Ahmed Ali Fayyaz argues that it’s almost impossible to check and balance.
“An overground support structure has remained an invariable part of Kashmir militancy,” the seasoned scribe says.
“Most of these people aren’t on police records. They would operate very openly till 1994 when cutting counterinsurgency forced them underground.”
But now, when the insurgent support is being penalized under the ‘hybrid’ label, a thin line between militants and their sympathisers is clearly blurring in Kashmir. With the result, the militant module has changed from glamorisation to secrecy.
“The modus operandi of militants has definitely changed,” says SP Iftkhar Talib, who heads Special Operations Group of Police.
“Life of militants is very short and they know this very well. Now they are implementing secrecy by living a normal life in the society and carrying out terror activities because an unknown enemy is difficult to track and trace.”
Currently, as per police records, there’re 79 foreign, 93 local and 25 ‘hybrid’ militants active across the valley making it the lowest record of local recruits in years.
While the fallen figure is seen as an “upper hand”, the hybrid militancy at the same time is changing the dynamics of Kashmir imbroglio.
However, fearing the Hyderpora-type episode, the citizenry is getting concerned about the choice of imposing new labels.
“The police can charge a person but it’s the court that proves whether the accused is guilty or innocent,” argues Mir Urfi, a senior lawyer in the J&K High Court.
“If the forces receive intelligence inputs beforehand on the presence of militants, then saving vulnerable people must be a priority.”
But as of now, informs legal expert Habeel Iqbal, there’re no provisions in law for hybrid militants since no such term exists in the legal framework.
“So it makes person A aiding person B equally responsible for the crime,” Iqbal says.
But amid the growing ‘hybrid’ hullabaloo, the scribe Fayyaz says the fundamental priority of security should be exercising maximum possible restrain while confronting an explosive situation.
“In the end,” he believes, “the motive should be to counter any security situation with counseling rather than with killing.”