Pakistani Kashmiri students wear masks bearing the image of slain Indian Kashmiri rebel leader Burhan Wani as they shout anti-Indian slogans during at a rally to show solidarity with Indian Kashmiri Muslims in Karachi on August 15, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / RIZWAN TABASSUM
Pakistani Kashmiri students wear masks bearing the image of slain Indian Kashmiri rebel leader Burhan Wani as they shout anti-Indian slogans during at a rally to show solidarity with Indian Kashmiri Muslims in Karachi on August 15, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / RIZWAN TABASSUM

It is exactly one year since Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was gunned down by security forces and the relative tranquillity in the Kashmir Valley was shaken from its roots. As the valley gears up for the first death anniversary, there is heightened security under the fear that armed terrorists may be up to some big mischief. Indeed, Pakistan has a stake in keeping the Kashmir pot boiling under the patronage of its army and of its notorious intelligence outfit the ISI using Kashmiri youth through incitement, training and equipping with arms.

In Kulgam and its neighbouring districts of Shopian and Pulwama, the orchards have turned into sanctuaries for militants—mostly local men in their twenties. Many among their ranks are dead, killed in ones and twos in recent encounters with the police. A group of them opened fire on June 16, killing six policemen in the close by Anantnag district. They were led by a local militant commander, Bashir Lashkari who was trapped in a house along with one of his accomplices a few days later and killed.

Tourism, which was thriving, has come down to a trickle and those who depended on tourism for their livelihood are facing hard times. Life in the valley has been thrown out of gear with the Pakistan-based terror outfits in overdrive. The Centre has cracked the whip with the result that the number of terrorists killed in counter-insurgency operations so far this year have surpassed the year-wise figures for 2012 and 2013 when UPA was in power at the Centre. The official infiltration figures also show a decline from 371 cases recorded in 2016 to 124 until May-end this year.

There has been a drop in stone-throwing incidents too. The challenge for the police is to shut the ‘floodgate’ of young men getting radicalised and joining militancy. Egged on by militants and buoyed by lawlessness after Wani’s death, they have been coming out in large numbers to pelt stones at security forces engaged in operations against militants holed up in houses, helping them escape in many instances. But now, the police have decided not to withdraw from such action at any cost, and wrest control from militants and their sympathisers. It is indeed a no-holds-barred battle between the security forces and the militants and all eyes are on the valley to see if the army and para-military forces will get the upper hand to be able to restore calm in the valley.

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