CRPF says stone-pelting declined in Kashmir, but figures indicate otherwise

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New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) The CRPF, one of the main central forces battling militancy and street protests in Jammu and Kashmir, said on Wednesday that there were fewer stone-pelting incidents in the Valley in comparison to last year. But figures belie the claim.

Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, the head of the 3.5 lakh-strong force, told reporters that the number of stone-pelting incidents in the state has come down to “less than half” this year as compared to 2016.

“So far in 2017, only 424 stone-pelting incidents have been reported in comparison with 1,590 incidents last year,” Bhatnagar said.

However, the CRPF chief’s comparison method appeared flawed. He compared the first seven months of 2017 with the entire 2016 when large-scale protests erupted in the valley after the July 8 death of militant commander Burhan Wani.

Most of the 1,590 stone pelting incidents occurred in the five months after Wani’s death in a shootout with security forces.

According to CRPF’s own figures, only 71 stone-pelting protests had been reported until June 30 last year.

“The stone-pelting incidents picked up only after Wani’s killing. Some 1,519 incidents were reported from July to December 31, 2016,” a senior CRPF official told IANS while giving the break-up of the protests last year.

Bhatnagar, addressing a function to celebrate the 78th anniversary of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), maintained that the situation in Kashmir Valley was better than the previous year.

He gave credit to the security forces, police and central agencies for their “combined efforts” that “made this possible”.

Bhatnagar said there were several other factors that played a role in improving the situation in Kashmir Valley.

Among those, he counted new standard operating procedures (SoPs), new strategy to deal with mobs and action taken by other agencies like NIA against the organisers of such incidents and joint operation by forces.

“In terms of stone pelting, we have got our drills together with Jammu and Kashmir Police and Army and adopted new SoPs. We are now using a lot less lethal ammunition in controlling the violent crowds.”

“At our training centres in Srinagar we are able to train our troops to be able to react properly with the close coordination of Jammu and Kashmir Police to control the stone pelting with minimum collateral damage and also in an effective manner,” he said.

“Because of the efforts of the central agencies, the CRPF and the Jammu and Kashmir Police the stone pelting has been effectively blocked,” he claimed.

He also said the number of violent incidents by terrorists has also come down in the valley in the last one year.

Bhatnagar also said that the CRPF killed 75 militants, including top commanders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Mohammed outfits, and apprehended 252 others in Jammu and Kashmir between January and July 26 this year. The force also made a recovery of 118 arms belonging to militants in the valley.

The slain militants included top commanders of the Hizbul Lashkar and Jaish — Sabzar Ahmed Bhat and Gulzar Ahmed Lone of Hizbul, Jahangir Ahmed, Shabaz Wani, Bashir Lashkari and Junaid Mattoo of Lashkar, Aquib Ahmed alias Abu Hamza of Jaish.

On Left-wing extremism, the CRPF chief said the area controlled by Maoists has “shrunk” in the last two and half years. He, however, admitted that south Bastar remained a problem.

There have been coordinated operations with Chhattisgarh Police, he said, adding that the Maoists’ ability to strike has been hit hard.

The DG said the CRPF will deploy more troops in south Bastar soon to carry out more anti-Maoist operations.

He said the force neutralised 51 Maoists and nabbed 1,111, while 834 have surrendered this year so far.

“Some 562 arms have been recovered and 1,180 Improvised Explosive Devices seized.”

He said the CRPF was also in the process of recruiting one Bastariya Battalion of local tribals who would help the force with their local knowledge and language in its operations against Maoists and also bring tribals into the mainstream.

“The battalion would be available for service by the end of this year.”

The CRPF chief said the process of raising five new battalions of RAF, a specialised law and order force, was on.

He said the CRPF is deployed in all major theatres in India, with 60 battalions deployed in Jammu and Kashmir, 80 in Left-wing Extremist areas and 36 in the northeast.

–IANS

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