Jammu and Kashmir police have detained around 625 alleged Over Ground Workers of militants in J&K this year.
The crackdown against OGW’s also referred to as ‘militant associates’ in the official handouts, is part of the larger policy to scuttle militant networks and limit their capabilities to regroup, operate or attack.
The OGWs are the eyes and ears of militants, who facilitate their movement in a particular area, manage logistical support and sometimes are part of the reconnaissance missions as well.
Most of the alleged OGWs arrested this year, were booked under stringent sections of the law including arms act for possession of weapons, which increases the possibility of their confinement for longer periods.
Last week in Awantipora area of Pulwama in southern Kashmir, police claimed to have arrested ten OGWs in two separate incidents, including six locals associated with Jaish-e-Muhammad and four others with Al Badr outfit.
The armed forces under ‘Operation All Out’ launched in 2017 to end militancy in J&K eliminated several militant networks especially in southern Kashmir and killed almost all top commanders.
The clampdown against OGWs has remained a successful constituent of ‘Operation All Out’, to dismantle the eco-system for militancy.As of now, official figures reveal that around 220 militants are still active in Kashmir, which includes around 70 to 80 foreign militants.
“625 Over Ground Workers were detained this year till now. A total of 206 militants were killed this year and 57 militants were arrested. Around 46 of the arrested militants had joined this year. So, far only two civilians were killed at the encounter sites,” said Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of police in Kashmir.
Around 12 militants were captured or convinced to surrender at the encounter sites during this year. Kumar also informed that around 36 youngsters, who were allegedly planning to join the militant ranks, were brought back with proactive support of their families.
On the other hand over 165 locals have joined the militants ranks this year till now. The armed forces majorly J&K Police, claimed to have recovered 210 rifles including AK-47s, SLR, INSAS, M4, M16 and Pikka Gun. They have also recovered 226 pistols and 228 grenades as well.
“Crackdown against the OGWs has been the priority for us. They are the sleeper cells and more connected on the ground. Besides, they have the potential to create more trouble on the ground. We have cases in the past when many OGWs formally joined the militant ranks,” said a senior counter insurgency official.
The crackdown however, had also attracted condemnation and criticism especially in rural areas of Kashmir, as many families blamed armed forces for detaining their children without any evidence of their association with the militant networks.
Meanwhile, this year also witnessed emergence of new outfits on the militancy landscape of J&K. Apart from traditional organization like Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad outfits like The Resistance Front, People’s Anti Fascist Front and more recently Ghaznavi Force and Lashkar-e-Mustafa showed their fledgling footprints online and on ground as well.
J&K police officials claim that old organizations like Al Badr and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, are also being revived.