Claiming major success against militants in Kashmir during the last two months, the Central Reserve Police Force has said that any move to reduce the number of security forces deployed in the valley will be imprudent as it will ease pressure on the ultras, 'who were on the run'.
"We have broken the back of Hizbul Mujahideen in south Kashmir. Only over the past two months, several top ranking commanders of the outfit have either been arrested or killed in operations by security forces," Inspector General of Central Reserve Police Force M S Gupta told PTI.
Stressing that militancy was on the wane in Kashmir, especially in the south, Gupta said it was not prudent to reduce the number of security personnel in the valley.
"It would release the pressure from the militants who are on the run at the moment. It is not the right time to talk about reducing the strength of security forces at the moment. We should focus on eliminating militancy from the valley," the IG said while replying to a question.
Gupta said heavy snowfall in upper reaches of Kashmir valley this winter has forced the ultras to abandon their hideouts in mountains for safer places in the nearby villages, where they are targeted.
He said the descent of militants into villages, coupled with excellent intelligence inputs from the local police, has helped the security forces eliminate some top leaders of militant outfits including the Hizbul Mujahideen.
Asked about the number of militants active in the valley, Gupta said, "It is not an easy job to put out an exact number but a safe guess would be that they are in the range of 900 to 1,000.
"The population of militants is floating ... some local youth are being recruited, which is in just few dozens, but most of them come from across the border. Also, the militants keep shifting their base between Kashmir valley and Jammu region," Gupta said.
Asked if there were apprehensions about escalation of violence in the valley in view of Assembly elections this year, Gupta said militants would try to sabotage the democratic process but all out efforts would be made to ensure that they do not succeed in their designs.
"We will make all efforts to ensure that elections, whenever they are held, should be peaceful. Militants would try to disrupt the democratic process... only time will tell who will succeed," he said.
Gupta attributed the recent successes against militants to the great synergy between the CRPF, local police and other security forces in conducting operations.
"This has helped in minimising the collateral damage while at the same time, it has also ensured that there are no significant casualties among the security forces during the counter-insurgency operations," he said.
On the recent successes, Gupta said, "Just couple of days back, we eliminated two dreaded militants of Hizbul Mujahideen in a precision operation in Noorpora area of Tral in Pulwama district".
Gupta said Hizb's financial chief Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Haneef Khan and his associate Javed Iqbal Malik alias Engineer were among the successes since the snowfall this winter.
While Haneef had eluded security forces for the past 15 years, Malik had got the name of Engineer for his expertise in manufacture of improvised explosive devices.
Both of them were involved in a large number of militancy related incidents in south Kashmir, he said. Khan, besides being overall in-charge of south Kashmir, was also providing logistic support to foreign militants.
He said the CRPF was using modern warfare techniques to flush out militants from the valley, making a special mention of the operation two weeks ago at Jagir in Baramulla district where a militant bunker was flushed with water to eliminate the hiding ultras after they refused to surrender.