The arrest of 300 suspected instigators of stone-pelting by the Jammu and Kashmir police over the last one month has drastically reduced the number of such protests, and made the streets of Srinagar and surrounding areas much safer, officials monitoring the situation in the Valley said. The current spell of such protests, which are targeted at government buildings and security installations and personnel, was triggered by Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani's killing on July 8. As part of the Centre's strategy to curb the protests, the J&K police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have systematically nabbed stone-pelters and sent them to jail under the Public Safety Act. They have also arrested some Hurriyat members.
A list of 423 suspects, including local leaders associated with separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Jamaat-e-Islami, as well as overground workers of Hizbul Mujahideen and other outfits, was prepared, and a decision taken to pick them up. According to top home ministry officials, J&K police and CRPF went to remote villages in Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian, Bandipora, Sopore and Kulgam, among other areas, over the past few weeks to hunt for the suspected instigators of violence in the valley.
During each operation, CRPF and J&K police teams, sometimes in the hundreds, created a corridor before entering a village. After a suspect was nabbed, they were produced before a magistrate and sent to jail. "A decision was taken by home minister Rajnath Singh last month that the security forces should crack down on people behind the violence, which has taken close to 90 lives, and go after them aggressively," a senior government official said. "The forces have reclaimed the areas which were dominated by stone-pelters in July and August," the official added. Local informers had helped prepare the list of instigators.
According to the investigation so far, the suspects allegedly travelled from one village to another over the last three months to instigate stone-pelting, and directed youngsters on where to carry out attacks on the forces. They also planned the supply of stones, and who would lead the charge. Most of them, sources said, were paid for organising the attacks, while the main attackers in a mob were given Rs 500-700 each per day.
"The organisers of the violence were giving inflammatory speeches in large gatherings, instigating the youth to continue the unrest and attack police/CRPF and Army installations," the official said.
Some of the known names detained include Shafi Waqai, considered to be very close to Geelani, Mohammad Tantray of Hurriyat, and Fayaz Ahmad. PSA allows security agencies to detain persons accused of disturbing peace in J&K for three months to one year without a trial.