Militants' over-ground workers increase in J&K, police dispel fears
Figures recently released by the Jammu and Kashmir Police indicate that while the number of militants has gone down during the last three years, the number of their sympathisers - over-ground workers (OGWs) - has gone up. This may seem alarming but police officials say mere numbers doesn't mean the situation is bad.
According to the Police Department's Crime Gazette, OGWs "act as eyes and ears of the underground militants", arrange hideouts, transport weapons from safe havens to places where militants plan to carry out strikes, keep an eye on movements of security forces, distribute separatist literature and engage in hate campaigns against the security forces.
Their major tasks also include levelling false allegations of sacrilege, molestation, beating of young and old citizens by security forces and propagating "virtues" and "righteousness" of the militant commanders.
"... if militants are seen as fish, OGWs are the water that ensures their survival," a top police officer engaged in maintaining law and order told IANS.
On the figures released recently by the state police through its crime gazette, the officer, who did not want to be identified, said: "Let us not try to attempt a very simplistic understanding of these figures."
"The argument that during the same three-year period, the number of OGWs has gone up needs to be understood correctly. OGW is a militant without a weapon. An OGW is a militant on the threshold of using a gun against the security forces and innocent civilians. If an OGW has a gun, he becomes a militant without having to pass any qualifying test."
He said that the OGW figures also include repeat offenders who vitiate law and order that ultimately helps militancy.
"In layman terms, it means that even habitual stone-pelters have been included in these figures. This inflates the number of OGWs which is no cause of alarm for us because in the operational terms, a stone-pelter or a habitual offender is not something we regard as a hardcore OGW," the official said.
"Such elements are here today and gone tomorrow. But, a hardcore OGW lives supporting the gun and finally dies wielding it," he stressed.
Due to specific surgical counter-insurgency operations by security forces since 2017, the number of militants has gone down in the Valley.