Falling short of funds ever since the demonetisation was announced on November 8, terrorists active in the Kashmir Valley have resorted to a new tactic – robbing banks and ATMs.
Within two hours, militants robbed two banks in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Wednesday.
While Rs 4.92 lakh was looted from a rural bank branch in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, a branch of Jammu and Kashmir Bank was robbed of Rs 1.6 lakh.
Also Read: Kashmir: ‘Cashless’ locals joining militancy behind rise in bank robberies, weapon snatching
In the first case, four armed militants entered the Wahibugh branch of Elaquai Dehati Bank around 1.50 PM and looted Rs 4,92,800 at gunpoint before fleeing.
The second robbery took place at the Nehama branch of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank in Pulwama around 3.20 PM. Reports say gunmen were involved and looted nearly Rs 1.6 lakh from the branch.
This was the fourth incident of armed robbery in the Valley within three days. On Tuesday, unidentified gunmen barged into the Yaripora branch of the same bank and took away Rs 65,000.
On May 1, militants attacked a cash van of Jammu and Kashmir bank and shot dead five policemen and two bank security guards in Damhal Hanji Pora area of Kulgam district in south Kashmir.
The incidents make it evident that amid intense unrest and a police clampdown in Jammu and Kashmir, cash-strapped militants have found a new way to fund their activities – stealing money from banks and ATMs and looting guns from security personnel.
Over the last few months, particularly since demonetisation, there has been a significant spike in cases of bank and ATM robberies.
Short of money to buy weapons and pay their over-ground workers, the Hizbul and Lashkar terrorists are striking out at banks, which are also symbols of establishment.
Reports suggest that in the past seven months, militants have looted more than Rs 1 crore from banks and ATMs in 13 such incidents – all of them concentrated in south Kashmir.
Times of India, in its report, cited sources saying that attacks on banks may also force deployment of Central forces and state police for their security.
“This means forces will be diverted to protect the nearly 1,500 bank branches across the Valley, leaving fewer personnel for the counter-terror grid,” an officer was quoted by Times of India as saying.
On the other hand, the spike in incidents of theft of arms and ammunition in Kashmir has been far more than bank robberies. They began specially after the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani on July 8 last year.
Home Ministry data suggest that until January 2017, militants looted 66 weapons from security personnel, which included 17 AK rifles, 23 SLR rifles, 14 INSAS rifles and 6 pistols, along with over 7,000 rounds of ammunition.
There also seems a degree of public support to militants in the four southern districts on the prowl, looting banks and snatching weapons from J&K police personnel.