As the air in Anantnag town of south Kashmir was rattled by the sound of wheezing bullets on 12 June, Station House Officer Arshad Ahmad Khan asked his men to grab their weapons. Soon after their small team neared one edge of Khanbal-Pahalgam Road where the shooting was taking place, Khan was hit by bullets.
Security personnel at an encounter site in Kashmir. Hilal Shah
For two days, the young SHO lay motionless in two Srinagar hospitals. As hopes faded, the police force decided to airlift him to New Delhi.
"We decided to airlift him to AIIMS with the hope of giving him better medical care. But we lost him," said Dilbag Singh, Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police.
Security forces casualties are steadily rising in Kashmir. While the first five months of 2019 yielded significant number of militant kills for the security forces, this month has been bad with an army major and the young SHO among nine casualties suffered by forces personnel this month alone in Kashmir.
According to official data, in past five days alone, nine security forces personnel, including two officers, were killed in the Valley. "This shows that the militants, after being killed in large numbers, have started hitting back," a senior police officer said.
In south Kashmir's Anantnag district on 12 June, a lone unidentified militant, believed to be a Pakistani, shot dead five CRPF personnel and Khan, showing that militancy in Kashmir might be getting a new lease of life with well-trained militants from across the border carrying out deadly strikes on security forces.
The attack carried out in broad daylight by militants on KP road in Anantnag "was a daring strike", said the senior police officer in south Kashmir , adding, "The attacker did not move from his position until he targeted five CRPF personnel and the incoming police team."
After the Pulwama attack on 14 February, in which a suicide bomber rammed his explosive laden car into a CRPF convoy, killing over 40 CRPF personnel and bringing India and Pakistan on the brink of a full-blown war, militants carried out another deadly strike on Monday, this time against the Indian Army.
An explosive-laden car was detonated in Pulwama just when an army patrol was moving in the area. The explosion tore apart an army vehicle, killing at least two soldiers and wounding 18 others. The Monday's attack in Pulwama could have been equally dangerous but the casualties were limited because the army vehicle was explosion-proof.
The attack had come after both Islamabad and the US had reportedly shared intelligence with India about the possibility of an attack on security forces in Kashmir. Intelligence officials in New Delhi, however, denied the report, saying there was "no sharing of intel from Pakistan", according to an article on Firstpost.
Sources say that the growing number of attacks on security forces has sparked concern within the security establishment. Though the security forces have killed around 115 militants so far, the number of security forces killed since January has also gone up.
At least, 59 security personnel have been killed during anti-militancy operations and militant attacks in the past five months in the Valley. Among the killed security personnel are officers while the injured personnel since January include one brigadier level officer and a DIG.
While the two sides were expected to show restraint, even the month of Ramazan turned out to be deadly. Statistics show 35 persons were killed during Ramzan from 10 May till 3 June in militancy-related incidents. Of them 27 were militants, six civilians and two army men.
"We are taking every precaution to minimise the casualties of our men," said Singh, adding, "But in some instances, it is our misfortune and we lose our loved ones."