The biggest cordon and search operation in recent times was carried out across two dozen villages in Shopian last week. As thousands of policemen combed through villages and orchards, unmanned aerial vehicles and choppers had monitored the operation from air.
The decision to make such drills a part-and-parcel of anti-terror operations came as a huge groundswell of support for terrorists is observed in Kashmir, especially after the five-month protests took place last year following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist Burhan Wani.
The support is at its most visible during operations against terrorists holed up in villages and buildings. Locals gather in strength and their presence often help some of the terrorists escape.
The funerals of terrorists too, have been drawing large crowds lately, especially in South Kashmir. The five-month protests last year had started after the funeral of Burhan Wani, when the mourners had clashed with security forces. Last week, thousands had participated in the funeral of Lashkar-e Taiba terrorist Fayaz Ahmad Aishwar, who was involved in the attack on the Border Security Forces camp in Udhampur in 2015 and carried a reward of Rs. 2 lakh on his head.
Anti-terror operations had virtually come to a halt during the long unrest last year. As the situation settled, security forces found that an increasing number of local men have joined the ranks of terrorists. Over the last few months, terrorists have robbed banks, beaten up security forces and snatched their weapons. On Tuesday, in a first, they dragged away a 22-year-old lieutenant, Ummer Fayaz, from a wedding he was attending. His bruised and bullet riddled body was found the next day.