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HVK Archives: Perceptible change in J&K

Perceptible change in J&K - Organiser

Shyam Khosla ()
October 4, 1998

Title: Perceptible change in J&K
Author: Shyam Khosla
Publication: Organiser
Date: October 4, 1998

Counter-insurgency Action Plan hammered out by the BJP-led
Government in the light of Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani's pro-
active policy on Kashmir is showing results despite Pakistan's
diabolical attempt to sustain its proxy war. Advani has shown he
has the political will to deliver and he has marshalled human and
material resources to fight cross-border terrorism. His hard work
and determination has played no mean role in lifting the morale
of the security forces engaged in combating terrorism. Defence
Minister George Fernandes is also proving a great help.

There is a marked improvement in the security environment.
Foreign missionaries and domestic terrorists are at the receiving
end. Slowly but surely, the security forces are gaining the upper
hand. It will be a bit too early to say that the terrorists are
on the run but they no longer enjoy the free hand to operate and
kill at will.

A unified command headed by Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah has
been set up to coordinate the various agencies engaged in this
arduous task. A three-tier security net has been erected along
the LoC and international border to check infiltration and
exfiltration. Authorities say it is not possible to totally stop
illegal crossing of border because of the problems posed by the
terrain along the LoC.

Home Ministry's claim that intelligence network has been
strengthened appears to be justified in the light of the success
achieved by security, forces in identifying terrorists and
engaging them in encounters. Official figures made public show
that as many as 145 terrorists were gunned down during July 1998
and about 140 in August 1998. These include 198 foreign
mercenaries. Not only that, the security forces scored a major
success in eliminating the deputy supreme commander of the Hizbul
Mujahideen.

As in Punjab in the early 90s, so in J&K now, the local
population that had a sneaking sympathy for the terrorists is now
disillusioned with them. One reason is the realisation which has
dawned even on the alienated sections of society that the
prolonged spell of so-called militancy had brought only misery to
them. Misdeeds of foreign and domestic mercenaries are a
contributing factor. A large number of criminals have joined the
ranks of 'militants'. They have no compunction in raping and
killing even their co-religionists. These misdeeds have naturally
opened the eyes of the common man and he or she no longer has any
illusions about the 'freedom righters'.

Officials say interrogation of captured leaders of terrorist
outfits has confirmed reports about the changing profile of
terrorists. The mercenaries now being pushed into J&K by ISI,
officials add, are no longer enamoured of 'jehad' or Islamic
fundamentalism. Most of them have a criminal background and join
the rank of militants on the promise that they will be exonerated
of criminal charges against them and will be paid money in lieu
of "targets" achieved by them. Hence the tendency to kill
innocent citizens.

Advani is confident that the tide is turning but he is not
willing to fix a time-frame for the elimination of terrorism in
J&K. Rightly so. The war against terrorism is going to be long
and hard given the direct involvement of our hostile neighbour
and the encouragement she is getting from the sole super power
and our northern neighbour.

The threat posed by Taliban militia is a cause of deep concern
for India. Intelligence reports suggest that ISI of Pakistan is
planning to push into J&K a large number of war-hardened Taliban
guerrillas from Afghanistan and Sudan. The Sudanese militant
Osama bin Laden is believed to have shifted his headquarters to
PoK after US air raids on his hideouts in Afghanistan. New Delhi
has information that ISI played a big role in the operation in
concert with the ruling Islamic fundamentalist clique of
Afghanistan.

It is in this context that Dr Farooq Abdullah's deep concern
about the Taliban threat assumes significance. The security
forces must brace themselves to meet the challenge. The need to
have greater vigil at the LoC and international border to prevent
infiltration by Talibans cannot be over-emphasised.

Commander of the 15 Corps and Security Adviser to the Chief
Minister, Lt General Krishan Pal, is unfazed. He is of the
considered opinion that Taliban stand no chance of success in
Kashmir. His philosophy according to media reports is that
illiterate Taliban fighters who are living in abject poverty with
no exposure to outside world would have no appeal to Kashmiris
who are liberal, educated and progressive. The General is
entitled to his views but he should not allow his hilosophy to
come into the way of military preparedness to meet the threat.
Rural Punjabis are educated, liberal and prosperous. But a large
section of them did, at one point of time, come under the
influence of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale who was neither
educated nor liberal and believed in a fundamentalist philosophy.
One hopes that the Vajpayee Government is fully aware of the
Taliban's threat and is not basing its policy on a certain
theoretical proposition of a General.

Governor Girish Saxena's estimate of foreign mercenaries
operating in the State is around 1,000. The number of local
militants is estimated to be between 1000 and 1200. These
figures are at best guesses. No intelligence agency can
accurately identify each and every terrorist and his/her active
sympathisers. The 151 has not given up its efforts to recruit
young boys of impressionable age through its trained agents in
the name of 'jehad' against infidels and for "freedom". The
security forces recently intercepted two groups of freshly
recruited boys who revealed that they were either forced to join
the militants' ranks or offered allurements in the form of money.
These boys were handed over to their parents after interrogation.
These incidents confirm apprehensions that a lot remains to be
done to isolate and decimate terrorists in Kashmir.

Gurbachan Jagat, DGP, J&K, says domestic militants have been
chased out of urban areas and are now operating from the rural
belt along the border and LoC. Srinagar and other major cities
are now by and large free of terrorists. because of the intensive
combing operations conducted by the security forces.

However, there are persistent reports that terrorists are
building up their hide-outs and stocking them with rations for
the winter months. Authorities expect them to revive their
activities in the spring of 1999. The security forces are
planning operations during the winter months to flush out
terrorists and to engage them in encounters.

Return of more than 2.5 lakh Hindu migrants from the Valley to
their homes is high on Advani's agenda. While Pandits are keen to
go back to their homes they want to be reasonably assured that
their lives and property will be safe. Advani has summoned a high
level meeting in October which will also be attended by Dr
Abdullah and representatives of Hindu migrants to chalk out a
plan of action. He is confident that peace would return to the
Valley sooner than later and all migrants will be able to return
to their homes in Kashmir.


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