Indian Army's significant role in J&K
Committed to its citizens’ safety and devoted to protect the Indian territory, the Army has been the custodian of peace in modern India.
In 2017, by November end itself, an unprecedented number of over 200 terrorists had been killed in Jammu and Kashmir; of these, approximately 120 were Pakistani, with over 50 belonging to the LeT; as many as 40 of them had been LeT's 'commanders' across various levels. About 10 of the 110 Pakistani terrorists killed were cadres of Jaish e Mohammad (JeM) and at least three were of Ghazva e Hind, whereas over 80 belonged to the Kashmiri group, Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM), supported by the Pakistan army and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
Of these over 200 terrorists mentioned, 72 were killed by the Indian Army while crossing the LoC, at least 130 were killed in the hinterland by primarily the Army and Security Forces (SFs) and at least four were captured alive, of which, one who was severely injured was provided medical treatment by the Army medics. The vengeance at the successes of the Indian Army's operations has heinously motivated the terrorists to now target the Kashmiri personnel adorning the uniform.
In May 2017, Lieutenant Umer Fayaz of the Indian Army was abducted from Batapura near Behibag, where he was attending a family marriage, while on leave. His bullet-ridden body was recovered from Herman Chowk in the Shopian district. The Indian Army vowed to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act of terror to justice. Lieutenant Fayaz was on the hockey team of the National Defence College and was an excellent volleyball player. He was tipped to attend the Young Officers' course, last September 2017. His regiment, Rajputana Rifles, remembers him an officer full of josh (enthusiasm), loved by his troops and immaculate in performing his tasks.
The second case was of the bullet-ridden body of a Territorial Army Engineer Regiment soldier, Irfan Ahmed Mir, who was home on leave and was recovered from the Shopian district. Both these cases are indicators of the terrorists' frustration due to their growing attrition rate, in the hands of the Army and SFs including the J&K police, some of whose personnel have also been killed.
In her address during the attestation parade of the Police Training School, Kathua, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti stated: "Killing militants won't wipe out militancy in J&K."
A prime reason why terrorism in the Valley cannot end is the unabated efforts of the Pak army, ISI, Saeed etc, to induct Pakistani terrorists in the Valley and propel the separatists, providing them with support, once they have entered. The other more sinister move has been to lure Kashmiri teenagers to join terrorist ranks–not only of HuM but even the LeT.
By mid-2017, social media—which had provided militancy and radicalisation with a great boost—began to be blamed for the setbacks. Sometime in August, Riyaz Naikoo, "field operational commander" of the HuM, issued a diktat to its terrorists to stop using smartphones, as many of HuM's glorified poster-boys had been annihilated, one by one.
Around this time, with active support by the Army and SFs, ingenious use of the same social media was made to reach out to the Kashmiri youth who have been radicalised or motivated into terrorism, with the attempt to wean them away from it. The circulated videos of calls by mothers of Kashmiri terrorists requesting surrender, began bearing some fruit. Majid Khan, an ace sportsman who had joined the LeT, surrendered to the Army on November 17, after watching a video of an emotive appeal by his mother. The sustained social news lobbying by his relatives and friends urged him to return home.
GOC, Victor Force, Rashtriya Rifles, Maj. Gen. B.S. Raju stated that the Army will provide full opportunity to Khan to pursue his career in academics and nourish his sports talent. He said, "The youth who have gone astray and have tread a wrong path but are not involved in any criminal act should follow Khan's footsteps and return to the mainstream. Those militants who have been coerced into committing criminal acts can further return within the provisions of law."
Three days after Majid Khan's surrender, reportedly another South Kashmir youth who had joined militancy returned home. This prompted two more families from South Kashmir's Pulwama and Shopian districts to make emotional appeals to their sons, who had joined militancy, to return.
The successes of the Army and SFs in eliminating over 200 terrorists in 2017 would not have been possible without timely human intelligence and information by the local populace of the terrorists' presence. While since 2016, radicalisation, stone-pelting and heckling of SFs succeeded for at least a year, the turning of the tide is one indication that there were people of the affected Valley districts who became weary of the violence. The drive by the National Intelligence Agency to nab separatists, their close relatives and associates in money laundering further made a significant difference. But this drive will have to be steadily sustained to disable the entire separatists' network.
Alongside the policy of allowing the local Kashmiri militants to surrender and join the mainstream, a number of other initiatives were propelled by boosting the decades-old Army's Operation Sadbhavana with added programmes. Spread across all Valley districts, the programmes include medical and de-addiction camps, lectures and interaction on certain subjects including disaster management, technical training on repairing vehicles, provision of a gymnasium, construction of a much-needed bridge and a tour organised for 22 sarpanches (village heads) from Kishtwar district to New Delhi and Agra. While since the past decades, school children have been taken on tours by the Army and BSF, this first tour for sarpanches was significant and impactful.
Yet another sign of the youth weary of terrorism has been their response to the Army's recruitment rallies. At Rangreth, Srinagar, one such rally was held in October 2017. Over 1800 candidates appeared for enrollment as Soldier General Duty, tradesmen and clerk from all districts of J&K. The rally has been a huge success as the enthusiasm and willingness of the candidates came to the forefront.
For ensuring a modicum of peace in the Valley, the achievements of the Army and security forces of keeping terrorists on the run must be complemented by pressure and action against the Kashmiri separatists and their networkers.