Strengthening Camps of Security Forces
The attack on the Sunjuwan military camp in the wee hours of 10 February 2018 resulting in the death of six of our gallant soldiers and the civilian father of one of them, apart from the elimination of three terrorists. This has once again brought into sharp focus the lackadaisical attitude of our commanders in ensuring a foolproof impenetrable defence of our camps.
Two days later, a constable of the Central Reserve Police Force battalion in Karan Nagar displayed a high sense of alertness and alacrity in firing at two militants who dared to approach the camp to carry out a fidayeen attack.
A study of some of the attacks on the camps of defence and para-military forces clearly points to the lacuna that existed at the time of attack which was fully exploited by the militant outfits. One could well argue that it is impossible to fortify a sprawling campus of over seven square kilometres. But then, for the sake of saving the lives of our personnel and for the honour of the country, steps have to be taken to fortify our establishments, whatever the cost factor be.
When the cantonments came up initially, these were deliberately set up in a outskirts of the towns to prevent mixing with the civilian population and thereby maintaining its own identity and secrecy of information. The more the interaction with the civil populace, the more were the possibilities of information, much of which could be
secret in nature, getting passed on to them. Secrecy of information has been of utmost importance. With the passage of time, the towns spread out to engulf the cantonments and some of them came to be merged into the heart of the towns. With the passage of time, these cantonments have become targets of the terrorists and also espionage activities.
As a security essentiality, the peripheries of these sprawling camps need to be kept free of any habitation up to 100 metres from the boundary wall and no highrise building should be permitted within a distance of about 200 metres. A clear view of the camp from any high-rise building would give the terrorists the advantage of planning their strategy and observing all movements of troops, which needs to be shielded.
The terrorist attacks in the past – in the very same Sunjuwan camp on 28 June 2003; in Air Force base at Pathankot on 1 January 2016; in Uri in September 2016 and in Nagrota on 29 November 2016 — should have served as lessons not just for these bases but also all other security forces in the region including the local police. Lessons drawn after detailed enquiries into these and several other similar incidents should be disseminated to all the forces to avoid such incidents in future.
The former Vice Chief of Army, Lt. Gen. Philip Campose, had been tasked after the Pathankot episode to head a committee to carry out a study and give recommendations to prevent repeats of such incidents. Of the 3000 sensitive military bases that were identified for upgrading the security systems, 600 were classified as “highly sensitive”. Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) were revised and sent to all formations for implementation but little seems to have been done on this front resulting in frequent attacks. Among the recommendations were installation of sensor-fitted fencing and alarm systems
The terrorist attacks in the past – in the very same Sunjuwan camp on 28 June 2003; in Air Force base at
Pathankot on 1 January 2016; in Uri in September 2016 and in Nagrota on 29 November 2016 — should have served as lessons not just for these bases but also all other security forces.
round the campus.
Now that Rs. 1,487 crore have been sanctioned by the government to strengthen and fortify all military bases, work should get started on war-footing so that no more lives are lost, though, most Army officers aver that it is impossible to meet the deadline laid down by the defence minister of completing the perimeter walls within ten months.
Closed circuit TV around the base with a central monitoring centre could go a long way in reducing the manpower to cover the entire area. Quick Reaction Teams could be deployed at vantage points to rush to any spot in the shortest possible time.
While the main entrance gates are usually well fortified, the other gates in the rear or elsewhere are not given due importance. The neglect of breaches in the walls or fencing around the camp, offer the terrorists the opportunity to break into the camp and create havoc. In Sunjuwan, a part of the periphery had just a few CGI sheets to secure the area. The possibility of the terrorists having sneaked through the gaps in the CGI sheets cannot be ruled out.
Despite all technical back-ups to secure the base, there can be no denying the fact that manpower on the ground to monitor and maintain vigil around the campus cannot be dispensed with. Mobile patrols to check any suspicious movement or breach in the fencing or wall can be conducive in plugging any loopholes instantly. Detection and timely plugging of loopholes in the security net can help prevent such incidents.
There is usually a tendency of ladies residing in family stations to go to nearby villages to get fresh milk. For this, instead of going a long circuitous way through the main gate, they find it easier to make their way through the rear or any side wall which can be breached to go out and return. These are the spots that can be used by the terrorists to gain entry. Anybody daring to breach the wall or fencing to go out should be strictly dealt with, as security of camps can in no way be compromised.
Needless to emphasise, a strong intelligence gathering system will help in alerting the personnel and apprehending the terrorists before they inflict any damage on the security forces. On certain days like the dates of killing of Burhan Wani and the hanging of Afzal Guru there are all possibilities of an attack by the militants. It becomes all the more essential to be extra cautious and deploy additional manpower to maintain vigil and carry out patrolling. Intelligence inputs usually alert the security forces about the probability of attacks but they are not taken seriously. As a result they are caught with their guards down and
General surveillance of the area or the habitations around the camp is of utmost importance to gather information. Exservicemen could be utilised to maintain a vigil in the area and inform the commanders of the military bases of any suspicious movements so that the militants are nabbed before they venture to launch their missions. Such exservicemen who render valuable service by providing timely information about militants should be handsomely rewarded for their efforts.
Since personnel residing in family quarters do not carry their service weapons on their persons, when not on duty, the residents become more vulnerable and helpless in the face of an attack by militants. In the incident at Sunjuwan Army camp, Subedar
Madan Lal Chaudhry had to fight the terrorists with bare hands to save his family members before he was shot dead. But for his
Mock drills have to be conducted from time to time so that all personnel are conversant with their role in the eventuality of an attack. Nothing could be better than to task a team to enter the campus after they have been left over a kilometre away from the camp. When they make efforts to breach the security net, they would come across spots from where they can gain entry into the camp. A detailed reconnaissance carried out by the team would be able to apprise the commanders.
derring-do, the casualty figures could have risen. Round-the-clock patrolling by armed personnel in residential quarters could prove an asset to ward off any attack in quarters.
All security forces have the system of conducting quarterly, bi-annual and annual inspections by various senior officers. If these inspections are done in all seriousness by checking the defencive and offensive preparedness, the loopholes in the all-round defence of the camp can be plugged so as to deny access to any intruders. The objective of all defence forces at all times is to be prepared to take on the enemies across the borders but if our own defences are easily penetrable, what offensive operations can we launch against the enemies? It is towards achieving this objective, the men are put through intensive training in peace time. Though the objectives of the paramilitary forces and the police may differ, yet they have to perforce take care of the defence of their posts, company and battalion locations. There are no such peace-time luxuries available for them as they have to be constantly battling the terrorists, be they in Jammu and
Kashmir or the North East or in the Left Wing extremists-affected states.
Mock drills have to be conducted from time to time so that all personnel are conversant with their role in the eventuality of an attack. Nothing could be better than to task a team to enter the campus after they have been left over a kilometre away from the camp. When they make efforts to breach the security net, they would come across spots from where they can gain entry into the camp. A detailed reconnaissance carried out by the team would be able to apprise the commanders of the loopholes in the security cordon after which efforts can be made to plug them.
With multi-pronged efforts made to ward of attacks on the camps of security forces, the days may not be far off when attacks on their camps will become things of past and militants will not ever dare come anywhere near the security forces bases.
An armored vehicle moves near the Indian Air Force base in Pathankot that was attacked in January 2016.
Terrorists hiding in various parts of Jammu and Kashmir looking at carrying out an attack at
Sunjuwan Army Camp.
Uri Army Camp where the attack took place on 18 September 2016.