‘MILITANT LEADERSHIP VOID IN VALLEY’ TERROR LAUNCH PADS IN POK FULL: LT GEN RAJU
LT-GEN BS RAJU, General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps, Srinagar
Notwithstanding the coronavirus pandemic, Kashmir is bracing for a familiar summertime pattern of last three decades of Pakistan-sponsored insurgency: an escalation in infiltration bids on an increasingly ‘live’ Line of Control and a surge in militant violence in the hinterland. The killing last week of two army officials in an encounter, followed quickly by security forces’ retaliatory operation eliminating Riaz Naikoo, a top commander of Hizbul Mujahidin, are the latest pointers to what may lie ahead in the volatile Valley agog with a new portent of likely impact of withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. In an interview with Executive Editor Ramesh Vinayak, Lt-Gen BS Raju, General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based 15th Corps, dwelt on the current situation and security challenges in the Valley. Edited excerpts:
What is your assessment of the current security scenario in Kashmir?
The present situation in Kashmir is stable but fragile. Precautionary and pre-emptive measures are being taken for the safety and security of people, and these have been instrumental in saving innocent lives. Post-Pulwama, we have successfully neutralised the top local commanders of various terrorist outfits, thus resulting in a leadership void. Many overground workers (OGWs), who were providing logistics and other material support to terrorists, have been apprehended in joint operations with other security agencies.
How has the dynamics of Pakistan’s cross-LoC support to terrorism changed in last one year or so?
Pakistan has consistently found ways and means to further its agenda of fomenting terror in the Valley. It persists in doing that. Numerous intrusion attempts have been foiled and Pakistan army is constantly resorting to ceasefire violations to support the terrorists’ infiltration.
What has been the outcome of anti-militancy operations since the abrogation of Article 370 in August last year?
Militancy has since been on a sharp decline due to our persistent efforts. We had anticipated that Pakistan will increase its efforts to cause turmoil in Kashmir. In spite of best efforts of Pakistan-sponsored proxies, there has been no loss of civilian life in security operations. That in fact has been the hallmark of efforts of all stakeholders for maintenance of peace in Kashmir.
What is the current state of militant outfits active in Kashmir?
We work on concepts, and not numbers. And the concept is the constant attempts by Pakistan to infiltrate terrorists and war-like stores to commit sensational terrorist activities. Over the past year, the leadership of all terrorist
‘tanzeems’ (organisatons) including Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind and Jaish-e-Mohammed has been effectively targeted and eliminated. There is now a definite leadership void.
The number of terrorists presently operating in the Valley has also greatly dwindled owing to the reduced recruitment and the recent successes in the counterterrorist operations. In all operations, we extend every opportunity to local terrorists to ‘return’. Half way through, the encounters are halted and the parents or society elders are involved to urge the trapped local terrorist to ‘return’. We call it ‘Operation MAA’ where the mothers appeal to their sons gone astray, and we have been successful many times.
What has lately been the trend in local recruitments to militant ranks?
The recruitment of local youth in the terrorist ‘tanzeems’ has reduced by more than 45% from 2018 to 2019 and is even lesser in 2020. The Pakistan-sponsored proxies who are instigating and indulging in stone-throwing and recruitment have failed in their attempts. Today, the stonethrowing has also come down to negligible in the recent months. Also, the life span of a terrorist has come down drastically, with 64% getting eliminated within one year. Joining terrorist ‘tanzeems’ has become a non-lucrative option for the Kashmiri youth have understood the false narratives of separatists and now see through the Pakistan-sponsored propaganda.
How has the restrictive Internet impacted the militant outfits?
That has rendered the terrorist ‘tanzeems’ less effective in carrying out their agenda and limited the spread of false narratives being spread by Pakistan to misguide the youth of the Valley. Presently, 2G and broadband internet is available and that enables all essential work on the internet. If the high speed internet is restored now, Pakistan will try to vitiate the peaceful environment by employing its online propaganda machinery.
What is the current situation on the Line of Control?
The Pakistan army knows our capabilities very well. Every day, we have infiltration attempts on LoC even at a time when the whole world is coming together to fight coronavirus. But, our counter-infiltration grid is very effective in neutralising -these infiltrators.
What challenges you foresee in the current summer months?
Pakistan has always wanted to disrupt normalcy in the Valley and these summer months would be no different. It is unable to digest that Kashmiris are experiencing peace and improved law and order situation. The infiltration bids will go on. The un-coordinated terrorist acts in the hinterland are a sign of desperation. All that is well anticipated. Every plan is in place to thwart any such attempts.
What is your assessment on the likely consequences of the US-Taliban pact in Afghanistan on the security scenario in Kashmir?
The developments in the sub-continent, including the US- Taliban deal, will have an impact on the security situation in Kashmir. The terrorist launch pads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir are full, and Pakistan army is trying its best to push maximum infiltrators into the Valley to disrupt peace.
Is the internal security situation in Kashmir steady enough to revive on-ground political activities?
On the political front, the government has clearly enunciated the objectives and benefits of the new political landscape. The subject of political conjecturing is not within the purview of my mandate. To support all political/ administrative initiatives, security forces have been proactive in ensuring that peace and tranquillity are maintained. We have made repeated appeals to mothers, parents, elders and other opinion makers to ask local boys gone astray to shun the gun and rejoin the mainstream. I am happy that many such boys have chosen to ‘return’.
How do you plan to bolster the army’s outreach to the common Kashmiris?
Our outreach programmes through Sadbhavana initiatives include quality education to about 10,500 students through 28 army goodwill schools (AGS) in the Valley. The initiatives of Super-50 (engineering) and Super-30 (medical) and capacity building tours to other states, have been very effective and have achieved stupendous results. As per our records, no student of AGS has ever joined terrorism. It proves that good parenting and quality education make better citizens.
ON NET CURBS
Internet restrictions in Kashmir have rendered the terrorist outfits less effective in carrying out their agenda and limited the spread of false narratives being spread by Pakistan to misguide the youth ›
ON PAK DESIGNS
The terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir are full, and Pakistan army is trying hard to push maximum infiltrators into the Valley.
ON ANTI-TERROR OPS
The life span of a terrorist in Kashmir has come down drastically, with 64% getting eliminated within one year. Joining terrorist outfits has become a non-lucrative option for the J&K youth.
HANDS-ON GENERAL At the helm of operationally most active Chinar Corps since March 1, Lt-Gen Raju is leveraging his incisive understanding of past five J&K stints to deal with security challenges. HT PHOTO