The elimination of Abu Dujana, a top Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist listed among the most-wanted in Jammu & Kashmir, in a joint anti-terror operation in Pulwama on 31 July is a significant chapter in the story of improved success that the security forces have been scripting in the Valley of late. At the same time, Hizb ul Mujahideen’s Shopian attack today, which claimed the lives of 2 Army men, including a major, is a grim reminder of the tough battle ahead.
For all the criticism heaped on the coalition government of the PDP-BJP, it is fighting terrorism in Kashmir with stronger ground intelligence and more active and sincere participation of the Jammu & Kashmir Police, improving the success ratio of the anti-terror operations in the State. As many as 95 terrorists have been eliminated until 9 July, senior sources in the government said. The key factors leading to this success have included intelligence generated largely by the Jammu & Kashmir Police, improved coordination among the personnel of the State police, the CRPF and the Army in joint operations and smooth executions.
The figure of terrorist deaths is higher than that seen in the whole of 2012 and 2013. (see the graphic above). Earlier, an aggressive operation by the Indian Army led to the killing of top Hizb ul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat along with 8 other militants in an encounter. This indicates a change in approach of the forces towards growing militancy in the Kashmir valley. Sources say all Army units in Kashmir have taken a vow to eliminate every terrorist before winter descends on the Valley. The security forces are adopting a pre-emptive approach both along the LoC and within Kashmir, acting on intelligence quickly to plug all outlets for the militants to slip out.
If we look at the terror incidents in terms of numbers since 2010, there has indeed been some decline in 2017 in comparison to most of the preceding years. Compared to 488 terrorist strikes in 2010, 340 in 2011 and as many as 322 last year, the current year has seen only 172 such incidents. Civilian casualty has come down drastically, too. Compared to 112 civilian deaths in 2010 and 85 last year, this year has seen 21 civilian deaths in the affected areas of Jammu & Kashmir. While 1,047 cases of injury were reported in 2010 and as many as 8,932 last year, the current year has seen only 107 such cases until 31 May. The toll on the security forces has come down drastically with only 1,073 security personnel injured until 31 May in comparison to 8,378 such cases last year and 5,188 in 2010.
This marked improvement has been possible essentially due to, first of all, a much better coordination among the different security forces. The police, the Army and CRPF have bolstered the success rate. Second, the security forces have persevered to take live encounters to their logical conclusion even in the face of local resistance. The results on the ground indicate that the perceived hesitation of the PDP, the senior partner in the ruling coalition, in acting against troublemakers in its pockets of political influence is no longer a hurdle. In fact, the agencies are optimistic that the figure of 150 terrorists neutralised in Jammu & Kashmir in 2016 may well be surpassed this year as operations remain in high gear. The incidence of terror-related violence in Jammu & Kashmir is still high, with 172 incidents recorded until 9 July. What is different at present is that the counter-terror forces are now aided by a favourable political dispensation at the Centre as well as the State — with the authorities willing to give them a free hand in all lawful actions to tackle terrorism. As a senior official pointed out, motivational levels are higher and intelligence more precise as it is coming largely from the local network of the State police, and response of forces like the CRPF is quicker. Coordination among the Jammu & Kashmir Police, CRPF and Army undertaking joint counter-terror operations has drastically improved. “The forces are sustaining armed engagement and neutralising terrorists who fail to surrender, rather than letting them slip away amidst stone-pelting around encounter sites,” adds the senior official.
As part of their new policy of ‘Stop or Eliminate’, close to 4,000 soldiers were moved in to Kashmir recently to check, curb and nip terrorism in the bud, as well as give protection to pilgrims of the Amarnath Yatra. Following the infiltration of terrorists from across the border, the deployment on ground has increased, too. A recent report stated that 150 militants of the Hizb ul Mujahideen group were camping at a Pakistan Army location along the LoC, waiting to trespass into the Indian territory and strike at an opportune moment.
Earlier, the army had released a hit list of top terrorists in Jammu & Kashmir consisting of the local commanders of notorious groups like the Hizb ul Mujahideen (HM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that operate in the State. Some top-ranking cadre of the Hizb were included in this list. After the death of former Hizb commander Burhan Wani, his successor Zakir Rashid Bhat had taken over. However, the Hizb had distanced itself from the new commander and a new face was found to lead the group. Sabzar Ahmed Bhat, who was appointed commander after Wani also got killed in an encounter in the recent past. The present leader of the group is Reyaz Naikoo, alias, Zubair. With the exception of Sabzar, all terrorist leaders who were promoted to the top of the HM ranks had been named in the hit list. As an army officer explained, “They are the ring leaders who control all other militants in Kashmir. Killing these leaders would lead to confusion and disarray in the ranks. When the head is cut off, the rest of the group would just fail to thrive.”
According to the Country Report on Terrorism prepared by the US Department of State, the 2 countries with the highest number of terrorist attacks in 2016 were Iraq and Afghanistan with 2,965 and 1,340 terrorist attacks respectively. As per this report, India ranked third among countries with 927 attacks, ahead of Pakistan, which saw 734 attacks. More than half of the 927 attacks in India took place in 4 States: Jammu & Kashmir leading with 19%, Chhattisgarh with 18%, Manipur with 12% and Jharkhand experiencing 10% of them. The number of terrorist attacks in India had actually increased by 16% last year, with the total number of deaths from these attacks increasing by 17%. On an average, these terror attacks had led to 4 deaths for every 10 attacks in 2016, compared to 24 deaths in every 10 attacks worldwide. This lower ration can be explained by the fact that 73%, i.e. nearly three-quarters, of the attacks in India in 2016 were non-lethal. Most of the terrorist attacks in India last year involved either bombings and explosions or armed assaults.
The number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan had also gone up in the last year. The Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir is controlled in parts by the Indian Army and the BSF. While the section under operational control of the Army saw around 150 attacks in each of 2014 and 2015, this had gone up to 228 attacks in 2016. The section manned by the BSF, however, had seen as many as 430 attacks in 2014, a number which came down to 253 in 2015 and further to 221 last year. As on 21 July, there have been 228 cases of ceasefire violation this year along the section of the LoC controlled by the Indian Army.
The casualties resulting from these ceasefire violations during the last 3 years as well as the current year can be found in an article in this site. While there had been only 3 deaths for the Army and BSF personnel in 2014, the number had gone up to 10 in the following year. In 2016, this number went further up to 13 deaths for the men in uniform. This year, as many as 5 martyrs have made the supreme sacrifice this far, with 24 cases of injury. The forces have, on the other hand, successfully ensured a minimum of civilian casualties this year. While there had been 14 civilian deaths in 2014, 16 in 2015 and 13 in 2016, the current year has witnessed the loss of 3 civilian lives until now. The number of injuries suffered by civilians has also gone down drastically this year. From over 100 cases of injuries suffered by civilians in 2014 and about 70 and 80 in 2015 and 2016 respectively, the present year has witnessed only 14 such cases, with the Army providing ample protection to the civilian population along the Line of Control.