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Rajouri Terror Attack: What We Must Learn

By Brigadier NARENDER KUMAR (retd)
Last updated on: August 12, 2022 19:27 IST
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Thinning out of the counter infiltration and counter terrorism grid is fraught with the danger of revival of terrorism in the Poonch-Rajouri area, cautions Brigadier Narender Kumar (retd), the counter-insurgency expert.

IMAGE: Police sharpshooters on guard after terrorists carried out a suicide attack on an Indian Army base, Rajouri in August 11, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

 

Pakistan-based terrorist organisations and the ISI have made numerous attempts to spread terrorism south of the Pir Panjal since late 1990s.

As part of its larger design during the mid-1990s and early 2000s, foreign terrorists were infiltrated in large numbers in Poonch and Rajouri to undertake acts of terrorism and coerce the civil population.

The suicide attack is a popular coercion strategy of terrorists, to threaten further violence in the future.

Thus, security forces must prepare itself for such attacks periodically.

The ISI's attempts to give impetus to terrorism south of the Pir Panjal failed in the past primarily due to diverse demography, effective counter infiltration and counter-terrorism grids.

The demography of the region has a mix of Pahari, Gujjar, Bakarwal, Poonchi, Mugal Rajputs, Kashmiri Muslims and Dogras.

Most of these tribes have not found traction for Pakistan-backed terrorism initiatives.

The separatists have no real mass support in the region and the Jamait-e-Islami's influence is also negligible.

But the administration's inaction to redress public grievances could prove fatal.

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, some local youth were lured into terrorism, but Pakistan-based terrorist organisations could not establish mass support among the civil population for a sustained period.

The euphoria for terror organisations evaporated around 2006-2007, as a result, terrorism was almost rolled up from south of the Pir Panjal by 2008 when normalcy returned to the region.

IMAGE: Police personnel near the encounter site after a terror attack on the army camp in the Darhal area in Rajouri, August 11, 2022 was averted. Photograph: ANI Photo

 

Terrorism in the past has caused innumerable hardship to the people of this hilly region in the past.

Consequently, repeated attempts of ISI-backed terrorist organisations to renew terrorism in this region failed and except for few sporadic incidents terrorists have not found traction among the locals, because it seriously impacted daily life, education and development work in the region.

Prior to the August 11, 2022 suicide terror attack on the Indian Army camp in Rajouri where four soldiers lost their lives while neutralising the attackers, there was another major incident in October 2021 in Rajouri in which the army lost nine soldiers.

There are some plausible reasons why periodic terror attacks take place south of the Pir Panjal.

First, such acts of terror are a calculated move by terror organisations with an aim to make their presence felt in the otherwise peaceful areas of Poonch and Rajouri.

Second, whenever security forces are in complete control of the situation in the Kashmir Valley and attrition on terrorists is heavy, terror organisations attempt to carry out sensational attacks to divert attention to try and boost the sagging morale of terrorists in other parts of Jammu and Kashmir.

Third, during the rainy season thick foliage and the maize crop facilitates infiltration and movement of terrorists in the hinterland.

With the onset of winter, infiltration and cross country movement of terrorists becomes even harder, thus this is the only window terror organisations have to carry out such attacks in the hilly and tough region of Poonch-Rajouri.

Fourth, periodic attacks in this region can also be attributed to thinning out of the counter-terrorism grid in areas south of the Pir Panjal.

In the last three to four years due to low numbers of terrorist-related acts, troops have been pulled out from this region and deployed elsewhere.

Whereas, terrorism is dynamic in nature and whenever the pressure is lifted, terrorists will make their presence felt.

Fifth, terrorist organisations have been attempting to cause sensational attacks around Independence day and Republic Day.

Ghar Ghar Tiranga has invoked A very good response from the people of the Union Territory, thus it is also an attempt to convey to the people that they do not endorse such enthusiasm of people towards THE national symbol of India.

There is a note of caution for the government and security forces and such attacks must not be seen as isolated incidents.

IMAGE: Indian Army personnel deployed on the streets of Mendhar in Poonch, August 5, 2022, on the third anniversary marking the abrogation of Article 370. Photograph: ANI Photo

 

Abrogation of Article 370 had promised that the step-motherly treatment of Ladakh and Jammu region in the past will be addressed and the Union Territory administration will ensure job reservation to Gujjars, Bakarwal and the tribal population of the region. They will enjoy equal opportunities in jobs and development.

But now the youth is disillusioned since nothing seems to have changed on the ground.

The fear is that if the youth remains disillusioned with the UT administration, there is a fear of some youth getting lured by terror organisations and reversal of the situation to the post 1998 scenario south of the Pir Panjal.

The UT can ill afford this region plunging back into terrorism.

IMAGE: A search operation after the terror attack on the army camp in the Darhal area in Poonch, August 11, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

ISI-backed terror organisations will continue to provoke India unless the Pakistan army is made to pay the price for such acts of terror.

Reduction in terror-related incidents is not a sign of a return of normalcy till the entire terror network on both sides of the Line of Control is dismantled.

Thus, thinning out of the counter infiltration and counter terrorism grid is fraught with the danger of revival of terrorism in the Poonch-Rajouri area.

There is a need to address the grievances of the people, especially the youth, so that the situation is not allowed to deteriorate in the years ahead.

Rolling up of terrorism if triggered again will be far more difficult since weapons and ammunition supply will not be a problem to terrorists with the help of drones.

Deployment of drones specially to cover routes from South Kashmir into the Poonch Rajouri region and infiltration routes from across the LoC needs to be kept under surveillance for plugging gaps in the counter infiltration grid and movement of terrorists on the higher reaches of the Pir Panjal ranges.

IMAGE: Police personnel stand guard at Rajouri, August 11, 2022. Photograph: ANI Photo

Security forces are not making use of reliable and short term predictions based on predictive models to assess and predict the possibility of terrorist attacks on military targets.

The assessment of attacks and possible targets can be predicted on the bases of past data.

Accordingly, proactive measures can be taken so that loss of lives and damage to infrastructure can be prevented.

Probability and type of likely targets can be predicted so that troops are alerted and precautionary measures can be taken.

It is time for the security forces to use technology and operational research predictive models to prevent collateral damage due to acts of terror.

Brigadier Narender Kumar (retd) is a frequent contributor to Rediff.com. You can read his earlier columns here.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com

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