'It's a matter of great pride that no student of Army Goodwill Schools has ever joined terrorism.'
Lieutenant General B S Raju, AVSM, YSM was commissioned into 11 JAT on December 15, 1984.
An alumnus of the National Defence Academy, the general attended the NDC course at the Royal College of Defence Studies, UK, and the Master's programme in counter terrorism, at the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, USA.
General Raju commanded a rifle company on Soltoro Ridge with 11 JAT. He commanded 15 JAT during Operation Parakaram in the semi desert sector and later at Tut Mari Gali, in Jammu and Kashmir. He commanded the Uri Brigade on the Line of Control and was later the General Officer Commanding of CI Force Victor in south Kashmir.
The general presently commands the Chinar Corps in Kashmir.
"No terror organisation in Kashmir survives without approval and material support of the establishment in Pakistan," General Raju tells Senior Rediff.com Contributor Air Commodore Nitin Sathe (retd) in the concluding segment of a two part interview.
It is said that militants as on date are facing a severe logistics crunch in terms of logistics, training and weapons from across. How has this been achieved?
How do you tackle the sleeper cells and the disturbance of peace within the population which comes out in large numbers when a militant is killed or arrested by our forces?
The fact remains no terror organisation in Kashmir survives without approval and material support of the establishment in Pakistan.
This support is in terms of training, finance and equipment.
We are working to choke the flow of funds and weapons by effective border surveillance and monitoring of hawala networks.
Drug money is known to fund the terror activities right from Afghanistan to Pakistan to J&K.
Serious efforts by the intelligence agencies and police have led to major recoveries and disruption of this channel of funding.
There have been major weapon and drugs recoveries close to the Line of Control including those after killing of infiltrating terrorists.
Another aspect of terror is the Over Ground Workers (OGW) network, the network that sustains and controls the terrorists.
We are committed towards the identification and neutralising of this network.
The principal strategy of Pakistan handlers and the proxies has been to instigate violence and engineer protests that can lead to deaths of civilians.
These deaths are considered as steps to fuel more violence.
Pakistan has been using a variety of means to instigate violent protests including stone pelting.
This kind of activity is conducted by using money and a network of radicalised Over Ground Workers.
Good policing action to identify the instigators and booking them by the police has helped curb this trend.
We must compliment the police and CRPF who have shown extremely good crowd control drills and restraint in last one year.
Alongside the Awaam, it is to their credit that the stone pelting is close to zero and this restraint has avoided any civilian casualty in such incidents in the last one year.
The support of the Awaam, who have understood the double face of Pakistan and its proxies, has helped maintain peace.
Civil society is actively contributing to control these violent activities that have hampered growth of J&K for the last three decades.
Have the operations become more ruthless and lethal to send a strong message to the militant community at large?
There has been no distinct change in our method of conduct of operations.
There is no need to be ruthless.
Yes, we are lethal in conduct of intelligence-based precision operations.
Despite the lethal capability and intent our focus remains on good tactical drills and efforts to give a chance to the terrorists to surrender and conduct operations in a manner to minimise collateral damage.
Our role as security forces is to ensure a secure environment where the administration and the civil society can function without fear of the gun.
We are working on that singular aim.
Recent cases of targeting of political workers are an indicator for us that more needs to be done to remove the threat of use of gun culture by the terrorists.
It has to be understood that even smaller number of terrorists with a basic weapon like a pistol can undermine the political and developmental activity.
We as security forces have our intent to target terrorism in J&K; this includes both the terrorists and those who create a conducive environment for the terrorists -- the OGWs.
The good synergy between various security agencies, intelligence agencies and civil administration is a good enabler of effective counter terrorism operations.
It is a whole of government approach that is working towards this end.
The local recruits have to be sent across for training. How do you control this exfiltration?
The security forces comprising the army, J&K police, CRPF, BSF and other agencies have been working in tandem to maintain a robust Counter Terrorist and Counter Infiltration Grid.
Exfiltration through the LoC for training in Pakistan has virtually stopped.
The people moving across are doing so on the pretext of education and other alibis to get visas, which are facilitated by the Pakistan government.
We are working on all angles to deny space for Pakistan to train and infiltrate radicalised Kashmiri youth.
Poor training has definitely affected the capability of the local terrorists to target the security forces.
Maybe that's why they have shifted to softer targets including targeting unarmed civilians.
Good ground intelligence due to support of the Awaam has enabled frequent successful contacts with terrorists leading to encounters.
In addition, we keep updating our drills and use of technology to beat any fresh tactics used by the adversary.
The challenge always remains to conduct operations with maximum restraint and concurrently avoiding casualties to our own troops.
We all know house intervention is one of the most risky tactical drills.
We are increasingly using technology both in personal gear and weaponry to improve effectiveness, while concurrently minimising own casualties.
Your views on the grant of domicile status to 'outsiders'. Has it or will it lead to a demographic shift and how will it help in stabilising/worsening the situation in the valley?
In my opinion to even think of a demographic shift taking place would be playing into Pakistan's narrative.
The details on the dynamics and impact of this policy is best answered by the political leadership and civil administration.
The political interference has been least in the past one year or so. In your opinion, has it helped your cause in keeping peace in the valley?
What you call political interference I may choose to call political oversight.
It is still there by the office of the LG.
I understand this is lesser than the earlier dispensation, but this puts additional responsibility on us to hold ourselves to higher standards of ethical conduct and professional effectiveness.
The complete synergy amongst the security forces and civil administration with support from the Awaam has been the backbone of anti-terror ops and handling the general security situation.
It's a systemic effort and we have not faced any problems in this regard.
This syncretic efforts of all stakeholders has been vital in eliminating the top terrorists, who have lost their cause and ideology and in frustration, are involved in brutal killing of innocent Kashmiris.
Winning Hearts and Minds (WHAM) has had limited success over the years. What new measures have been adopted under your command to make it a more successful programme?
Let me differentiate between WHAM and the Sadbhavana programme.
WHAM is a method of conduct during operations which is ethical and humane.
The Indian Army has the most restrained protocols of conduct of counter insurgency operations to minimise risks and harassment to the civilian population.
In comparison, Pakistan and many other countries are known to be using heavier calibre guns and even air in counter insurgency operations. Sadbhavana forms a sub part of WHAM.
Sadbhavana initiatives were started to address areas of immediate concern of the civil population, especially in far-flung areas where the reach of the administration was low due to the fear of the gun, inaccessibility and inhospitable terrain.
It has done well to meet that mandate.
Our outreach programmes through Sadbhavana initiatives have over the years contributed immensely in supporting and aiding the Awaam in all their endeavours.
This assumes greater importance in the light of the fact that the army has presence in remote far flung areas and border regions which are inaccessible and many are cut off for months.
Sadbhavana initiatives provide critical succour and support in these areas.
Continuous engagement with the populace to mitigate their hardships including daily interactions with cross sections of society, medical camps, sporting events, skill development programmes, running of Army Goodwill Schools and encouraging other schools as well, are functioning effectively.
The Indian Army provides quality education to approx 10,500 plus students through 28 Army Goodwill Schools in the Kashmir 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 good results.
The effort has to continue to continuously innovate and upgrade.
One of our key focus areas are the youth, women empowerment and people from underprivileged sections of Kashmiri society.
It's a matter of great pride that as per our records no student of Army Goodwill Schools has ever joined terrorism.
It proves that good parenting and quality education make better citizens.
That said, I agree there is always more to do and improve efficiencies.
We continue to innovate and upgrade our efforts.
This year, providing aid and assistance to safeguard and help the populace against COVID 19 challenge is part of the initiatives.
It all is a work in progress.
Some stories of harassment and torture have been written about in the media in recent times. This brings unnecessary negative publicity to our men in uniform. How have you handled this issue?
Unfounded human rights violations are a reality we security forces live with in any counter terrorism operation.
Last August to October we saw a few media articles alleging human rights violations.
It has been nearly a year since then; the allegations have died down because there was no substance or evidence of a human rights violation.
We have had a few cases of civilian deaths in terrorist fire when they attacked the security forces in crowded townships. In all cases, there was an effort to paint the sad losses as a security force excess.
Investigation in all cases has confirmed good conduct of security forces despite being under fire.
We are committed to ethical and humane conduct of operations.
We accept the need for a civil oversight on our actions, but it has to be distinguished from separatist or Pakistani propaganda.
For Pakistani propaganda every terrorist killed in J&K is a civilian killed by Indian security forces.
We expect the media to nail such lies.
The army has a very strict moral and ethical code, and every soldier is duty bound to it.
The soldier is trained for ethical conduct.
I would like to clarify that all such complaints lodged are thoroughly investigated and all those found guilty have been awarded punishments as applicable.
The challenge for the security forces is to reduce inconvenience to the population while ensuring that terror does not get any space to affect lives of the common man.
How has the ongoing pandemic impacted the security work that is being done by our troops? Has there been any involvement of our troops to help the government machinery in fighting it in the valley?
COVID is a global challenge and we understand its severity.
As part of the country's response for COVID-19, the army has implemented a host of measures and initiatives to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Kashmir.
We have to work on force preservation and also help the Awaam in combating this threat.
This is especially true in far flung areas where public health facilities are limited.
We are ensuring that our borders are safe while the country is fighting COVID-19.
All precautions as per the guidelines issued are being followed in letter and spirit by our headquarters and units.
Necessary adjustments have been made in our method of conduct of operations in order to maintain combat readiness and effectiveness.
Along the Line of Control, all the locations are isolated and to maintain social distancing and isolations norms.
Suitable mechanisms have been instituted for rotation of manpower and induction of those returning from leave.
Our system of quarantine and testing is also well in place to obviate any chance of the disease spreading to our troops.
The army has been constantly updating the public with all relevant information during this pandemic through various platforms.
In order to provide immediate relief to those seeking advice or assistance, COVID-19 and telemedicine helplines have been made operational across the Kashmir Valley.
Other awareness generation measures include disseminating advisories and other important safety guidelines through Khairiyat patrols, checkposts, posters, leaflets and loudspeakers.
Moulvis and Imams throughout the valley have also come forth to issue announcements through masjids and urge people to follow precautionary measures.
Through our own troops conducting Khairiyat potrols throughout Kashmir, the army has been able to reach out to the population in every part of the valley.
The Awaam has been provided doorstep assistance in terms of rations, surgical masks, sanitisers and other relief material as needed.
All humanitarian assistance activities are being conducted with strict social distancing and other precautionary measures being adhered to.
The joint efforts of all stakeholders in the national fight against coronavirus disease will ensure that the Awaam of Kashmir remains safe and healthy.
From being a 'Humsaya' to becoming a 'Muhafiz', the army is constantly working alongside the civil administration to bring succour to the lives of the population of Kashmir.
Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com