The vexatious issue of cross-border terrorists striking with impunity in the troubled areas of Jammu & Kashmir has reduced considerably ever since the Union Government repealed Article 370 in 2019. The Union Home Ministry has done everything under its purview to ensure normalcy returns to the troubled region by effectively addressing the issue of local disturbances in the form of more opportunities for employment generation and aiding small businesses to flourish. People too seem to have realized the folly of supporting cross-border terrorism by shunning calls from separatists hell-bent on fomenting troubles.
PC – IT
Thus, the disturbances that were so frequent occurrences have reduced considerably. But not completely though. The terrorist attacks backed from across the border are occurring sporadically keeping the security forces on alert. As you are aware, there were targeted attacks on a certain community as well as police forces over the last few months. Even though the security forces have successfully neutralized all those attacks, the loss of precious lives of personnel martyred is a cause for concern. One such incident that occurred recently points to the phenomenon underway. The casualties taken by security forces in a counter-terror operation in Kashmir’s Anantnag district point to a new emerging challenge as well.
Sadly, Col Manpreet Singh and Maj Aashish Dhonchak of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, and DSP Humayun Bhat of J&K Police were martyred during a fierce gunfight with terrorists. These terrorists are believed from The Resistance Front, an offshoot of Lashkar-e-Taiba. The incident has brought the focus on the Pir Panjal region of J&K, which appears to be emerging as a new zone of terror activities. As reported, between January 2021 and May 30 this year, 24 security personnel and 75 civilians were killed on either side of the Pir Panjal. In fact, almost congruent with the Anantnag encounter, another shootout between security forces and terrorists took place south of the Pir Panjal in Rajouri district this week.
The area is replete with thick interconnected forests and natural caves that provide terrorists with ideal hideouts. Plus, the armed forces’ presence here had long been tapered due to the relatively better security situation for almost two decades. However, post-2020, militants once again started showing up in the region. This leads to two conclusions. First, despite the vastly improved security situation in J&K – as exemplified by the 1.88 crore-plus tourists visiting the UT last year – Pakistan-based terror groups are constantly changing their tactics to outfox security forces. While 2022 saw a spate of targeted killings that demanded security attention on local terror recruits and their overground workers, exploitation of the Pir Panjal corridor harks back to conventional terror manoeuvres..
PC – chanakya Forum
Additionally, it’s reported that terrorists are finding their way to J&K through Punjab and Nepal as well. We need to review our security on the Punjab and Nepal border to improve screening of cross-border traffic on this front. We also need to be mindful of the dicey situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan that has a bearing on Kashmir. The Pakistani deep state will be inclined to step up terror activities in Kashmir as a diversionary tactic to keep Indian forces tied down. Greater flexibility and adaptability in counter-terror operations in J&K should be the way forward. Mind you, Pakistan-based terror forces will continue to exploit weaknesses in the J&K security dragnet. New Delhi must not be complacent with the successes achieved in Kashmir thus far. Need to be ever vigilant to thwart such attacks.