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Terrorism on the Decline in Jammu Region

B.S. Sachar was Senior Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.
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  • September 19, 2006

    Terrorism has been wracking Jammu & Kashmir over the last two decades and the state has seen various shades of terrorist activities - from the violent aggressive phase involving fidayeen attacks on the camps of the security forces (SF) to the car bomb attacks that were witnessed last year to the present phase of grenade attacks, which can be considered a low cost but high impact option for the terrorists. Terrorist activities are presently more pronounced in the Kashmir Valley, whereas the number of terrorist initiated incidents have reduced in the Jammu region. The reasons for this are many - the induction of fresh terrorists as well as the funding and supply of weapons and explosives is extremely difficult in the tough mountainous terrain South and West of the Pir Panjal Ranges in districts such as Doda, Kathua and Udhampur. The resident terrorists in the area are presently in a state of low morale, as a large number of senior leaders have been killed in the recent past. In addition, adequate funds are not reaching them and weapons and ammunition are also in short supply. The aim of the ISI and the tanzeem leaders in Pakistan is, therefore, to regain the lost initiative and bring these areas back into national and international focus.

    The security forces have had considerable success in eliminating a number of terrorists from their mountain hideouts in the Jammu region. They have achieved this by expanding their bases to remote inaccessible areas and through good quality human intelligence, better weapons and equipment and dynamic deployment. Most of the terrorist tanzeems like the Hizbul Mujahideen are without effective leadership and their cadres are demoralized and lying low. There has been a spate of surrenders this year. Inter-tanzeem rivalry is also on the rise. The days when the terrorists used to seek encounters with the security forces are nearly over and today they fire only when trapped in a hideout or caught in an ambush. IED attacks on SF columns have reduced considerably and the Jammu-Srinagar highway in the stretch South of the Jawahar tunnel remains incident free even during the time of the Amarnath Yatra. Due to their dwindling numbers and to evade detection, terrorists are now moving in smaller groups (generally comprising two to three terrorists). The SF have consequently changed their tactics and cover more areas with smaller patrols from their operating bases.

    The low state of morale among terrorists is due to a number of reasons. The free flow of money has been checked through better intelligence. At the same time, there has been a reduction in infiltration from across the border even as Over ground workers (OGWs) have been neutralised. The position of the terrorists is such that they are resorting to extortion and criminal activities to survive. The flow of weapons and ammunition has been reduced to such an extent that they are resorting to snatching outdated .303 rifles from Village Defence Committees and Special Police Officers. Needless to add, these vintage rifles cannot match the superior firepower available with the SF. In the last few months, a number of .303 rifles have been recovered from killed or surrendered terrorists. Moreover, there is also an acute shortage of AK ammunition due to which terrorists are forced to conserve the limited stocks available with them. Heavier calibre weapons like rocket launchers and Pika machine guns are provided only to the senior cadres and are seldom used for firing on the security forces or their camps due to inadequate ammunition.

    Due to lack of ideological motivation, committed cadres, shortage of weapons and ammunition, and reduced funding, recruitment to the terrorist ranks is on the decline. The youths who join voluntarily are attracted more by the life style of the terrorists rather than being motivated by any genuine cause. The number of hardcore Pakistan-trained and foreign terrorists has declined significantly and there is a crisis of leadership. Good human intelligence has not only enabled the killing of senior terrorist commanders but also the seizure of a large number of weapons and explosive caches.

    The ISI is, however, trying to impose foreign terrorists at the upper rung of leadership in these areas to check surrenders and motivate the cadres. It has lost faith in the local leadership, which is not implementing its diktats and instead seems to prefer to lie low. All out efforts are also being made to revive terrorism by infiltrating more armed cadres across the LoC before the passes close in the coming winter. This is a crucial phase of terrorism in the region and it must be ensured that the designs of the ISI and the tanzeem leaders in Pakistan are defeated.

    A lot of development work is being carried out in the State and Jammu region is also getting its share of development projects. For its part, the Indian Army has also carried out a number of projects under Operations Sadbhavna and Ujala to facilitate development in remote inaccessible areas. This has generated much goodwill for the Army. More job opportunities are being provided to the youth to wean them away from militancy. A number of Territorial Army (Home & Hearth) battalions have been raised in which the local youth have been recruited. Democracy has gained roots as was witnessed in the large turnout for the local body elections earlier this year.

    While all these have created a positive outlook among the people, it is essential that we build on these successes by further improving the socio-economic conditions and generating job opportunities for the local people. Jammu has a great potential in regard to scenic, adventure, pilgrim and spiritual tourism, and can easily compete with Gulmarg in the Valley. At the same time, given the region's rich deposits of gypsum, coal, lignite and other minerals, there is potential for investments and job generation in these spheres. These are aspects that cannot be neglected in the struggle against terrorism.