Saturday, August 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

More pressure on Army now
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 10
The Centre’s decision to extend the Disturbed Areas Act to the entire Jammu region will on the one hand put further pressure on the Army and on the other help smoothen its operations in controlling the activities of mercenaries.

Analysts here point out that the already overstreched Indian Army will be further under pressure after the Centre’s decision to rein in the mercenaries who are now trying to extend their activities in Jammu. The attention squarely now will be on the Army with the civil administration and the police failing in their task.

However, this decision is also a comment on the lack of commitment on the part of the civil administration and the police to fight the militants. It also underlines the fact that the Army is now being used more and more for the law and order situation rather than guarding the borders. In effect it has been transformed into a police force rather than an Army to fight aggression and intrusion.

Sources in the government here said while the army independently would not have advocated extending the Act to Jammu as it dilutes its charactor, it will not go against it as it is more of a political decision.

There is, however, an opinion that this decision will not only provide legitimacy to the Army to carry out its job but will, in fact, come as an advantage to it as the Army has already been carrying out most of the work in the Jammu region but without legal teeth.

This, the Army officers feel, will help smoothen the operations. The force deployed in the region will be able to operate independently without having to inform the civil authorities about their plans. It will be an advantage in carrying out cordon and search operations which were being hampered till now as at times the police force was not available.

Most importantly, the Army feels that it will help in plugging the leaks. Earlier, with the police and the civil administration being kept in the picture, there were instances where information regarding the operations was out before these were launched. This put the Army at a disadvantage.

However, this move will also put additional responsibility on the Army. It will now not be able to blame the civil administration for any lapses in operations.

The decision of the government, is being seen as a panic reaction which will send the wrong signals not only internationally, but also to the Hindu population that now they are not safe even in their homeland. Besides, it will further encourage mercenaries.

Senior Army officers point out that if by one act the mercenaries are able to force the government to declare Jammu as a ‘disturbed area’, then they will go to any length to get a similar reaction for other places also. They point out that Delhi actually has seen more incidents than Jammu, but will the government think of such a move there, they question.

The decision is being viewed as a step to stop any possible exodus not only from Doda but also from Jammu. Army officers agree that it is a step through which the government wants to restore the confidence of the local population which has been greatly effected after the Jammu incident.

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