Tribune News Service
Srinagar, November 19
The cordon and search operations, known famously by the abbreviated form CASO, has become the main feature of a rigorous counter-insurgency campaign of security forces since it was reintroduced six months ago.
The CASO was reintroduced in the region in May after 15 years as the security forces struggled to gain dominance over vast swathes in districts of south Kashmir, where militants had created safe havens behind a shield of a sympathetic local population.
The introduction of CASO meant back to basics of counter-insurgency: Rushing troops and sealing off villages to destabilise the ground for militants, push them on a run and on to a vulnerable turf.
In the past six months, the security forces have carried out hundreds of such search operations — most of them in south Kashmir districts. The largest CASO involved hundreds of policemen and soldiers who carried out several simultaneous cordon and search operations in multiple villages of Shopian district, one of the most difficult zone for the security forces in the region.
The state police chief, Shesh Paul Vaid, told The Tribune that the reintroduction of CASO was a result of last year’s unrest which had hampered precise intelligence gathering against militants and temporarily halted surgical operations.
The CASO brought instant results as security forces killed 190 militants this year so far. “It also brought to the fore a great level of synergy between various security agencies,” Vaid said. Hesaid on an average 10 CASOs were being carried out every day in Kashmir for the past six months.
The last week’s CASO, one of the longest as it continued for four days, in the Qazigund area of south Kashmir generated a huge success for the security forces as one militant was killed and three were arrested. The operation was carried out over a landscape of six or seven kilometres, a police official said.
Superintendent of Police, Shopian, Ambarkar Shriram, who oversaw some of the complicated operations, said such operations were carried out in a “systematic manner” with pre-assigned roles to the troops.
A routine CASO involves multi-layer cordons and tasks, like inner cordon, outer cordon, search parties and evacuation parties, the official said. “The biggest challenge is to save innocent lives. Once a militant is trapped, then there is no match because our forces are professionally superior,” he said.
Two more mothers appeal
On Saturday, two more families from south Kashmir appealed to newly recruited militants to come back. The mother of Manzoor Ahmad, 20, who has reportedly joined the militant ranks from Pulwama, had made a passionate appeal, in a video that surfaced on social media, to her son to return. In another video on social media, a Shopian woman appealed to her son to come back. “We will either consume poison or lock our house and run away, if you don’t return,” said Fehmeeda, mother of Ashiq Bhat
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