South of Pir Panjal poses counter-terror challenges : The Tribune India

Join Whatsapp Channel

South of Pir Panjal poses counter-terror challenges

From the Ravi river to Manawar Tawi, the plains to the south of Pir Panjal provide several infiltration routes. It is a lesser known fact that some parts of Jammu city, the winter capital of J&K, are just 10 km from the International Border. In fact, most of the recent weapon droppings and sightings of drones have taken place around the Tawi watershed near the International Border, an area which is at a 2-3-km aerial distance from the Jammu Civil Secretariat.

South of Pir Panjal poses counter-terror challenges

Rigour needed: From 1990 to 2007, 35 per cent of J&K’s violence has happened in areas to the south of Pir Panjal. PTI



Luv Puri

Journalist and author

The year 2021 has again turned the spotlight on the multi-dimensional challenges that the security establishment faces in areas to the south of the Pir Panjal region in J&K as militants have repeatedly tried to circumvent fencing to infiltrate — at times, successfully. The hunt for militants in the Mendhar area of Poonch, where nine soldiers were killed recently, is a manifestation of this trend.

In the over three-decade-old counter-insurgency in J&K, most of the studies and scholarly exercises have been limited to the Kashmir valley for understandable reasons. But time and again, the area to the south of Pir Panjal — the mountainous stretch that divides the Kashmir valley from the Jammu region — has posed challenges that are far more arduous and complex. From 1990 to 2007, J&K saw large-scale violence, with nearly 35 per cent of such instances happening in areas to the south of Pir Panjal.

In order to understand the present challenge, one has to factor in

the geography, terrain and demography, including the ethnic and linguistic profiles, of the region and the past trends.

The frontier to the south of Pir Panjal extends from the Jammu-Samba-Kathua plains to the hilly Rajouri-Poonch as the plain, nearly 198-km International border makes way for the nearly 740-km hilly Line of Control (LoC) from the Akhnoor area onwards. The ongoing mission to hunt down militants is similar to past fierce encounters in the Poonch sector.

In the early 1990s, this route was used by Kashmiri-speaking militants to enter this side of the LoC from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). At times, the Indian forces were able to track down these militants even in the interior while they were on their way back to the valley. For instance, in a major operation on July 17, 1990, about 33 militants who had crossed the Sauji area in Mandi, Poonch district, were gunned down. All of them were Kashmiri-speaking and belonged to Pulwama and Anantnag districts of the valley.

In fact, most of the former militants living across the Line of Control that this author has met in PoK and Pakistan during his research had used the Rajouri-Poonch area to cross the LoC. The family of Sher Khan, who finally resided at a dingy refugee camp in the Kotli area, from Rajouri, was one of them. Sher Khan was one of the five militants whose release from an Indian prison was negotiated by the JKLF operatives in lieu of freeing Rubiya Sayeed, daughter of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, the then Indian Home Minister in the federal government.

By the mid-1990s, the challenge enhanced for the security forces in the religiously heterogeneous Rajouri-Poonch area as there was a greater presence of militants who were non-Kashmiri speaking, and they had started establishing their bases there.

The label of foreign militants from Pakistani Punjab and PoK is true in the Kashmir valley because of their language and culture that are separate from the local area. In the Rajouri-Poonch belt, this terminology doesn't hold true in practical terms. The militants coming from across the LoC are largely from the same ethnic and linguistic stock. This ensures easy assimilation, making it difficult for the security apparatus to detect them.

Another recent security challenge to the south of Pir Panjal has been the regular use of drones from across the border. Drones have been regularly spotted in the air space of the Jammu plains that border Pakistan’s Sialkot district. A drone, on June 27, this year, had even dropped explosives at the Indian Air Force station, causing injuries to its two personnel.

In fact, the Jammu plains have been at the heart of the militants’ logistical support and infiltration strategy for the last three decades. Various investigations have repeatedly led footprints of many infamous attacks to this terrain. For instance, the weapons and the militants who had planted improvised explosive devices (IEDs) on January 26, 1995, that nearly killed the then Governor KV Krishna Rao came through this route. Three bombs went off at the MAM Stadium in Jammu as the Governor was delivering his speech on Republic Day as a bomb exploded only a few yards away from him. Because of the meticulous nature of the attack, it took the security apparatus by surprise. It killed eight people, including three J&K information department officials, and injured 45 persons.

More recently, as per the 13,500-page Pulwama attack charge-sheet of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), one of the prime accused, Mohammad Umar Farooq, nephew of Jaish-e-Mohammad founder Masood Azhar, had infiltrated through the Samba plains in April 2018. Actually, the information about the intrusion was known even before the Pulwama attack. As per the NIA, “Farooq took over as Jaish-e-Mohammad commander of Pulwama as he along with his compatriots had planned and prepared for the attack on security forces using IEDs on February 14, 2019.” Forty security personnel were killed as the attack brought India and Pakistan to a war-like situation.

From the Ravi river to Manawar Tawi, the plains to the south of Pir Panjal provide several infiltration routes. It is a lesser known fact that some parts of Jammu city, the winter capital of J&K, are just 10 km from the International Border. In fact, most of the recent weapon droppings and sightings of the drones have taken place around the Tawi watershed near the International Border, an area which is at a 2-3-km aerial distance from the Jammu Civil Secretariat.

Before militancy started in J&K, this terrain was used for smuggling narcotics, which, too, has seen some spike recently. The main route taken by the infiltrators was the Basantar corridor in Samba and the Hiranagar sector of Kathua district, which, again, has a number of ravines and ditches that are difficult to fence.

The prevalent complexity and heterogeneity, including religious demographics, ethnic and linguistic profiles, geography and political orientations, to the south of Pir Panjal demand more rigour and a non-binary understanding of the region.

Unlike Kashmir, where the terrain consists of plains and a road network has been built, the transportation system to the south of Pir Panjal is underdeveloped. Therefore, the formulation of an effective counter-terrorism strategy will have to factor in the new sets of challenges, including technological and local realities and the past trends. 


Top News

‘Congress mantra is loot in life, loot after life’: PM Modi on Sam Pitroda’s inheritance tax remarks

‘Congress mantra is loot in life, loot after life’: PM Modi on Sam Pitroda’s 'inheritance tax' remarks

Grand Old Party accuses BJP of distorting Pitroda’s remarks ...

Congress suspends Punjab’s Phillaur MLA Vikramjit Chaudhary over statements against ex-CM Charanjit Channi

Congress suspends Punjab’s Phillaur MLA Vikramjit Chaudhary over statements against ex-CM Charanjit Channi

The suspension letter has been issued by Congress’s Punjab a...

Supreme Court seeks clarification from EC on functioning of EVMs, summons senior poll panel official

VVPAT: ‘We can’t control elections’, Supreme Court tells petitioners

The Bench, which has already reserved its verdict, told the ...


Cities

View All