Jammu, September 24
Often termed as eyes and ears of the Army in high mountain reaches of J&K, nomadic Muslim Gujjars and Bakerwals have started migrating to plains ahead of the winter season. The police and the Army have already started strengthening their network in far-off areas where a void will be created after the migration of nomadic tribes. The seasonal migration of these nomadic tribes of J&K, which constitute over 12 per cent of the population, starts in September-October toward the plains of Jammu and Punjab and then in April-May back to the higher reaches of Pir Panjal and other mountain ranges.
Eye on temporary shelters
- As nomads begin migration, their temporary shelters can be used by terrorists so security men are keeping an eye on them.
- Members of the nomadic community have also taken part in anti-terrorist operations by acting as soldiers and porters in the past.
Interestingly, Pir Panjal ranges also have a web of traditional routes of terrorists infiltrating from Pakistan into India. Most of the times, members of these nomadic tribes inform the Army and the police about presence of terrorists in dense forest areas.
However, intelligence agencies have asked the security forces to keep a close eye on the temporary shelters, also known as ‘dhoks’, of Gujjars and Bakerwals which will be left vacant after their migration as terrorists may take shelter in these structures to hide themselves. Nomadic tribes have a major presence in Rajouri and Poonch districts which are again becoming hotbed of terrorism.
“As the nomadic population is migrating toward plains, leaving behind their temporary shelters, there are apprehensions that terrorist might use these ‘dhoks’ after infiltration. The terrorists are already avoiding coming to villages and urban areas and preferring forests,” said an Army intelligence source.
Sources informed that with the start of the seasonal migration, the Army and the police have created groups on social media in which villagers from mountainous areas close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Rajouri and Poonch have been added. The villagers have been asked to share information about any suspicious movement. During the peak of terrorism in 1990s, nomads used to provide exact information to security forces about terrorists’ hideouts.
This year has witnessed several encounters in forests of Jammu division in which many terrorists have been killed. Security men have also suffered fatalities in ambush attacks in Rajouri and Poonch. Security forces have also held meetings with the Village Defence Guards near the LoC and briefed them about the threats posed by terrorists. There are apprehensions that terrorists trained by Pakistan might try to infiltrate in large numbers before the mountain passes close due to snowfall.
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