About 300 ultras waiting for infiltration
JAMMU, Feb 14: Northern Command chief Lt Gen Devraj Anbu said today that three major militant groups including Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) have joined hands whether it’s Kashmir Valley or Jammu and are jumping from one outfit to another to carry out terror attacks and declared that anyone, who picks up arms and is against the State, is a terrorist and the Army will deal with him.
“Enemy is frustrated and is trying soft targets. When they fail at border, they attack camps,” Lt Gen Anbu told a press conference at Northern Command Headquarters in Udhampur after the investiture ceremony.
The top Army Commander maintained that situation in South Kashmir including Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama districts has considerably improved and though these areas were once called “liberated zones”, now the political leaders and elected representatives are moving freely there. At the same time, he cautioned that around 300 militants are camping at the border and launch pads on Pakistan side waiting for infiltration into the Indian territory.
Terming the misuse of social media by Pakistan as a “time bomb”, Lt Gen Anbu said coming together of Hizbul Mujahideen, LeT and JeM is a matter of concern for the security agencies but would be taken care of.
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“HM, LeT and JeM are hand in glove with each other after coming together in the later part of the last year. Though there is no differentiation as the terrorists keep jumping from one outfit to other and as far as we are concerned any one picking up the arms against the State is a terrorist and will be dealt with accordingly,” he said.
He said all the three outfits coming together was definitely a matter of concern as if someone is weak or strong somewhere it will benefit the other.
The Army Commander also expressed hope to reverse the trend of local youth joining terrorist ranks and said everybody has to play their role especially the civil society and the parents of such youth to bring them back to contain level of violence in the State.
On the recent terror strike at Sunjuwan Army camp in which 10 persons including six Army soldiers, a civilian and three terrorists were killed on Saturday last, he said “it is the frustrated enemy (Pakistan) which does involve in such activities when it is not able to face us on the borders.”
“It is but natural that the enemy is on the receiving end and looks for the easier alternative. While immediately behind the borders, we have strengthened ourselves and we are very well prepared, the militants picked up soft targets,” he said.
He said you cannot have the same security like in borders at areas which are peaceful. “I will not accept a single lapse on the border because it is supported to be protected.”
He said Army spent almost Rs 364 crore on different things to build up the security of the soft elements behind the LoC especially whether it is a fence or company along the fence.
“We got our acts together as far as surveillance, sentry duty and drills and other things are concerned besides the intelligence,” he said.
However, he said Army is prioritizing security of small camps spread across the country in vulnerable areas and needs immediate attention.
“The Government has also come up with certain funds and I am sure we will be able not only to have a physical fence but also technology assisted one,” he said.
Lt Gen Anbu admitted infiltration of terrorists from across the border and said though the Army’s endeavour is to ensure “zero infiltration”, it still happened though it was considerably brought down.
“Infiltration does take place. We endeavour to ensure zero infiltration. That is our job and we put our best effort but they adversely also looks ways and means to beat the system. We constantly review the deployment and number of people and other means to pick them up and we are trying everything,” he said.
The Army Commander said there was considerable reduction in infiltration but when the number of attempts almost doubles in 2007 compared to the previous year, there is probability of getting in and getting eliminated much more. That was the reason we were able to eliminate more (terrorists last year).
On the number of terrorists waiting at launching pads and camps across the border, he said the number of terrorists do not come down.
“The terrorists present at training camps and launching pads are being pushed into this side. If we take south and north of Pir Panjal, 185 to 220 are always present in South and 195-220 continue to remain in North. Once they are being pushed and get eliminated, still more people come to the camp so the number of around 200 to 225 remained there on the border,” he said.
Terming the misuse of social media as a major challenge, he said youth are engaged through the medium from across on minute to minute basis daily.
“The reach of the social media is so large and as such it a time bomb for everybody,” he said adding the social media was playing a big role in the spurt in violence, joining of youth into terrorism and law and order problems.
He also attributed the increase in violence to the euphoria developed post Burhan Wani (Hizbul Mujahideen commander killed in July 2016 leading to unrest in the Valley) besides the social media.
“The curve (of violence) to come down will take a while. Major steps like engaging the youth, we are sure will help to arrest and lead to the decline in the graph,” he said.
Referring to the media reports that Army was unable to go to certain pockets of Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama in South Kashmir last year, he said the situation has changed for good over the time and not only the Army even the political leadership and elected members are freely moving.
“We reached out to the people as well as the militants. When you carry out more operations, the tempo will be more so the contact with terrorists leading to their elimination. Some people also get killed or injured in the bargain.
“You will not find any terrorist initiated action happening…we want the situation to come under the control. When you sustain the tempo for a longer period, then it will come down, you cannot have a short term solution and jump to any conclusion,” Lt Gen Anbu said when asked about the spurt in terror attacks in the state.
On stone-pelting incidents to hamper counter-insurgency operations in the valley, the Northern Army Commander said the mechanism to keep people away from the encounter sites has paid well.
“The system worked and came out with a strategy. When the operation is a planned one the stone-pelting is being tackled by police and CRPF but when the operation is sudden the Army columns do come under stone pelting as well,” he said adding such cases are not in large numbers.
On the trend of local youth joining militant ranks, he said it is a cause of concern for all of us.
“When we are looking at terrorism as a whole per se, we look at three things – we need to stop infiltration from across the border, in the hinterland whosoever is already there we need to eliminate them and the third the capability to induce the locals which is being the latest trend for the last couple of years which we need to arrest.
“If we will address all the three, you will achieve success and if anyone of them is not really paying up then you are not going to succeed as one would like. In last year, we focused on the leadership of terrorists and were able to eliminate many of them,” the GOC-in-C Northern Command said.
The Army Commander, however, said but to the concern of security agencies, the local terrorists taking up the arms continue to increase.
“There is large number of reasons for that, whether it is socio, economic, political, and religious. If you look at the people who joined or took up arms, at least 219 who were there, all of them were in the age group of 20 to 30 years, mostly who have passed 12th standard, almost 50 to 60 per cent belonging to poor families, and same number of unemployed,” he said.
The Army Commander said this is the category of people who are getting influenced in large number.
Suggesting action against the Over Ground Workers (OGWs), he said “not only terrorists, the OGWs need to be equally targeted. “These two factors, if we are able to address, will bring down the level of violence.
He said the local youth joining militancy are no threat to the Army as they are not well trained and do not have weapons either.
“How they are going to impact us is not really a concern but even one individual joining terrorist ranks is a major concern for all of us. The society at large and parents in particular were involved,” he said adding everyone needs to play a larger part and ensure that these youth shun the path of violence.
He said out of the local youth who joined militancy, 33 were eliminated and 12 more apprehended or surrendered. It means almost 40 per cent of such youth have already been eliminated. They just have a lifespan of six to seven months, the faster they understand the futility of taking up arms, the better, he said adding “we need to continue with our efforts (to keep local youth away from terrorism).”
Lt Gen Anbu said there is a need to reach out to the people and make them understand that the futility of it is not paying, neither for those who are doing it, nor for those who are supporting it or the general public at large.
He said Army is doing its bit and are carrying out multi-pronged operation to tackle terrorists and reach out to the people, engage youth in various sports and other positive activities.
On the impact of filing of FIR by police against Major Aditya Kumar over the killing of three youth in Shopian district of South Kashmir last month, Lt Gen Anbu said “I am heading the Northern Command and I can say it with confidence that the issue of Major Aditya had not dented the morale of my troops not even a bit, not even an iota.
“I can say with confidence because I did meet them, I move around and I speak through my Commanders and know the pulse”.
He said there was not a single Human Rights violation reported against the Army in the last one year.
“In the last one year, you have not seen any HR violations taking place. That is (because of the) direction from me to the Commanders. You will not find any one of them willfully indulging in it. Our intentions are clear so there is nothing to worry about,” he said.
However, he said the case (of Major Aditya) is sub-judice and would take its course.
“The Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman) had made a statement during her visit to Jammu that the Government and the Ministry of Defence are totally behind the soldiers and armed forces,” he said.
Lt Gen Anbu said the pro-active strategy in the aftermath of Uri terror attack in September 2016 would continue as “we have dominated Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, inflicting over three times more casualties on the adversary last year.
He said “Pakistan and its ISI are directly involved in terrorism not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in neighbouring countries as well, as without its support, training and strategy, terrorism would not have lasted so long.
“We are playing to our strategy and will continue to do that. I want to assure you that we are not going to be cowed down by small incident, ‘fidayeen’ (suicide attacks) or other things. We are not going to derail from our main course of action which we have chalked out for ourselves,” the Army Commander said.
“The operations and the management of the LoC was quite complex, very challenging and very dynamic. Over the last one year, the things have evolved continuously and we adapted to it very well and the whole year we have dominated the adversary along the LoC. It has been a pro-active action after the Uri incident and we have not looked back,” he added.
Asked about the casualties suffered by Pakistan in the retaliatory action to the ceasefire violations, Lt Gen Anbu said you do not come to know what is the damage caused across the border because “our adversary do not believe in accepting the casualties while as even a wound we take with pride. We are in a very dominating position.”
He said though some media reports suggest 192 fatal casualties suffered by Pakistan along the LoC, the Army is not going to put a figure because of the simple reason that Pakistan has only admitted 13 of its casualties.
However, through various sources, reports and assessment, it is three times more than what we have suffered. “These are conservative estimates on our part but it is much more than that.”