By Col (retd) Anil Bhat
The transcript of a conversation between terrorists in the Kashmir Valley intercepted by security forces on 20 October reads: “Bilal kal phone kar raha tha bande ko ki aap Sallahuddin point pe jao wahan se E-mail karo mujhe aur tagda banda wahi dekho jo Sallahuddin ne dekha tha waisa tagada banda dekho jo Srinagar mein Batmaloo ki side kisi bhi jagah kuch panga karega toh yeh log aaj kal kah rahe hai bayan de rahe hain ki militancy khatam ho gayee paar se dabaw aa gaya hai thoda bahut bhagdadh machao.” (Bilal phoned yesterday to take the man to Sallahuddin and email back to me….choose a man who is tough and smart like the one Sallahuddin chose, who can create some chaos to disprove what some people are saying about militancy being over… there is pressure from across to do some chaos…).
On the morning of 25 October 2011 two grenades explode at Srinagar’s crowded Lal Chowk and Batmaloo within a span of 15 minutes. While the Lal Chowk explosion caused injures to head constable Surinder Singh and constables Manoj Kumar and Manoranjan, the grenade hurled on a police picket in Batmaloo area barely one kilometre away exploded without causing any damage. Over the next 24 hours, the third incident was a hit-and-run attack in Anantnag injuring a police constable the fourth incident a grenade lobbed at a CRPF picket outside the State Bank of India branch in Shopian’s Zanipora area, which failed to explode.
While no terrorist outfit claimed responsibility for these obviously coordinated attacks and fortunately no one was killed National Conference (NC) leader Mustafa Kamal created a far greater explosion by mouthing a typically separatist-style statement that the Army /forces not in favour of removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the Valley were responsible. The Army swiftly responded by stating that whatever Mr Kamal said was not worthy enough of a response. Sections of media and observers labeled the statement as nothing short of preposterous. The senior leadership of NC tied itself up into knots in the process of damage control.
Transcripts of two more audio recordings of intercepted conversations shared with this writer by highly placed sources are worth mentioning. On 19 October 2011 the intercepted conversation is between Wasim, the only surviving senior Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist in the area around Kangan and his friend Altaf, who is blaming Pakistani agencies for instigating Wasim and some others already killed to join the militancy and advising him to surrender to security forces (SFs): “Tere demag mein Pakistan walon ne kaun sa keeda chhoda hua hai…… Tu samajhta kyon nahin tere ma-baap bhi tere liye pareshan hain….. yeh chor hein Pakistan wale… kitne ko marwa rahe hein …. koi Taliban wale mar rahen kuchh border par mar rahe hein…. Kashmir Hindustan ka hai Hindustan ke saath hi rahega ..Ham kaun sa kafir hain..ham tera bhala chahte hain…” (What have the Pakistanis planted in your head?…why don’t you understand?… Your parents are very worried…These Pakistanis are crooks…See how many of your group they have got killed…some have been killed by the Taliban, some have got killed on the border…Kashmir is India’s and will remain with India… we are not infidels to advise you so… we are your well-wishers…). The other is a transcript of a conversation on 20 October between two unidentified suspects: “Hum scheme karenge… Main raat ko hi isko utha lunga aur raat ko hi Kashmir me lejaenge aur iske upar FIR karenge… Bata denge inhone isko kahin mara hai… Ab dead body nahin de rahe hain… Phir yahan hartal laga denge… Mujhe aise marna hi hai, main apna ek bachha apne hath se maar dunga” (We will make a plan…. I will take him away at night to somewhere in Kashmir and then lodge an FIR that they abducted and killed him somewhere and are not handing over the body to me…then we will hold an agitation here…)
Whether it is political expediency or selective amnesia, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) chief minister’s widely reported statement of 22 October 2011 that the AFSPA and the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) will be lifted from parts of the state and that too within days, while certainly not surprising, is most certainly too great a risk on too sensitive a matter to be taken unilaterally.
If what Mr Abdullah has stated is not unilateral, meaning that it has the Centre’s nod, then even the contemplation of such a move, leave alone its swift implementation, that too without consulting the Army and at such a stage when Line of Control (L0C) and the hinterland have had a spate of encounters with hundreds of Pakistani terrorists in 42 camps are being trained and equipped and waiting/trying to cross over, is not only amazing but disturbing.
27 October 2011 marks 64 years of J&K being saved and wrested from over 10,000 Pakistan army instigated raiders. Thereafter, 24x7x365/366, Indian Army has been guarding the LoC and preventing any alteration of its alignment either way at the cost of thousands of its casualties seems to have been forgotten. Or is it being overlooked or disregarded? If Mr Abdullah thinks that there is such a level of improvement in the Valley’s security that AFSPA and DAA can be lifted from some parts, he must remember that that has been possible, including the best tourist season in 25 years and an incident-free annual Amarnath pilgrimage, mainly because of the Army being there effectively.
If the separatists’ oft-parroted demand of removing AFSPA and ‘demilitarizing’ J&K is ever implemented, there should be no doubt that Pak army/ ISI/jihadis will complete what was attempted in 1947.
Mr Abdullah must also know that the India-specific terror infrastructure maintained by Pakistan army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) is very much there, very active and of late, even more innovative. He also must know that there are enough Pakistani terrorists present in J&K and many trying to enter it and that removing AFSPA and DAA even selectively from some parts will only help these terrorists to enter them. He must also remember all the incidents of Pakistani terrorists in recent months and that the National Intelligence Agency has traced the perpetrators Delhi High Court attacks to Kishtwar, where investigations are currently on. The latest reports are that Ghulam Sarwar, of Lashkar e Tayyaba active for years in Udhampur and Doda districts is also involved.
Mr Abdullah should also know that with all that has happened or ‘mis-happened’ in his government/ political party and governance of the state will not get wished away by drawing red herrings like demanding clemency for Afzal Guru or lifting the AFSPA and DAA.
An assessment of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India Department of Jammu & Kashmir Affairs on its website reads: “Level of Terrorist Violence and Security Situation in J&K – In 2008, the number of incidents is down by 35% and those of civilians killed by 42% and of security forces killed by 32% as compared to the previous year (2007)”. Further details are: “In 2009, the number of incidents is down by 30% and those of SFs killing by 15%. and civilians killing by 14% as compared to 2008; in 2010, (till July. 2010) the number of incidents increased by 11% and SFs killing by 40% but civilian killing come down by 54% in comparison with previous year; till 2008, 1428 grenade attacks have taken place whereas 1033 grenade attacks took place in 2007. In 2009 only 978 grenade attacks have been taken place; during the year 2010 (till July) 28 grenade attacks have been taken palace; the daily average of terrorist incidents is 1.93 during the year 2008 as against 3.00 for 2007. In 2009, the daily average of terrorist incidents is 1.36; in 2010 (till July.2010) the daily average of terrorist incident is 1.46”.
While MHA’s assessment till 2010 is quite obvious, the latest inputs covering 2011 so far are: there are 42 terrorist training camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), of which 34 are active and 8 are dormant; there are upto 2500 terrorists being trained in the latest commando technique and use of hi-tech weapons and equipment; there are approximately 50 launch pads, with 750-800 terrorists poised for infiltration, for which dumping of arms, ammunition and equipment is in progress; there have been 35 attempts of infiltration across the LoC involving approximately 224 terrorists, out of which 54 succeeded, 32 were killed and one-Nissar Ahmed was apprehended recently; 19 Pakistani terrorists tried to enter India from other borders, mainly Nepal; in operations by Army and security forces so far this year, 116 terrorists were killed, 40 were apprehended and eight surrendered; in 66 terrorist attacks in the Valley this year, 30 innocent civilians and 27 security personnel were killed. Mr Abdullah has timed his latest statement on AFSPA with the Save Sharmila Jan Karvan rally from Kashmir to Manipur, which began on 16 October. However, what has emrged from latest reports about Irom Chanu Sharmila hunger-striking and force-fed for 11 years for removal of AFSPA is how she is at her ‘supporters’ mercy and how they have kept her propped and prevented her from leading a normal life. Her statements in an interview to a Kolkata daily are indeed significant: “The man I love is waiting for me impatiently. He came here to meet me but my supporters refused that idea… (At first) they insulted him and threatened him,” Sharmila said about Desmond Coutinho, a 48-year-old writer and activist, who met her in March this year. “It was a stormy night. He was sitting near the meira shang (women’s shelter) where the meira paibis (women activists) gather. They were hard-hearted.” The couple met on March 9 at a court, only after Coutinho sat on a hunger strike himself for two days. Before she was released for a brief period, Sharmila requested the judge to provide him with security. Had it not been for the security, “Desmond could have been beaten to death”, Sharmila said.
In the Northeast, ULFA under Paraesh Baraua, NSCN-IM, PLA and some other groups, with their elements in Burma and China are continuing their anti-India operations, which now involve not only terrorist attacks in the Northeastern states, but also training and supplying weapons to Naxal-Maoists. “Police commandos”, who replaced the Army in the parts of Manipur where AFSPA was removed have been reported to have beaten all earlier records of human rights violations.
Not only the top brass of the three services, particularly Army, but the Defence Minister Mr. AK Antony has repeatedly and clearly stated that AFSPA must not be removed or amended, because any non-police personnel handling internal violence need to be covered, like the police is covered by the Criminal Procedure Code. Even with AFSPA, soldiers or para-military personnel do not have the kind and amount of power that a policeman has.
What certainly should be done is to rename AFSPA as Security Forces Special Services Act.