INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO. 507 B.RAMAN
Eight members of the Army, one of them a Major, and 17 terrorists are reported to have been killed in a series of encounters between patrolsof the army and five different groups of terrorist infiltrators from the Pakistani territory in densely-forested areas of the Kupwara district ofJammu & Kashmir. The encounters, which started on March 20,2009, lasted five days.
2. The Army has stated that the encounters were the result of proactive action taken by it on receipt of human intelligence about theinfiltration of the terrorists. The Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), which has claimed responsibility for the encounters, has tried to project them as inresponse to a surprise action launched by it which, according to it, started with an ambush of an army patrol. Media reports from the areahave described the encounters as one of the fiercest gun battles in that area in recent years. The infiltration of the LET terrorists into theKupwara area and their encounters with the army patrols have come in the wake of a significant improvement in the ground situation in J&Klast year, which made possible the peaceful holding of the elections to the local Legislative Assembly. The elections saw a record voterturn-out.
3.Addressing a media conference on December 25,2008, Kuldeep Khoda, the Director-General of Police of J&K, had said: ("The Hindu" ofDecember 26, 2008):
Terrorist violence showed a remarkable decline of 40 per cent in 2008 as compared to 2007.
Civilian deaths at the hands of the terrorists, which reached a peak of 1413 in 1996, came down to 164 in 2007 and only 89 in 2008.
48 political activists, including a Minister, were killed by terrorists during the 2002 election campaign. They could not kill a single political activist during the election campaign of 2008.
For the first time, 2008 witnessed the best ever performance of the police and the security forces on the human rights front. There was only one complaint of death in police custody and no complaint of disappearance from police custody.
At the same time, he warned against complacency and pointed out that there were still 800 trained terrorists----300 of them foreigners, mainly Pakistanis---- in the State waiting for an opportunity to step up terrorism.
4. Since the elections in November-December last, the improvement in the ground situation achieved by the security forces last yearcontinued to hold, but there was an increase in agitprop incidents in the urban areas in the form of orchestrated demonstrations overallegations of violations of the human rights of local residents by the security forces. Through the present infiltration and the consequentclashes lasting five days, the LET has sought to achieve three objectives----firstly, to demonstrate that it is still a force to be reckoned withand secondly, to convey a message to the people of J&K that despite the so-called action taken by the Pakistani authorities against theLET after the Mumbai terrorist attack in response to international pressure, the LET's terrorist acts in J&K will not be affected. Thirdly, theLET has also sought to strengthen the arguments of those in the West such as David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, who claim thatunless attention is paid to solving Indo-Pakistan differences on the Kashmir issue, jihadi terrorism in the Indian territory will continue insome form or the other.
5.When he was the President till August last year, Pervez Musharraf used to make a distinction between acts of terrorism in J&K which heprojected as a legitimate freedom struggle not amounting to terrorism and acts in Indian territory outside J&K which, he admitted, wereacts of terrorism. He did not deny the activities of the LET in J&K, but projected it as an indigenous Kashmiri organisation having rootcauses for its actions. He did not accept that the LET was active in the Indian territory outside J&K.
6. The encounters between the Army and the LET in the Kupwara area during the last five days clearly show that the Government ofPresident Asif Ali Zardari is following the same policy as Musharraf. It is following a policy of legitimising the terrorist acts of the LET inJ&K and, at the same time, pretending to co-operate with the Government of India in the investigation of the LET's terrorist strike inMumbai.
7.The heavily-forested Kupwara is not the sprawling urban Mumbai. Encounters within forests have nothing in common with encounterswith terrorists entrenched inside urban buildings and going on a shooting spree in crowded public places in a big city such as Mumbai. Butthere are disconcerting similarities between what happened in Mumbai between November 26 and 29,2008, and between what hashappened during the last five days in the Kupwara area----- simultaneous, well-orchestrated attacks on multiple targets, whether static ormoving army patrols, a skilful use of hand-held weapons and gadgets such as GPS systems, suicidal and not suicide terrorism, strike, stayand fight tactics instead of the hit and vanish tactics and an ability to keep the encounters with the security forces going for a long time inorder to make an impact on the local population and the international community through dramatic media reports.
8. In the weeks before the polls, it will be the aim of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and the terrorists sponsored by it to step up violencein J&K through so-called indigenous Kashmiri organisations and to encourage elements belonging to the Indian Mujahideen and its ally theStudents' Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), which have not committed any major act of terrorism after the Delhi blasts of September,2008,to strike again.
9. These have to be factored into our security plan for the elections. (25-3-09)
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )