Friday, September 9, 2016
Army chief visits Kashmir, tells forces to be ready
The Indian Army will no longer be kept on the side-lines as the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) struggle to manage violent public protests that have swept the Valley since the Hizbul Mujahideen’s commander for South Kashmir, Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter on July 8.
On Friday, army chief, General Dalbir Singh, flew to the Valley to tell his commanders that their help would be needed to allow the J&K Police and CRPF to reassert control. Over the last week, the army has already beefed up its presence in South Kashmir. It can now be expected to intensify counter terrorism (CT) operations, in which army units will reassert their dominance over the countryside, by searching out and killing militants who have been mingling unchecked with pro-azaadi (freedom) crowds for two months.
Over the last five years, the army had consciously “reduced its footprint” by vacating towns and large villages, leaving the management of public security to theJ&K Police and CRPF. Now, Business Standard learns the army will begin re-occupying “company operating bases” (COBs) in and around towns in South Kashmir.
In 2010-11, after three summers of violent street protests across the Valley, the army was similarly brought in to re-impose the writ of the government where it had ceased to run. After doing so, the last five years had seen the army withdraw to larger bases, reducing their presence in civilian areas.
The generals are displeased that the failure of politics over the preceding five years has brought them back to the start line of 2010-11. However, the army chief told his commanders today that there was no alternative.
The army chief was briefed today in Headquarters 15 Corps in Srinagar that the army was strengthening its counter-terrorism grid (CT grid) and its counter-infiltration grid (CI grid).
Three thrust areas are revitalising the CT grid. First, the J&K Police is being brought back to their stations and made effective again. Currently, like at the start of insurgency in 1990, the J&K Police is practically invisible in South Kashmir, where rampaging mobs have torched more than 30 police stations in the last two months. The returning policemen would initially operate alongside the army for protection.
Simultaneously, the CRPF presence is being boosted. In July, soon after violence broke out, 71 additional CRPF companies were flown in to reinforce the existing deployment. Now, an additional 14-20 companies are being thrown into the fray, mostly consisting of units deployed for security during the Amarnath Yatra.
Boosting numbers is crucial, says the CRPF. With large numbers of troopers busy in enforcing curfew and securing the streets of large towns like Srinagar, the additional companies will protect institutions like banks and government buildings and carry out “road opening”, or securing highways and roads for the movement of army convoys.
Third, the army is making its own presence more visible, reopening posts near the population centres of South Kashmir --- including towns like Anantnag and Bijbehara. Army battalions (850 men) that had contracted into four bases will spread outwards again, occupying six bases. This expansion is to increase operational flexibility and allow troops to quickly reach a point where an incident has taken place.
Besides the CT grid, the army chief also inspected the CI grid during his visit to army units deployed on the Line of Control (LoC) in North Kashmir, where most of the infiltration occurs. Behind the posts that guard the border fence are successive layers of posts that monitor infiltration routes leading towards the towns and villages in the Valley.
Meanwhile, after the all-party parliamentarian delegation was snubbed by Hurriyat Conference leaders in Srinagar earlier this week, back-channel offers for dialogue continue from the state and central governments to separatist leaders. Officials in both Srinagar and Delhi claim they are eager to defuse the situation through dialogue rather than confrontation, so that the toll of more than 70 locals dead and several thousands injured does not rise further.
Yet, with protests showing no signs of flagging, the government is readying to include military force in its menu of options.
(Source - Business standard)