JAMMU: The shadow of death looms large over Doda, one of the most picturesque hilly districts of Jammu and Kashmir, as ISI- backed foreign mercenaries have turned it into a launching pad for extending Pakistan's proxy war to Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Ladakh region. Having revived militancy in south Kashmir and in northern areas of Jammu region, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence has now entrenched foreign mercenaries in the vast higher reaches of the hilly district, according to official sources. The entire operational command has been handed over to foreign mercenaries belonging to Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan and Turkey sidelining Kashmiri militants, the sources say. The changed scenario in Doda is attributed by the sources to the shifting of two battalions of security forces in the beginning of the current year from militancy affected areas of Balesa, Thathri, Dachan, Chatroo, Kontwara, Marmat, Desa and Bunjwa. This has encouraged infiltration of militants in the district in large numbers from adjoining areas of Peerpanjal mountain ranges dividing Jammu and Kashmir valley and enabled them to create sufficient stockpile of weapons to effectively take on security forces. Militants killed about 100 people between January and and July this year, carrying out 31 attacks, kidnapped 16 people, triggered 16 explosions, 76 firings and encounters and three lootings. A measure of the strategic importance of Doda in the militants' design can be had from the following developments:
* Shifting of a power communication set from Kashmir valley to Doda that would enable senior militant commanders to converse without the risk of being monitored.
* Procurement of anti-aircraft guns and missiles by militants after ferrying them from across the border.
* Identification of about 50 areas where militants have concentrated and substantially increased their presence.
A seven-point plan drawn up by the ISI incorporates killing members of minority community aimed at communalizing the situation and forcing their migration, targeting paramilitary forces, wiping off all village defence committees (VDCs), causing blasts in vehicles, busy market and public places, targeting air force helicopters and blowing up water reservoirs, government buildings, bridges and places of worship, the sources said. The sources said substantial concentration of militants and mercenaries in Doda has been reported from Bagwa, Batoli, Bunjwa, Chirala, Chnya, Chira, Gandoh, Guha, Kunda,Kuntwara, Kota, Keshwan, Kilhotra-Gwari, Magon, Maichar, Neel, Rakali, Agia, Seeru, Thathri.These areas mostly covered by forests were considered best-suited for building hideouts and carrying out forays in adjoining villages of Doda and surrounding areas of Kashmir valley, districts of Udhampur and Kathuammu region and parts of Ladakh and certain areas of Himachal Pradesh, the sources said. Some Sikh militants reportedly trying to revive militancy in Punjab have taken shelter in Tarai area of Uttar Pradesh, the sources said, adding possibility of a nexus between them and ISI-sponsored militants in J&K cannot be ruled out, the sources said.
To pre-empt the designs of the ISI, some concerted and drastic measures were needed, a senior police officer said.Apart from tightening the security along the Line of Control (LoC) to check infiltration, deployment of more security forces and creation of additional police pickets and VDCs were needed in Doda district, he said. The police and VDCs have also to be provided with sophisticated weaponry, communication and transport, he said, adding heliborne operations against militants in and surrounding areas of Doda would also give useful results.
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