Kashmir militants target informers
8 March 2001
The Times of India
The Times of India News Service
JAMMU: There is anxiety among the security agencies that a major casualty of the prolonged unilateral "cessation of combat operations" would be the drying up of local sources of intelligence, which are absolutely vital for fighting militancy. Though these sources, with village defence committee members and special police officers (invariably locals), have always been red rag to militants, they became highly vulnerable when the security forces ceased their pro-active operations. In fact, militants then made them prime targets, eliminating a considerable number all over the state. An intelligence officer said "No plan was earlier formulated to protect the sources. New sources take a lot of time to cultivate." There is a general complaint among members of the security forces, gleaned from individual remarks, that mind had not been applied to the various consequences of the unilateral "ceasefire". The Army, though, is under strict instructions that its commanders should not make any public comments of judgment on the ceasefire. The Army has lately increased the number of "confidence-building patrols", but these are nowhere near the earlier intensive patrolling, much less the search and destroy operations. Though Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, while announcing the three-month extension of the ceasefire, had said that the security forces were free to go after the groups of militants out to subvert the ceasefire, the operation of this freedom still depends on the interpretation of the sector commanders, according to a knowledgeable source. In the wake of the killing by militants of 15 members of three Bakerwal families in Rajouri last month, the Army launched operations in search of the militants, which it, however, called "confidence-building patrolling". Incidentaly, the Bakerwal families were not eliminated only for the reason, as officially stated, that they had refused the militants food and shelter, but that Gujjars and Bakerwals, since they move in hills and forests where militants have hideouts, are suspect as informers to the security forces.