C-I forces in Valley set to resume work
23 May 2001
The Indian Express
Gaurav C Sawant
New Delhi: COUNTER-insurgency forces in Jammu and Kashmir have got the go-ahead to deal with terrorists ‘‘as they judge best’’ now that the ceasefire has been called off. The biggest loss to the Rashtriya Rifles formation during the six-month-long ceasefire was the killing of its sources. ‘‘The terrorists had launched a deliberate campaign to liquidate those Kashmiris suspected to be Army informers. We have lost more than 200 informers in the six-month cease-fire period,’’ sources in the Udhampur-based Northern Command said. Army personnel in J-K have greeted the withdrawal of the cease-fire with a sense of relief but sounded a word of caution too. ‘‘The situation at the Line of Control (LoC) was at its best in over 50 years. Not a single round of even small arms was fired in most sectors. The Siachen glacier was by and large peaceful too. We hope that situation would continue. In fact, we would still try for status quo at the LoC. We are certain that Pakistan would want the same since they did respond to the cease fire call at LoC,’’ sources added. Orders to end the NICO (non- initiation of combat operations) situation have already been passed down to the soldiers on ground. ‘‘Unfortunately, the external elements (foreign terrorists) succeeded in subverting the cease-fire process in the hinterland. By the fourth month, the sense of peace and calm had gone from the minds of the people. There was panic, with increased terrorist attacks and the consequent stepped-up presence of security forces in towns and villages,’’ an official said. The Army, para-military forces and police were braving the brunt of increased terrorist activity only with the hope that the cease-fire would yield positive results. Attacks on security camps, vehicles and personnel had gone up and retaliation was measured. This led to the impression that the terrorists had gained the upper hand. Secondly, with cordon and search (C&S) operations called off, terrorists had been emboldened. Instead of lurking in higher reaches of the Pir Panjal ranges, they came down and began living in villages. ‘‘Once they hid their weapons, there was no way to differentiate between a terrorist and a farmer. And anyway, most of them had fake identity cards. Now, with C&S operations permitted, we can line up the men and women on one side and check their houses, field and barns for hidden weapons with increased troop presence,’’ sources said. The Army, however, insists it will not harass civilians in its over-zealousness to go after terrorists. These six months have been important in indoctrinating human rights values among soldiers. ‘‘Now when they go after terrorists, collateral damage will be minimal. The lessons learnt from the cease-fire will be kept in mind while neutralising secessionist forces in future operations,’’ an official added.