''Battle against militancy far from over''
22 June 2002
JAMMU: The final battle against militancy will be fought in the Jammu region of the State, the General Officer Commanding, 16 Corps, Lt. Gen. J.B.S. Yadava, said here today. The 16 Corps is responsible for all the defence activities in Jammu region, including the most sensitive part of the Line of Control. In an interview to The Hindu, Lt. Gen. Yadava said that even if fresh infiltration stopped and logistic support to the militants was cut, the 3000 or so militants would still pose a formidable threat. It would, however, be far easier to eliminate them in that case but he declined to give a time- frame for that. Agreeing that infiltration had come down, he said that it had not dropped till May last. Since the starting of this month, it had declined. ''On June 9, we made two contacts with the infiltrators facilitated by the Pakistan army on the LoC. And we have specific information that two group of infiltrators have already sneaked into the Indian territory. As per the latest information available with me, the terrorist camps are still operating near the LoC in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The camps are concentrated in the areas like Kahuta, Nikial and Somani on the other side. At the moment, the terrorists have been specifically told to lie low. They are still there in the launching pads but they may have been told to curtail their activities.'' Lt. Gen. Yadava said that 500 Al-Qaeda terrorists were also present in the Nikial area across the LoC. Hence, they had not lowered the guard. As for the terrorist camps across the International Border on the Pakistani soil, the corps commander said they were still there specifically in the Zaffarwal area opposite the Samba sector and the Sialkot area of Punjab province of Pakistan. The Commander said that the hitherto less-known fact was that the Jammu region was far more prone to infiltration. The 260 km LoC stretching from Akhnoor to Poonch was mountainous with many passes, ravines and nullahs providing easier entry points. It was not physically possible to cover every inch. With the recent addition in surveillance equipment, considerable success had been achieved in plugging infiltration. But the terrain neutralised the detection capacity of these equipment. Asked about the American sensors he said, ''better technology would help check cross-border incursions. About the effect of a shift of forces to the border from rear, he said it had affected security in places like Mahore-Buddhal in Udhampur and the Rajouri districts where killings had taken place ''but we have been able to overcome the situation.'' Lt. Gen. Yadava said his estimate was that the number of militants in Jammu was between 1100 and 1300, and 70 per cent of them were non-Kashmiris, belonging to Pakistani Punjab and the PoK. On account of their linguistic affinity with Jammu, the task became easier for them. But lately, inter-group clashes among the local and non-local militants had begun. He cited the recent clash between the Hizb-ul-Mujhaideen and the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Kishtwar area of Doda district. But the local people were increasingly cooperating in counter-insurgency operations. ''Without their inputs we could not have achieved so much and we are working in enlisting popular support to our efforts.''.