Security forces step up operations in J&K
8 December 2002
The Daily Excelsior
B L Kak
Jammu: The babble of protest was expected in some localities in Kashmir valley, as the security forces stepped up operations during the week that was. It was out of sheer necessity that the operations against ultras were ordered. Necessity? It was the outcome of what was termed as ''downward march'' of the armed militants from their hideouts in the upper reaches of the moutain-girt Valley. And the ''downward march'' was the product of the commencement of severe cold season, which made an unspecified number of the militants, including foreign mercenaries, to abandon their hideouts in the forest area. Thus, began the clandestine movement from the upper reaches to the low- altitude areas, which, according to intelligence inputs, also included residential areas. At a time when the security specialists, drawn from the Army, paramilitary formations and the J&K Police, were discussing measures to deal with any contingency, the situation witnessed renewed attempts by the militants to derail peace process. Hardly had the National Conference, regarded as the State’s premier political organisation, started holding meetings in connection with the birth anniversary of its founder, Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, on December 5 when the militants gunned down Ghulam Mohiuddin Lone, younger brother of former Home Minister, Mushtaq Ahmed Lone, at Sogam in Kupwara district. During the week that was, and earlier as well, it was established that Kupwara continued to be a militant stronghold for terrorist outfits such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Al-Badr. Mushtaq Lone was assassinated by militants in September this year. Ghulam Mohiuddin Lone, it was known after his assassination, had given his two personal security officers (PSOs) the day off for Eid-ul-Fitr, which was observed next day (December 6). The Lone family was also guarded by the police. One CRPF company, incidentally, is stationed in a building near the house of Lones. As the Sogam killing triggered a bit of panic, a bit of sensation,the Deputy Prime Minister, LK Advani, was quick in making public his reaction: ''This indicates anti-India forces continue to be active''. On the other hand, the National Conference president and Minister of State for External Affairs, Omar Abdullah, ran fast and furious as he came down on the new Government headed by Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, charging it with showing scant regard for the ''need'' to ensure safety of the NC cadres. Omar was not to blame when, in a fit of anger, he alleged that the Government was going all out to finish the National Conference. Why he avoided being dispassionate while making such allegations, could not be ascertained. His father, Farooq Abdullah, had two significant points to make in the open during the week that was. First, of course, was his challenge to the Mufti Government to behave properly or get ready for unpleasant consequences. While accusing the Mufti Government of being extremely vindictive against the National Conference, Farooq Abdullah said: ''We can throw this Government out''. Second important point: Farooq Abdullah chose to be a votary of talks to achieve two goals—one, to end bloodshed in the State and,two,to hammer out a solution to the Kashmir issue. After his visit to Sogam to convey his heartfelt condolences to the bereaved Lone family, he publicly said that the gun was no solution to the people’s problems. Rajouri district of Jammu region continued to remain in the news—this time, interestingly,news was more revealing on the educational front than on the terrorist front. It was, it can be said, ominous at the same time. Some pockets in the district, particularly Darhal, experienced the threat from Islamic radicals. The dreaded outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, which is known for its tie-up with the LeT in Rajouri and Poonch districts, issued threats, during the week that was, to females above 12 years to discontinue their studies. It had to be panic and subdued resentment among girls of this age group and their parents when the outfit also threatened the parents of dire consequences if they questioned or disobeyed the ''order'' from Hizbul Mujahideen. Rumour-mongers and the ones interested in wafting speculations of sorts after a particular event or in relation to particular political figures are available anywhere in the country. Hence, Jammu and Kashmir is no exception in this regard. There was a rumour, a speculation vis-a-vis the president of the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) in J&K, Ghulam Nabi Azad. For three consecutive days, a section of media in Jammu and Srinagar put out stories—they were dubbed ''speculative'' by the faction loyal to Azad—about efforts by the PCC chief to ''persuade'' the AICC supremo, Sonia Gandhi, to have him in the national capital, instead at the party headquarters in J&K. There wasn’t any firm reaction from Azad and his party high command till the end of the week that was.