“Tum kitne commander banaogey, hum ek-ek ko khatam kar dengey”, is what the army seems to be saying to militants from Hizb ul Mujahideen and their ilk! Sabzar Bhat, who succeeded Burhan Wani as Hizb commander, was killed in a prolonged encounter with the security forces on May 27. Another militant was also killed along with Sabzar, while 6 more militants were dealt with in Kashmir’s Rampur area, along the Line of Control.
Sabzar was believed to have been close to the infamous Burhan Wani, he was killed in a 4-hour long gun-battle with security forces in Tral. The gun -fight was triggered off when some soldiers of the Rashtriya Rifles on a patrol, were fired upon by militants. Security forces immediately moved in and surrounded some houses where these militants had hidden themselves, so badly were they cornered that they started sending out desperate WhatsApp messages for local stone-pelters to congregate and hamper the operations!
The usual ploy employed by them did not work this time and the encounter ended on Saturday night when the houses were destroyed revealing the bodies of the 2 slain militants, one of whom was the prize catch: Sabzar Bhat. This intensely successful operation was part of the Indian Army’s new strategy to zero in on terrorists and their over-ground supporters called ‘militants’. Following the massive combing operations conducted in Shopian in the first week of May, the security forces decided to continue with CASO (Cordon and Search Operations) and SADO (Seek and Destroy Operations) in their fight against Pak-inspired terrorism in the militancy-hit areas of Kashmir — Kulgam, Tral, Shopian, Pulwama and Budgam. The Army had discontinued CASO after 2001, following government pressure and resentment from some local elements, now it will be a permanent feature of militant flushing-out operations. Reintroducing CASO was necessitated by growing local anger against the recent killing of the young and unarmed Kashmiri army officer Lieutenant Umar Fayaz by militants and certain other unfortunate incidents like the killing of 5 Kashmiri policemen from JK Police and 2 local security guards, frequent bank robberies by desperate terrorists and their ambush on a J&K Bank cash van. These incidents clearly pointed to the stronger influence of Pakistani terror groups and had to be countered.The killers of Lieutenant Fayaz were local militants and have been identified, the hunt for them is on. SADO will now be a permanent feature in operations conducted by the security forces along the Line of Control and in the jungles of Jammu & Kashmir. As the Army Chief, General Bipin Rawat, said in an interview with PTI, “This is a proxy war and proxy war is a dirty war. It is played in a dirty way…People are throwing stones at us, people are throwing petrol bombs at us. If my men ask me what to do, should I say, just wait and die?” He went on to say that if wrongdoers in any country lose fear of the army, that country is doomed. Reiterating that “we are a friendly army”, he warned that when the army is called in to restore law and order,that is when people have to be afraid of the army. The General made it clear that despite the constant provocation, maximum restraint is being maintained while handling the situation in the Valley.
This is perhaps, the first time that an Army Chief has spoken so bluntly in defense of his men, boosting their morale while reinforcing the common man’s faith and pride in the army. The General said there was a deliberate ploy to break the trust between the various security forces operating in Kashmir, at the same time militants are trying hard to also break the trust between the army and the people being protected by the army. The Army’s role, General Rawat said, is to ensure that violence does not take place and that the common man who is not indulging in violence is protected. He also emphasized the need for taking harsh measures to stop infiltration and to counter terrorism.
The situation in Kashmir is bad but definitely not out of the Army’s control.
As Aarti Singh of “The Times of India”, writes in her recent article from Kashmir, unlike 2016 when Kulgam, Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian (districts in South Kashmir) were out of bounds for 5 months after the killing of Burhan Wani last July, “daily life and violence are going on side by side this season.” The police claims this is because of more effective security mechanisms in place since early this year. According to the DIG Police Anantnag, policemen managed to kill no less than 14 of the 91 militants who were active last year. Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently asserted that the NDA Govt. has found a “permanent solution” to the Kashmir issue, he categorically stated that there would be no compromise on the territorial integrity of India.
Looks like the days of these Social Media savvy militants are numbered, the army is out to get them. A list of local and foreign terrorists has been compiled, while the foreigners will be instantly neutralized, the locals will be given a chance to surrender. Many have already been eliminated, certainly signaling a more aggressive stance being adopted by the security forces. What was started by terrorist Burhan Wani will now be finished by the soldiers of the Indian Army. “Burhan ho ya Sabzar, tum kitney din Army se bachogey”!!