Heavy militant clusters on Doda hills: Central team
7 August 2001
The Indian Express
New Delhi: The ministerial team which visited Doda after the carnage in Kishtwar has returned with impressions that the militants have set up huge bases along at least three jungle stretches after troops pull-out for Kargil and later for the Amarnath yatra. Speaking to The Indian Express, Chaman Lal Gupta, Minister of State for Civil Aviation, said that concentration of militants was seen in Bhalesa, adjoining the Himachal border, Wadvun Valley, the gateway to Kashmir from Doda, and Marmath. ‘‘The security forces there said about 300 to 350 militants were staying put in these mountainous areas and had set up camps,’’ he said. I.D Swami, Minister of State for Home, accompanied Gupta. He, however, said the force commanders gave no convincing answers when asked why they did not pound these camps. It seems the troops were ignoring the militants presence for the fear of hitting an odd villager in case of a drastic action, Gupta said. The minister said militants had been roaming freely after three battalions of the Army were pulled out for Kargil. ‘‘The Army’s replacement never came and the Unified Command had also removed three companies of the Indo- Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) for the Amarnath yatra,’’Gupta said. Gupta, who has been elected to the Lok Sabha from Doda, said that J-K Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, as leader of the Unified Command, cannot escape responsibility for shifting of troops, leaving villagers vulnerable to militant attacks. Giving a clue to the recommenadations of the ministerial team, Gupta said that at least four battalions were required to cover the land-locked area besides taking other steps such as improving communications and road network in the region. He said that the village defence committees needed to be armed with sophisticated weapons. Doda in unlikely to be declared a disturbed area for the move will tend to undermine the powers of the Farooq government, an NDA ally, and show it in poor light. Sources said Home minister Advani may have to ignore the popular demand and also his partymen’s sentiments in favour of not hurting the ego of the J-K government. Ministry sources said the issue was therefore unlikely to come up at tomorrow’s meeting on J-K convened by Advani.