November 2001 News

Militancy takes a different hue in Doda

26 November 2001
The Hindu

DODA (Kishtwar, Badherwah, Mannat): Militancy in the hilly Doda district of Jammu region is not Independent of the militant movement In the Kashmir Valley. At the same time, one cannot ignore the local characteristics in terms of reasons, character, and aim. Doda is one of the largest districts of the state with an area of 11,691 59. km. Culturally the most heterogeneous part, it has as many as, seven, languages and other, dialects spoken here. Having a hilly terrain it has ridges ranging from 2500-4500 mts. In Kishtwar, which Army officers say can be compared to Afghanistan. On the operational side fighting militancy here is more difficult than in the Valley. The thick forest cover, provides, a natural hideout for militants. Militants who have infiltrated from the border areas of Jammu or Kashmir come to this region. The Sector Commander of Rashtriya Rifles at Kishtwar says that the area can be described as back of beyond. Restricting the militant movement becomes difficult will the district touching Anantnag of Kashmir and Ladakh. The .demography, profile of the region, which has 57.23 percent of Muslims and 42.18 per cent of the Hindus makes the aim of militants quite different here. A number of massacres targeting the minorities have taken place in this region. Local leaders say that the aim is to strike at the age-old communal harmony. Mr. Abdul Zargar, a Gandhian activist of Doda says, there were efforts by agencies who tried to give the situation a communal turn but they were thwarted by the solidarity of the people. Local presence in the militant ranks is considerable with as much as 70 percent hailing from the region. But the Army admits that the local militants direct involvement in the communal killings is not there. According to Army officers it is the foreign element among the militant ranks, which is responsible for past massacres. The Northern part of Doda is dominated by foreign groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Southern part by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. The events of a decade have succeeded in creating an atmosphere of fear and insecurity among the population, but it is still possible to publicly condemn the acts of brutality. A number of Muslim leaders publicly disown militancy. But what hurts them the most is that the Muslim community sometimes gets maligned for the acts of militants. Mr. Riyaz Pir one of the community leaders in Kishtwar, says that the Muslim community must not be ignored in any strategy to curb militancy. For instance the village defence committees of the civilians constituted in the remote part of the Doda should be enlarged. Mr. Pir says arms should be given to all communities, to prevent any feeling of discrimination. Mr. Faiz Ali, a journalist in Bhaderwah says that in the past there were incidents when the Army used to go berserk with the civilians. He says that now there is a marked improvement the way Army conducts itself in counter insurgency operations. For instance in a recent operation by the Army in a densely populated locality to nab Mr Tanvir Ahmad, district commander of HUJI, the forces lost an officer and another injured. Senior officers ensured that the troops did not lose their balance. As a result militant was eliminated with no civilian casualty. This improvement does not lake away the anger of the local population towards the Special Task force (STF). The STF was formed specially for fighting insurgency in the State. Local policemen constitute its ranks. It was thought that the local police being more familiar with the terrain would be more efficient in anti-insurgency measures. But locals from remote parts of Doda allege that the STF personnel are indulging in extortion and are harsh with the civilians. Drivers playing on the remote roads of the region substantiate the allegations. Locals in remote parts also point to the breakdown of the civil administration for the last decade. Even in the towns a purely civil administration activity such as taking the attendance of teachers is being done by the Army. There are reports of children joining the 'militant ranks'. The Army claims to have killed a militant named Nazir Ahmad who was barely 15. The civil administration has not only lost its effectiveness but also its credibility. Redressal of public grievances is becoming a problem. Even the sanctioned monetary relief to the victims of militancy remains to be given. A multi-pronged strategy with regular coordination between the civil administration and security forces needs to be evolved.


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