May 2003 News

Nomads Starve Insurgents, Help Army Operations In J-K

25 May 2003
The Indian Express

New Delhi: The readiness of 100-odd nomadic Bakerwal families to change their traditional lifestyle and a liberal financial help from the Centre has helped the Army launch its biggest-ever anti-insurgency operation in J-K in Hill Kaka a month ago where 60 insurgents have been killed so far. The operation, official sources said, is already rated as a watershed in counter-insurgency strategy as it shows how a coordinated plan by state's machinery can yield amazing results. Sources said for a couple of years the infiltrating militants had been using Bakerwal tribesmen as human shields and couriers in the area. They would take control of Bakerwals' mud summer houses called dhoks and fortify them as their safe houses. The tribesmen, who move with their cattle and sheep, would buy militants their rations and transship their weapons. Also the insurgents would dress up as nomads and trek down safely to the towns along with the nomadic group. The Army, sources said, tended the Bakerwals for information and realised that insurgents had become well-entrenched in about 35 kms area of undulating hills and alpine forests. A routine operation would have meant more casualties on this side and less harm to the insurgents. That's when the Army top brass decided to seek the help of tribesmen. The idea being that if the Bakerwals do not go up in the hills, militants would not be able to sustain themselves. But the tribesmen had a problem - they lived off their cattle and could not do without moving around in the hills to graze their cattle. At this stage, the government's help was sought. Sources said Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed approved the plan and asked his partymen to contact Bakerwals and Gujjars and persuade them to remain off the hills at least till the intruders were driven away. The Centre, agreeing with the state's idea that the tribesmen be compensated for their losses, took no time in approving a Rs 7.5 crore package. It's probably for the first time in the history of insurgency that the Government has compensated the much-maligned nomads for not helping insurgents. Even as Army troops ascended Hill Kaka and caught the militants unawares, the government officials disbursed money to about 100 Bakerwal families in the nearest town of Surankote to enable them to buy their livestock comprising 22,000 heads of cattle and 42,000 sheep. Half of the money has already been given and the rest would be given at the onset of winter. The experiment, sources said, could be tried elsewhere in the Valley.


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