Fear psychosis in rural belt following reduction of troops
21 November 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Daily Excelsior Correspondent
Jammu: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s decision to reduce troops in Jammu and Kashmir has sent a wave of fear psychosis in the rural areas where threat of the militants especially the foreign mercenaries still looms large. Inhabitants of militancy plagued areas not only airing apprehension of threats to their lives, they are also concerned about 'how to earn their livelihood after de- induction of troops from their respective areas' 'I am earning my bread and butter all due to the Army persons. We will face starvation after de-induction of troops', rued Trilok Chand, a roadside Dhabewalla, who runs a Dhaba on Jammu-Poonch Highway. Fear very much visible on the face of Hakim Din-a Gujjar of Kalakote area, who had come to Sunderbani for a family function. Hakim Din along with other Gujjars of the area, have been providing information to the security forces. It was all due to their vital clues, forces achieved success in eliminating some terrorists. Pointing towards convoy of the Army vehicles which were moving towards Jammu from Rajouri, Hakim Din said, 'we have already been dubbed as ‘informers’ by the terrorists. It is not possible for us to protect lives of our families after de-induction of troops from our areas. We will be left with no option but to migrate'. Though the Defence authorities have immediately obliged the Prime Minister by withdrawing troops first from Anantnag the day Dr Singh visited the Kashmir valley during his maiden visit and subsequently from two border districts of Rajouri and Poonch, the operational commanders of Army as well as senior police officers are worried as to how to meet the requirement of security forces in the rural areas. Pleading anonymity for security reasons, a senior police officer posted in Rajouri district admitted that the decision to cut troops is not going to augur well. 'What was required was deployment of additional troops in Pir Panjal range especially in Surankote, Mandi and Darhal areas where the foreign mercenaries of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) were reported to have established concrete bunkers. However, what has been done is just reverse', he regretted. 'Army authorities had repeatedly been maintaining that there has been no reduction in the militancy. Then, how suddenly they decided to withdraw the troops', the police officer asked. Quoting Intelligence reports, he said there were atleast 200 to 230 militants, 80 per cent of whom were the foreigners, operating in Poonch and Rajouri districts. Only on Friday afternoon, a day before the withdrawal of troops from Rajouri district, the militants detonated a powerful IED with a remote control killing three Army personnel including a Major and injuring a Captain. 'What is the guarantee of the civilians’ safety in such a situation'? the officer asked saying he had been receiving numerous representations from the people in far off areas of Darhal, Budhal and Mendhar demanding deployment of more troops in their areas to ward off any possibility of a militant attack. The people had been sounding police about increased presence of militants in the hilly areas. Local people are also skeptical about the withdrawal of Army from the militancy dominated areas. 'This is an unexpected decision. This shouldn’t have been done at this stage', observed Ram Kumar Verma, a trader in Sunderbani town from where 3,000 troops were pulled out on Saturday. 'We are spending sleepless nights for the fear of the militants while our Government, unmindful of the threat to our lives, is pulling out the troops', Verma lamented. A local youth, Shiv Kumar, asserted that infiltration of the militants was also going on unabated from Sunderbani sector, a traditional infiltration route of the militants. 'Such a decision (reduction of troops) shouldn’t have been taken till Pakistan completely stopped infiltration', he said. Worthwhile to mention here that the Army has not only inculcated sense of security and confidence among inhabitants of twin border districts of Poonch and Rajouri, economy of the this belt was also boosted during the presence of troops. Not only this, the defence authorities, through its Operation Sadhbhawana, have also accelerated development process in these two backward districts.