Infiltration up again, officials fear a hot summer ahead
2 June 2007
The Daily Excelsior
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz
Srinagar: Even as the number of militancy related incidents and the casualties suffered by civilians and armed forces have decreased in Jammu and Kashmir, number of the militants, who have successfully infiltrated from across LoC or have been arrested, have substantially increased in the last five months of the current year. With remarkable upswing in infiltration, authorities are apprehensive of a hot summer. Number of infiltrators, which was 140-160 from January 1, 2006, to May 31, 2006, has gone up to 160-200 from January 1, 2006 to May 31, 2007. While around 150 militants are believed to have infiltrated into the Valley, some 30-40 are estimated to have crossed the LoC and International Border in Jammu division. With most of the officials in Police as well as security forces not inclined to reveal figures on record, Army and BSF high ups believe that the number of infiltrators has not been more than a hundred this year, which, according to them, has been a 'routine' over the last one decade. J&K Police Statistics, however, indicate a remarkable increase in infiltration. According to these figures, 156 militants have infiltrated into the State in the last five months as against 141 in the corresponding period last year. Besides, the number of militants arrested this year is 175 as against 117 from 01-01-2006 to 31-05-2006. According to J&K Police statistics, 141 militants have infiltrated into the Valley and 15 in Jammu this year. It was 105 36 last year. While 152 militants have been arrested in Kashmir and 23 in Jammu this year, it was only 95 22 last year. Significantly, the number of militants arrested has shown a drastic increase after the infamous Ganderbal fake encounters were exposed earlier this year. Security agencies have not declared the arrest of three Pakistani militants-including one who was a Captain of the Pakistani Army in Kargil War of May 1999 and happens to be a close relative of a Pakistani General as well as the PoK 'Prime Minister' Ateeq Khan- but they have not eliminated them in fake encounters. Still, the number of militants killed in different gunbattles with Police or security forces has been 152 (J 95, K 57) in 2007 as against 216 (124 92) for the same period last year. Graph of hard violence has, of course, dipped. While 403 (290 113) incidents of violence have been recorded this year, it was 658 (475 183) from 01- 01-2006 to 31-05-2006. Compared to 168 (98 70) civilian killings in 2006, only 67 (4522) have occurred in the last five months. While 62 (42 20) Police and security forces personnel had died in the first five months of year 2006, just 49 (39 10) have got killed in different incidents of separatist violence this year. Notwithstanding the marked decrease in the casualties suffered by civilians and armed forces as well as in total number of incidents, authorities are apprehensive of an upswing in the next five months. With Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad being the one-odd individual in the whole political establishment to stigmatise violence, leaders in all Valley-based parties-notably PDP and NC-have entered into a competition of appeasing militants, their overground structure and pro-Pakistan sections of the population. On the other hand, Army and Police have been publicly smudged by mainstream politicians as well as the separatists believed to be the darlings of the Indian establishment in Valley. With a free-for-all, cameras of local television channels have been following one clan of politicians and playing just a couple of patriotic songs to balance the things. 'Operators of insurgency have conveniently and comfortably discovered a whole new food chain for militancy in this situation', complains a senior official who insists that in 1996 too security forces had brought the insurgency to a nadir but, in absence of meaningful political and administrative support, situation worsened again in 1998. Political uncertainty later got a shot in the arm with the Kargil War and introduction of fidayeen attacks in 1999. With due respect to Gen Vij's barbed wire fencing, thermal sensors and NVGs, cross-border infiltration has remained intact. Since last year, quite a number of militant operatives and trained militants have been coming in via Nepal, Bangladesh and Burma, besides on passport and visa directly from Pakistan. Karachi-Mumbai and Karachi- Gujarat sea routes have been discovered only last year. For 60-year- old Ghulam Hassan Santra of Quil Muqam, Bandipore, LoC is nothing different from what the Jawahar Tunnel is for Durbar Move employees of Srinagar and Jammu. Working as an infiltration-exfiltration guide for militants for the last 17 years, Santra has raised families both in Bandipore as well as in Muzaffarabad. With two wives in PoK and one in Bandipore, Santra has raised multi-room houses at both places across the LoC. He has been charging Rs 40,000 to Rs 50,000 for each launching and had never been arrested till he slipped down a hill in Gurez sector last month and fell in the hands of Police and security forces. He has candidly revealed that his last infiltration was with a group of 48, comprising 24 militants, 4 guides and 20 porters. All the porters, according to Santra, went back to Muzaffarabad after dumping the militants' weapons in Gurez sector. Six AK-47 rifles and nearly 100 grenades have been recovered from Razdan area on Santra's disclosures. Santra, who has admitted about 40 crossings but is believed to have crossed the LoC over 100 times with groups of infiltrators and exfiltrators, is dismissing the barbed wire fencing as 'an extra of 30 minutes'. He has revealed in detail how his group of Hizbul Mujahideen and Harkatul Mujahideen militants crossed through Gali Chor, between 'Akbar Road' and Omar Gali and was close to Bandipore when he met with an accident and fractured his foot. When his telephonic conversation was arranged with his home in Muzaffarabad, his son revealed to Santra that two more groups of 20 militants each, of Jaish and Lashkar, had followed him and infiltrated into Kashmir successfully. Impressed by the treatment given to him in custody, Santra is now spilling more beans to SOG Srinagar. 'We don't count the infiltrators. When we spot them, we either arrest or kill them', says spokesman at headquarters 15 Corps, Lt Col A K Mathur. He has no hesitation to admit that only five militants have been killed in two encounters on the LoC in Kashmir in the last five months. In one incident last moth, they escaped while killing four soldiers. In yet another incident, two militants were killed but four managed to escape back to PoK. According to official figures, 84 militants (Hizb 26, LeT 21, JeM 11, Others 26) have been killed in different gunbattles with Police and security forces this year in Valley while 108 (Hizb 15, LeT 53, JeM 06, Others 34) have been arrested in the last five moths. Twenty- five (Forces 17, Police 8) personnel and 44 civilians have also died in militancy related incidents. In addition to 13 surrenders, as many as 47 militants have infiltrated through Kupwara routes in the months of March, April and May alone. As many as 60 have infiltrated through Gurez-Bandipore routes and 29 through Uri-Baramulla routes. Doba-Jharian-Zanboor-Thathmulla-Babgel (Uri), Nowshera Naar-Chor Gali-Bonar (Bandipore), Eagle Post-Bogas-Badal, Budnambal-Rangwar- Chowkibal-Tumina-Hachmarg (Kupwara), Budnambal-Chowkibal-Marsar- Hafruda (Handwara), Phulwari-Boniyar-Hanti-Nowshera (Bandipore), Thegan-Shalbathoo-Jumgund- Potkhan- Kachhama-Warsun (Kupwara), Jora- Ragni-Alu-Dumri-Budnambal-Dumyari-Rajwar (Handwara), Gulab Post- Lashdat-Kumkandi (Kupwara), Shalbathoo-Jumgund-Sigranpatti- Dardharray (Kupwara) and Ustad Post-Daradori-Rangwar (Kupwara) have been identified as the routes adopted by most of the 10 to 15 groups of infiltrators this year. DIG north Kashmir, B Srinivas, refused to comment on the number of infiltrators though he reveals that thicker groups had been spotted this year. 'Earlier, they used to infiltrate in groups of 4 to 6 militants. This year, we have learned about groups of 12 to 15 militants', says he. Yet another official insists that 15-20 strong groups had also been found to have crossed this year. This does not include militants like Muzaffar Ahmed Rather of Khi Jogipora, Kulgam, who was arrested by BSF in the West Bengal district of 24 Pargana in April this year with two more-one from Aurangabad and another from Pakistan. He is currently under interrogation of Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Mumbai Police.