Shifting Focus? Jammu And Kashmir On Edge As Ceasefire Violations, Terror Attacks Rise

10 August 2015
Sameer Yasir

Sabzian: Displaying evidence of the most recent attack, Saleem Choudhary points to an ugly hole in the wall of his bedroom. A short, frail man with an unkempt beard, Choudhary lives with his wife and two-year-old son in the Sabzian village of Poonch district. A sudden escalation in violence has meant Choudhary's family, like hundreds of others who live along the Line of Control and International Border in Jammu, live in doubt about staying on. 'It is a nightmare that never ends,' Choudhary says in a sullen voice. 'It is a difficult choice. Either I have to risk the lives of my family members and stay put, or I have to search for another place. But where will we go?' The bullet that made the hole in his bedroom came just when Choudhary, his wife and son were about to enter the bedroom after having had dinner. 'We lay glued to the floor for about 25 minutes before running towards the back of the house. It was a near-death experience,' he says. The Sabzian sector, which is about 262 km from the winter capital of the state, has witnessed multiple number of ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops in recent months to push more infiltrators into Jammu, an Army official said. Early on Friday morning, Pakistani troops began firing across the border for the fourth consecutive day, leaving an Indian army soldier injured. This was the fifteenth such incident in past six days. On 5 August, when the armies of India and Pakistan exchanged fire, three civilians were killed on both sides. A day earlier, a young man was killed and two others, including a BSF jawan, were injured. National Conference president and former chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah, travelled across Sabzian village on Friday. He rued the fact that while people were suffering in these villages along the Line of Control, the state government as well as the Centre were showing no concern. 'The people are yearning for peace. They want good neighbourly relations between the two countries. Pakistan should understand and appreciate this and help in diffusing the situation as people can't be allowed to become fodder to mortars and shelling all the time,' Abdullah said, after interacting with affected villagers of Sabzian. In July, 18 ceasefire violations were reported in the Jammu region along the India-Pakistan border in which four persons, including three jawans were killed and 14 others injured. But what is worrying security agencies in the state is the unusual spike in the number of terror attacks and ceasefire violations in Jammu region since 2013. Interestingly, these attacks come after an alleged rise in the number of local militants joining militant outfits in Kashmir. According to a census by J&K Police, about 33 youths have joined militant groups in Kashmir Valley this year alone. 'Before that, the focus of the terror outfits was on Kashmir. Now the focus seems to have shifted towards Jammu. And if intelligence inputs are indications of anything, it is behind the increase in the number of attacks like these (in Jammu),' an intelligence official based in Jammu said on condition of anonymity. Although there have been many instances where militants were prevented from carrying out attacks, he said not every effort has yielded results. 'There is vulnerability. The LoC and International Border is almost impossible to guard impeccably. Despite continuous efforts to keep a lid on infiltrations, they (militants) manage to sneak in,' the official said. But for those living on the border, there is no question of moving despite the threat of things getting worse. 'We can't leave our house forever. Even if we do, we have to keep someone here to keep an eye on the livestock. Even in this tough time, there is a possibility of thieves robbing the livestock,' Numaan Ahmad, another resident of Sabzian, said. In Jammu, politics over terror has already started with the opposition, National Conference and Congress, blaming the ruling PDP-BJP alliance for failing to curb the ceasefire violations. On Wednesday, two Pakistani militants carried out the audacious attack on a paramilitary convoy on the highway, killing two BSF jawans before one of them was shot dead by security forces. The other militant, identified as Naved, has allegedly started spilling the beans on how focus has shifted from the Kashmir valley to Jammu. 'It is possibly a new strategy adopted by militants to inflict more and more damage in Jammu,' an Army official said on condition of anonymity since he isn't authorised to speak to the media. 'With the insurgency gaining momentum in Kashmir Valley, the attacks in Jammu are not a good sign.'