ISSN 2330-717X

Jammu & Kashmir: Range Of Terror – Analysis

By

By Sanchita Bhattacharya

On June 8, 2011, Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Director General of Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda warned Security Forces (SFs) against efforts to infiltrate from across the border into the Kashmir Region. He also noted that most of the militants in central Kashmir were active in the peripheries of Budgam District, close to the Pir Panjal Range.

J&K has five mountain ranges – Himalaya, Karakoram, Ladakh, Hindu Kush and Pir Panjal. Of these, the Pir Panjal Range, which lies on the south of the Himalayas, is strategically the most important in terms of militancy in the State, as it separates the Jammu Region from the Kashmir Valley, and also abuts the Line of Control (LoC). The Range mainly constitutes the twin Districts of Poonch and Rajouri with fragmented offshoots in Udhampur and Doda. Any insurgent group seeking to move from the LoC into Rajouri and Poonch, or to Doda in the Jammu Region, must cross through the 4,200-metre Nikam Gali (alley or pass) in the Pir Panjal. The Range also provides a thoroughfare to insurgent units crossing from Doda into key South Kashmir regions such as Shopian and Kulgam.

Indeed, whoever controls the Pir Panjal dominates access to all of the Kashmir Valley. A concentration of insurgents along the range could, in theory, cut off communications along the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway, the sole road between the two key regions of the State. In addition, armed cadres could target walking routes from Poonch to Uri, Kulgam to Doda, and Rajouri to Shopian. Insurgents armed with mortars could bring Army positions in Kulgam under relentless fire, and any counter-offensive would certainly draw heavy casualties, given the terrain.

The formidable Pir Panjal Ranges and the forest covered ridgelines of the Districts of Poonch, Rajouri, Udhampur and Doda within and around the Valley have long been considered suitable for establishing militant bases. These terrorist bases, which are invariably well stocked with rations, arms, ammunition and subversive material, are shifted to the upper reaches during summers and come down below the snowline during winters.

According to the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) database,a total of 3,841 persons, including 2,649 militants of various outfits, 671 civilians and 519 Security Force (SF) personnel, have been killed in 1,749 terrorist-related incidents in the region since March 11, 2000. In the latest of such incident, two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants were killed in an encounter with the SFs at Chamraid in the Bafliaz belt of Poonch District on June 23, 2011.

429 major incidents, involving the killing of three or more than three persons, have been recorded in the Pir Panjal since 2000, the most prominent of these including:

November 25, 2010: Army and Police killed three Pakistani militants of LeT at Marha in the upper reaches of Sailan in Surankote tehsil (revenue unit) of Poonch District. The slain militants included, Abu Ujefa, a ‘divisional commander’ of LeT and Abu Ali, the outfit’s in-charge for the twin border Districts of Poonch and Rajouri.

April 1, 2010: The SFs shot dead six top LeT militants, including five Pakistanis and a local, after an exchange of fire at Khabra forests near village Raa Bagla in the Taryath area of Rajouri District.

April 2, 2009: Five persons, including a woman and a female child, were killed and seven others were wounded in an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) explosion under a vehicle at Sangla on the Surankote-Marha road in Poonch District.

June 3, 2008: SFs shot dead three top militants of the LeT at Peer Gali in the Rajouri District. The militants were heading towards Kashmir from the Pir Panjal Mountain when they were intercepted and killed by the SF personnel.

March 30, 2007: Militants struck at Panglar village under the jurisdiction of Dharamsala Police Station in Rajouri District killing five labourers.

October 10, 2005: 10 persons belonging to four families were killed by HM terrorists at Dhara and Gabbar in the Budhal area of Rajouri District.

June 26, 2004: 12 persons, including three children, were killed during a terrorist attack at village Teli Katha in the Surankote area of Poonch district.

May 26, 2003: A group of seven unidentified terrorists intrude into the house of a Village Defence Committee member and kill all five members of the family, including three children, at village Seri Khwas in the Koteranka area of Rajouri District.

August 23, 2001: Six terrorists attack the Poonch Police Station and kill seven personnel before escaping without any casualties.

March 2, 2001: 15 Police personnel and two civilians were killed in an ambush at Morha Chatru in Rajouri District.

Fatalities in Pir Panjal Range: 2000-2011

Years
No.of Incidents
Civilians
SFs
Militants
Total
2000*
181
49
55
334
438
2001
360
130
113
729
972
2002
291
146
76
462
684
2003
340
131
88
365
584
2004
215
97
62
331
490
2005
163
58
48
190
296
2006
73
28
20
80
128
2007
40
15
12
36
63
2008
29
3
17
47
67
2009
23
11
15
20
46
2010
31
3
13
51
67
2011**
3
0
0
4
6
Total
1749
671
519
2649
3841
Source: Institute for Conflict Management
*Data from March 11, 2000, ** Data till June 26, 2011

The LeT has lost 72 prominent militants, including three ‘Operational Commanders’. Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) Pir Panjal ‘regiment chief’, identified as Abu Bilal and ‘commander-in-chief’ of HM, Mohammad Din, were among 54 important HM militants killed in the area. Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) has lost 24 top militants, and Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) has lost two top leaders, including its ‘chief operational commander’, identified as Ishfaq Ahmed Islamiya. 10 leaders of Al Badr have also been killed in the Pir Panjal during this period. Apart from these principal groups, other militant outfits, such as the Jammu and Kashmir Freedom Force, Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-e-Islami, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Tehreek-ul-Jehad, Harkat-ul-Jehad-e-Islami, have also lost important cadres here. Lesser known groups such as Al-Mansoorian, Lashkar-e-Islami, Al-Jehad, Jehad-e-Turq, Jammu and Kashmir National Liberation Army, among others, are also known to have been active in the region.

Terrorist operations in the Pir Panjal have included forced entry into civilian households and indiscriminate firing, beheading, abduction, use of poison, facial disfigurement, burning of houses, torture to death, hanging, and other atrocities against civilian populations. Abductions in the region have concentrated around a few specific motives – ransom, personal and political vendetta and forcible recruitment of cadres into terrorist training camps.

Patterns of recoveries, from the site of encounters, and from camps, include communication devices (satellite telephones, dictaphones, radio sets, remote controlled receivers, transistors, Indian and Pakistani SIM cards, wireless sets), medicines, food and provisions, maps and code sheets, and various Pakistani, Indian and terrorist organizational identity documents, along with explosive devices, detonators, arms and ammunition. Another important component of recoveries has been currency of India, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Terrorists infiltrating from across the border have evidently been logistically well equipped and have constituted a formidable challenge for the SFs.

At least 273 infiltration attempts have been recorded since 2000, though data on the number of militants who succeeded in infiltrating into the region is not available. On October 13, 2010, the General-Officer-Commanding the 16th Corps and Security Advisor, Lieutenant General Rameshwar Rao, stated that, though infiltration attempts had increased in 2010, there was a sharp decline in the terrorist violence. ICM data indicates that there were at least 36 infiltration attempts in Pir Panjal in 2010, and 31 incidents of killing, with 67 fatalities, in the year 2010.

Number of Infiltration Attempts: 2000-2011

Years
2000*
2001
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011**
Total
No.of attempts
15
34
31
33
27
28
17
11
21
11
36
9
273
Source: Institute for Conflict Management
*Data from March 11, 2000, ** Data till June 23, 2011

Indeed, the data for 2010 suggests infiltration attempts comparable to earlier peaks in insurgency in 2001-05, suggesting a focused attempt by Pakistan to revive the terrorism in the State last year.

The pivotal geo-strategic significance of the Pir Panjal has been exploited by various Pakistan backed terrorist groups for over two decades, to inflict violence on the people of J&K. Recent reports indicate that top militants of the LeT and HM have once again started moving towards the Pir Panjal Range, though there are indications that local populations are now refusing to provide shelter to them. These moves must be countered effectively by the SFs, before the terrorists are able to inflict violence on a population that has grown increasingly disillusioned with their excesses.

Sanchita Bhattacharya
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

SATP

SATP

SATP, or the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP) publishes the South Asia Intelligence Review, and is a product of The Institute for Conflict Management, a non-Profit Society set up in 1997 in New Delhi, and which is committed to the continuous evaluation and resolution of problems of internal security in South Asia. The Institute was set up on the initiative of, and is presently headed by, its President, Mr. K.P.S. Gill, IPS (Retd).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.