Caught Between Orders

Its governments own policies which have put the CRPF in a precarious situation

Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab

The Bemina operation continued through the day

By sheer coincidence, FORCE team from Delhi was in Srinagar on March 13, the day terrorists struck the CRPF camp in the heart of the city after a gap of three years, claiming lives of five unarmed CRPF men. While representing the Central government authority, the men were doomed to die as they were under orders to not carry personal weapons.

The CRPF top brass, sitting in Delhi, did a review of the situation which brought avoidable deaths on the men. Ironically, the wise people concluded that the killings did not warrant arming CRPF men serving in the Valley. It would be a status quo as far as the CRPF was concerned. What does this mean for the security situation in the state?

After the hanging of Afzal Guru in Delhi’s Tihar jail on February 9, the Valley was caught most days between curfew imposed by the state government apprehending trouble, and strike calls given by the now-united-now-divided Separatists under a new organisation called Muttahida Majlis Mushawarat avatar.

In such a situation, the first Unified Headquarters meeting of 2013 attended by the entire army senior brass (GOC, 15 corps, his two divisional and two force headquarters commanders), top police and CRPF commanders, the divisional commissioner Kashmir, and representatives from various intelligence agencies amongst others was held in Srinagar on March 11. A senior army officer told FORCE that “the United Headquarters is perfect, with complete synergy between all forces.” He added that “even as there is little recruitment (by terrorists) within the Valley, we should not dilute the force (army),” a clear reference to the state government’s tireless campaign to progressively remove the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the Valley, something that the Army Headquarters is opposed to tooth and nail. The army assessment in Srinagar is that Pakistan’s ISI will take advantage of the post-Afzal phase.

They say that nearly 300 to 400 terrorists are in launch-pads waiting to cross over as soon as the snow melts and makes Line of Control (LC) routes passable. Meanwhile, all Pakistan-based terrorists organisations focussed on Kashmir have given calls for revenge.

In any case, as part of routine internal review and discussions at Unified Headquarters, the army had made significant tactical adjustments to thwart infiltration across the LC in September 2012 itself.

Specific to Shamsabari range, which is the responsibility of 28 Infantry division, and constitutes the most infiltration-prone area being at higher reaches, the army has adopted a two-tier anti-infiltration joint-posture. The brain-child of the present GOC, 15 corps, Lt General Om Prakash, the first tier behind the LC has six Joint Operations Cells (JOC) covering the corps frontage of 340km. The JOCs are manned by the concerned brigade commander, SSP police and representatives of all intelligence agencies. The second tier at a distance of 20km to 25km behind the LC has a Joint Terrorists Tracking Team (JTTT) with 13 members from security and intelligence agencies. The aim of having JOC and JTTT is to have all concerned people fighting terrorists on the same page, working in synergy and sharing real-time information.

A senior officer explained that anti-infiltration joint-posture provides three distinct benefits: One, all security forces and intelligence agencies combating infiltration know what is going on in real-time. Two, the state police as the lead ‘law and order’ agency in urban areas is both in sync with the army in the hinterland and more confident of changing ground situation. And three, all concerned are prepared to handle unexpected situations better.

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