Winters in the Kashmir Valley are a period of relative calm, but the month of February saw an unlikely surge in violence levels. Four terrorists were gunned down by the Army in Kulgam district in South Kashmir on 12 February. In the encounter, which took place around Nagbal Frisal village, where the Army had cordoned off the area, two Army personnel were also killed in action (KIA), in the encounter. This was the first loss the Army suffered this year. Then on the very next day, in two separate incidents in North Kashmir, four terrorists were eliminated. Here too, the security forces suffered casualties, with four soldiers being KIA including an officer, Major Satish Dahiya. Amongst the injured was CRPF Commanding Officer, Mr Chetan Kumar.
Two major incidents on successive days set the tongues wagging in the social media and in political and military circles. This got further aggravated when the terrorists ambushed a military convoy, returning after an operation in the wee hours of 23 February. Here, three soldiers were KIA while the terrorists managed to flee.
Do the above incidents represent a surge in violence levels in the Valley? Statistically, in February alone, we have lost nine personnel KIA, while 11 terrorists have been eliminated. Last year in February, seven security forces personnel were KIA while 13 terrorists were killed in various encounters in J&K. So, while the prognosis was for a reduction in violence levels, the February incidents appear to belie the expectation, indicating as they do the maintenance of the status quo. Statistics, taken over a period of one month, however, are but an unreliable index to gauge a trend. The overall political climate in the country and worldwide, allied with military operations, will have, during the course of the year, a dampening effect on terrorists operating within India as well as on their handlers embedded in Pakistan.
What needs to be taken note of is that in the first two incidents mentioned above, it was the Army which was proactive and was carrying out intelligence based operations. This is a positive indicator, as it denotes high morale and a strong will. The fact that intelligence was forthcoming, also indicates a certain amount of local support. Unfortunately, in such operations, own casualties cannot be ruled out, though every effort is made to minimise them. The third incident involved an ambush on a convoy, returning after a mission. Either the security was compromised or the terrorists got lucky. Such things too, will occur and must be taken in their stride.
What needs to be avoided is the breast beating which takes place every time the Army suffers casualties. From sarcastic comments spewed at the Prime Minister, to curses heaped at the perfidy of the Pakistani ISI, the social media has them all. This does little to support our soldiers on the ground, but uplifts the terrorists and their sponsors across the border, who gloat in the discomfort experienced by the country. Let us cease this incessant wailing and get on with a strong resolve to banish terrorism from our soil. The Army is doing it in the frontiers; we must show our support for military operations by fighting against terrorist supporters hidden in our institutions of higher learning and in some of the political establishments. The media could also do its bit by being sensitive to what is shown on television screens and what is printed in newspaper headlines. Some statements which came out after the recent operations talked of the terrorists ‘bleeding the Army’! That must have been music to the ears of the terrorists. Also, images shown of weeping relatives does little to portray resolve, but emboldens the enemy further. A bit of sensitivity is called for.
A word for the medical staff, which stays in the shadows, but does yeoman service in treating the injured in combat is in order here. Their contribution to the morale and welfare of the Services is priceless. The way our casualties have been looked after and brought back to good health speaks of a very strong resolve and great dedication on the part of the medical fraternity. To all of them—the doctors nurses and other support staff, rest assured that your services are deeply appreciated by one and all. The Service fraternity and the nation owe you a huge debt of gratitude.
Finally, my own assessment is that there is no cause for gloom. Terrorism is on the downswing, despite stray acts which will continue to occur. It is the final flicker before the flame of terrorism dies. Let 2017 be the year when peace comes back to the Valley.