Category Archives: jammu

#StateOfPlay: Celebrating surgical strikes? No thanks.

By Jugal R Purohit

Speaking at Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi lauded the media for its coverage of the first anniversary of the surgical strikes. These strikes were conducted in the aftermath of the Uri camp attack which led to the death of 18 army personnel on September 18 last year.

Incidentally, even as the PM was speaking, security personnel in Srinagar were responding to a boisterous attempt by three terrorists to script another Uri-like attack. They targeted the battalion headquarters of the Border Security Force (BSF) where close to 200 personnel and their families were present.

In the year gone by, several such attempts have been made by the terrorists. The surgical strikes, one can say, have neither deterred them nor their Pakistan-based handlers.

Yet none of this came in the way of ‘celebrating’ the operation.

Did anyone ask if all measures to prevent such Uri-like camp intrusions had been implemented? If yes, why are they still taking place? If they haven’t been implemented then why so?

These strikes were meant to be yet another option in deterring Pakistan from aiding and abetting terrorism in Kashmir. What are the other options? How have we implemented them? What happened to the question of delivering better governance in the state which to my mind is the biggest step in coming closer to solving quagmire?

For one, Delhi claims it has refined the counter-terror mechanism in Kashmir because of which it has achieved more terrorist kills in comparison to previous years. Adding to the argument, those on the ground insist the present year is a calmer one (167 violent incidents recorded till June 30, 2017) coming after 322 recorded incidents – highest in the last five years – in 2016. A senior officer in Srinagar reasoned, “We are controlling better, more tightly than before.”

Along the Line of Control (LoC), the surgical strikes were followed by a severe intensification of cross-LoC firing. The 449 ceasefire violations in 2016, bulk of which were recorded in the aftermath of the surgical strikes, consumed the lives of seven security personnel (not to speak of those 29,000 who had been temporarily displaced or the civilians who’ve been hit, killed or lost property). Interestingly, if you are to keep the casualties in the months of October and November of last year aside, data between April 2016 and March 2017 shows India only lost two service personnel in the firing.

But this isn’t all that happened.

A PRS Legislative Research Jammu and Kashmir Budget analysis of 2017-18 tells us that investment in the state which amounted for Rs 4866 crore from 2009-10 to 2014-15, averaging Rs 973 crore a year, slowed down to Rs 267 crore in 2015-16. What does that mean on the ground? Rate of unemployment for persons between 18-29 years of age in the state hovered at 24.6 per cent when the national average was 13.2 per cent. Among persons between 15-17 years of age, it was at 57.7 per cent when the corresponding national average was 19.8 per cent.


State’s Finance Minister Haseeb A Drabu, on January 11, 2017, made an insightful comment when he said, “Unemployment is a social issue of serious magnitude in the state. Even as the rate of unemployment is supposed to be very high in the state, we do not have actual figures” (


In J&K, when comparing the average growth between 2005-10 and 2010-15, a decline is seen from 5.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent. In agriculture (which employs 64 per cent of the population and contributes 22 per cent to the economy), manufacturing (employs 11 per cent and contributes 25 per cent) and services (employs 25 per cent and contributes 53 per cent), the current levels of growth pale when compared to the growth in 2005-10. (


Two recent news reports from Srinagar caught my eye.

The Indian Express reported on October 4 that ‘schools, especially higher secondary ones, have been open for a little more than hundred days throughout the 11-month session so far. It is the second consecutive year that schools in the valley have remained shut for most part of the academic session’.  Day after, Hindustan Times quoted, ‘Combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues also went up from more than 14,500 cases in 2014 to 33,222 in 2016, a staggering 130% increase in two years. This year till April alone, this number is 13,352’.

Did Delhi and Srinagar face any questions over this?

When I tried finding out a voice on the ground to understand the human story from these numbers, I bumped into Muneeb Mir (37), a businessman operating from Pampore. He said, “We see the iron fist of the government, we see a return to the cordon and search approach we thought we had last seen in the 90s. We understand it helps the rightist agenda of the government to be seen as muscular but what really worries us is this – earlier the narrative of the government was one thing and the narrative of the people the other. Today that line has blurred and this dominating rightist narrative worries us.”

Speaking of anniversaries, it was in October 1947 that Jammu and Kashmir’s erstwhile ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the instrument of accession, paving the way for the state to become a part of India. An undated letter written by Jawaharlal Nehru to Hari Singh published in Ramachandra Guha’s seminal ‘India After Gandhi’ carried the following text:

“Even if military forces held Kashmir for a while, a later consequence might be a strong reaction against this. Essentially, therefore, this is a problem of psychological approach to the mass of the people and of making them feel they will be benefited by being in the Indian Union. If the average Muslim feels that he has no safe or secure place in the Union, then obviously he will look elsewhere. Our basic policy must keep this in view, or else we fail”.

So, what happened?





It is early morning in Handwara town in north Kashmir

LONG STORY (30 minutes) AIRED ON INDIA TODAY TV ON OCT 1 & 2, 2016:


Youth in the village of Naogam Patwari assembled when they saw us, the ‘Indian media’.
Condition of the village road left a lot to be desired. People told us that barring the army, they simply had no one to rely on.


Somewhere along the Line of Control, Border Security Force personnel stand guard

NOTES FROM COVERING GURDASPUR: Forget proactive, we aren’t reacting enough

My queries began a few hours after the attack did. I didn’t want to irk people with questions when they would have been busy coordinating, attending meetings etc. From the moment the operations ended till date, the common cry I hear from those who were to be in the know was ‘we didn’t expect it there, in Punjab’. From a government which likes to project a muscular demeanour on security matters, and don’t cry that it is unfair, expectation was of a better performance.

Did the Punjab Police know about it? Answer was no. Was the Punjab Police made aware by the centre? Answer was no. Were the army and Border Security Force (BSF) aware of such an attack? They were aware of ‘Fidayeen’ (suicide) missions but they expected action in Jammu, not in Punjab. They told me they had fortified themselves in Jammu and were ‘lying in wait’. But what told them that Punjab was untouchable especially in the wake of Indo-Pak Prime Ministerial meeting in Ufa where the momentum for normalization of ties received a fillip – meaty and obvious bait for terrorist organizations to lunge at?

Has Punjab been so quiet post 1993 and devoid of anti-national activities that you overlook the fact that it borders Jammu and that since September 2013, terrorists have struck five times in an arc which brings them closer to Punjab? I am afraid not. Read data collated by South Asia Terrorism Portal (www.satp.prg) on the activities of banned, Pakistan-based, ISI-aided networks like Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), Khalistan Zindabad Force (KZF) and it tells you of the busy existence that they have been leading while staying away from the headlines. Sustained expressions of pro-Khalistan sentiments, continued presence of a wanted terrorist like BKI chief Wadhwa Singh on the Pakistani soil, recent reports of intentions to use the border to smuggle in explosives to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi, successful smuggling of drugs from across the border, sharing of office space at Nankana Sahib by BKI and Lashkar E Toiba (LeT) are indicators of what, decide for yourself.           

Let us now move to the situation along the 462.45 km International Border (IB) that India and Pakistan share and which runs through Punjab. The Director General of Police (DGP), Punjab police clearly spelt out the route of infiltration using data decoded from the GPS sets the terrorists were carrying. It puts the Border Security Force (BSF) which guards the IB on the mat. Top sources from the force said that it was their Paharipur Border Out Post (BOP) – 20km from Dinanagar police station – where the breach leading to the infiltration occurred. Did the fence show any breach? No. AN underground tunnel found? No. The suspicion is that the terrorists used the rivulets – where there can be no fence – to infiltrate. Were they guarded? Yes, but not as well as they now do them in Jammu. Why so? Because, we did not expect it in Punjab.

Fences and BOPs alone are hardly the issues to worry over. Along the border villages, a few of which I visited, there is unemployment, unbelievable lack of connectivity in terms of communication and physical access and indifference of the local administration. The locals had no good to speak of the BSF which means it does not enjoy the civilian support as it should. Why shouldn’t the BSF embark on civic action programs? Anyway, existing situation implies that the villagers are living in isolation. How will the adversary exploit what I believe are easy pickings is for all to understand. Situation warrants immediate action.

How could ISI ensure smuggling of hundreds of kilograms of explosives and assault rifles to Mumbai via the sea to perpetrate the 1993 blasts? Because, we did not expect that. How could Tiger Memon and his cohorts assemble RDX-laden Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) in the parking lot of Al Husseini building in Mumbai’s Mahim suburb, a stone’s throw away from the Mahim police station, undetected? Because we did not expect that. How could the ISI ensure that ten trained commandos could sail into Mumbai and execute the 26 November 2008 attacks? Because we didn’t expect them to hijack an Indian fishing boat and kept looking out for a ‘suspicious Pakistani boat’. The number of occasions when our expectations were belied by our adversary are numerous. But the winds do tell when they blow and it is for the wise to pick up the scent.

Are we up for it?