In the midst of Covid-19 pandemic, the security grid has brought in new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to deal with Pakistan-backed terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Though the new strategy has not been publicly disliosed, action taken on the ground in recent times has left little ambiguity that the new SOP has already been implemented. Here are some features that are part of the new SOP.
1. Stop glorification of militants
Jammu and Kashmir security forces on Wednesday achieved a major success when they killed Ansar Gazwat ul Hind (AGH) Burhan Koka and two of his associates at Melhoora in south Kashmir’s Shopian district. Instead of usual practice of claiming ‘victory’ or ‘success’ followed with a press conference or a byte, the J&K Police released a statement which shared just the basic information that “in the ensuing encounter, 3 terrorists were killed. The identification of killed terrorists is being ascertained.”
The strategic move to stop recruitment is to deny the terrorist publicity by naming them or their tanzeem (organisation). The ensures that the terrorist remains unidentified. The J&K Police is now tightening screws to make sure that such leaks are fixed even at the local level. The Army and CRPF are also on board with this strategy. “Our challenge is to stop recruitment of new militants. So we have to adopt new strategies. For any ordinary militant, why should the corps commander or DGP do a press conference? One of effective tool is to starve terror groups of publicity they seek,” a senior officer in the J&K Police told India Today.
The security grid has avoided pitfalls including giving out details of top 10 or 20 ‘most wanted terrorists’. Sources said the same glamourises terrorism. “Our men want rewards and medals, not publicity,” an official said. To ensure, there is no hard feeling for credit of success of operations amongst security forces, all counter terror operations are termed as ‘joint operations’.
2. No public funerals
Security forces have from time to time suggested that gatherings at militant funerals should not be allowed as thousands of locals would throng funerals, with gun totting commanders sometimes making an appearance in amid anti-India sloganeering.
On April 8, over 500 people got together for the funeral of Jaish terror commander Sajad Nawab Dar in violation of lockdown norms. An FIR was later registered with police detaining two after the MHA took note of the incident. After a series of official deliberations, a call was taken that the burial of slain militants or funeral processions at local graveyards would no longer be permitted. Later, a decision was amended to allow handful of family members in presence of cops.
The challenge first came in one of the encounters in Shopian earlier this month when two local militants were gunned down. The bodies were buried in Seeri in Baramulla, designated so far for foreign terrorists. The storm passed over with law and order managed by security grid. Since then, several unidentified bodies have been buried in Sonamarg of Ganderbal district. In the past 17 encounters, family members have been allowed 14 times.
3. Strict vigil on social media by cyber police
The cyber police station in Kashmir registered its first FIR on February 17, 2020 against people for defying government orders on social media. The FIR was registered within few weeks after the cell came into existence.
The cyber police increased its vigil on social media, which the J&K government has may a times blamed for the political unrest in Kashmir. The continued restrictions on high speed 4G mobile internet in the state is also believed to be a deterrent against misuse of Internet and social media. Recently, police had registered three FIRs against Kashmir-based journalists which resulted in an outrage.
Sources, however, said more such action cannot be ruled out. Few of local papers have amplified separatist and Pakistani voices, they say. A recent incident was when JKLF call for bandh in the Valley was investigated. Another case was registered when pictures of an ailing Syed Ali Shah Geelani were leaked sparking rumours of his death. The Jammu and Kashmir Police, however, swung into action which was followed by a medical bulletin from the SKIMS Director.
With the forces aware of terrorism and maintaining law and order as their two key challenges, the aim is to plug origin of the circulation of fake news. And also, to crackdown on handles which promote pictures and videos of terror recruits.
4: Hot pursuit of terrorists
After a long spell of lull post August 5, communication lines were down which affected the technical and human intelligence. But since 2020, counter terror operations have intensified as forces prepare to deal with new crop of Pakistan-backed terror groups in the Valley with the help of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
The newly formed groups, The Resistance Front (TRF) and Tehreeki-Milat-i-Islami (TMI), have been covertly formed by the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence). Both aimed to give Pakistan deniability from action under the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The group has been active since last year trying to form an umbrella body in the Valley.
A Pakistan project which is ‘work in progress’ has not taken off since the largest local militant group Hizb ul Mujhahideen led by commander Riyaz Naikoo is reportedly not on board. Since the beginning of the year, 60 terror operatives have been neutralised with April seeing 28 killings. Out of 60, most belong to Hizb.
The real worry is the foreign terrorist. Though Army and BSF have been trying to plug holes at LoC and IB, infiltration attempts have not slowed down. The Valley figure of militants hovers between 250 and 300. Forces say the numbers is not worrying, with negligible number joining terror ranks. But the real worry is from terror group like Jaish with suicide squad.
5. Being ahead of the game
Since communication lines are back, Pakistan-based terror agency are back in the picture trying to foment trouble in the Valley. But the Indian forces have kept the ISI on its toes and forced it to rethink its modus operandi of using ‘cut-outs’. Cut-outs in intelligence parlance usually know only the source and destination of the information to be transmitted, not the identities of any other person involved in the espionage process.
A cut-out cannot be used to identify members of an espionage cell. The cutout isolates the source from the destination and gives Pakistan deniability. This is already happening across Pakistan. According to sources, the ISI is no longer telling jihadis in advance as to what is being done in J&K. With Pakistan slipping, they are thinking if the ISI should directly hold the charge.
On ground, however, violence has spiked with terror-related incidents and three cop abductions taking place.
While separatists have been decimated in the post August 5 scenario, the ISI is trying to foment trouble by motivating lower-rung separatists to go to homes of militant. But that has also been made impossible in times of Covid-19.
Security forces now are keeping a keen eye on the ground by the use of “tech” and human intelligence.