Sunday, June 20, 2021
Aftermath The Pulwama Terrorist Attack!ByCol NN Bhatia (Retd)
In the early 1966, as a young Captain I took advance Party of my Battalion to Mizoram as the rebel outfit the Mizo National Front(MNF) uprising revolted against both the state and the central governments for the step motherly treatment, declaring cessation and independence from India by launching coordinated attacks on the police posts, Assam Rifles deployed in Aijawal and elsewhere in the Mizoram district, looting government treasury; notwithstanding the fact that the ad-hoc Lushai Brigade raised by the Fourteenth Army under Lt Gen Slim in the World War II whose contribution was very real in the pursuit to the Chindwin.

As our long convoy protected by a few armoured cars went past the only class 9 muddy road, a few MNF insurgents on top of adjoining hills on either sides fired with antiquated .303 rifles and an odd LMG and vanished injuring a few soldiers. The quick reaction team’s (QRT) action by the antiquated armoured cars and jawans jumping off the vehicles to cordon and chase the hostiles ensured that the damage was the least and the hostiles fled in to thick jungle. Since we were at the tail end of the convoy, nothing much was known as to what had happened as the convoy halted for a long period causing inordinate delay. What little information trickled back were some rumours to cause enough panic and demoralization. That was my first initiation in the insurgency environment where I learnt that troops travelling in the vehicles if not alert were like ‘sitting ducks’- an ideal insurgents’ target. Since the Counter Insurgency & the Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School was at infancy stage, the newly inducted units mostly did actual operational training and we learnt the role of the road opening parties, securing roads and tracks, ambushing terrorists and countering their ambushes. It was the first time I learnt high flown words that I little understood like the proxy warfare, psychological warfare popularly called psywar, winning hearts and minds of the people, regrouping villages, isolation of terrorists and relentless counter insurgency operations to defeat them. I also learnt that while the security forces would kill terrorists but they cannot kill terrorism on their own as that was the complex socio-politico-cultural-economic actions of the governments’ integrated with military operations to bring back the disenchanted individuals who become the leaders of the aggrieved society or community in the main stream! I also learnt that the terrorists always had initiative and invariably every failure or success depended up on junior leadership, real time actionable intelligence, good field craft and battle drills, being proactive with swifter shoot to kill capabilities, besides the psywar and the civic actions that stood test of times to come for me and our troops in Mizoram, J&K, Nagaland and Punjab.

While scanning through the Google, as I have no statistics, I find the Central Reserve Police (CRPF) has been regularly ambushed by the militants from J&K to Dantewada and Manipur losing the precious manpower, weapons and equipment. These could have been totally avoided if the basic norms of operating in the Pakistani supported and sponsored insurgency environment sponsored were followed as very briefly listed above, BUT we as Indians refuse to learn from our past mistakes!

I had called 6 April 2010 as ‘The Black Day’ in my article ‘CRPF Dantewada’s Post Maoist Ambush Quagmire’ in which at least 75 personnel of the 62 Battalion CRPF were killed in a deadly Maoist ambush in the Mukrana forest in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh . 120 CRPF personnel were totally surprised, out witted and trapped by the Maoists while returning from a road opening duty in the Naxalite-infested dense hilly forest. Even before and after Dantewada ambush, there have been series of terrorist attacks on the CRPF and other CPOs causing grave attrition in men and materials. On 1 Dec 2014 in an ambush that took place near Kasalpara village in Raipur, killing 14 personnel including a Deputy Commandant DS Verma. On 25 Apr 2017 in a deadly ambush by Naxals, 25 CRPF personnel were killed and six other injured in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district, On 14 Mar 2018 attack, 25 CRPF personnel were killed in a ambush while on 13 Jul 2018, over 24 CRPF personnel were killed and a dozen wounded in an ambush by Maoists all in the Sukma only. In this article no effort has been made to collect data of other CPOs like the BSF, ITBP, CISF or SSB but we refuse to learn from our past mistakes while operating in insurgency prone areas and the proxy wars have taken a heavy toll of our security forces.

Another Unending Black Day

The last deadly attack on the CRPF convoy of 2500 traveling in 78 vehicles, many of them hired from the civilian Kashmiri contractors took place on 14 Feb 2019 at 1515 hrs, when 20 years old school dropout Adil Ahmad Dar from Lethipora village in Pulwama rammed his SUV laden with 200kg explosive on Jammu- Srinagar highway near Latoomode in Pulwama in Southern Kashmir, killing 40 personnel and injuring many more. The boy’s father alleged that Adil and his friends in 2016 were stopped, accused of stone pelting and beaten by the police leading to his radicalization. The Pakistani based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) Muslim Militant outfit who as media and police sources report, Adil was a low grade suspect. Two days after Pulwama attack, on 16 Feb 2019 three JeM terrorists linked to Pulwama attack and the gun battle were killed martyring 1 Major, 3 Jawans, I constable while a Brigadier, DIG and Lt Col were injured. To avoid collateral damage, our brave hearts always suffer more casualties.
While the whole country has united and so have the accusing rival political parties, all in frenzy wanting to avenge and decimate Pakistan but the rhetoric dies down gradually without adopting any effective introspection and measures to overcome our deficiencies till such time country faces another unfortunate similar or worst incident and the never ending vicious circle carries on. Many advocate from Uri like surgical strike(s) to full-fledged war, without realizing potential political or strategic military gains and losses while other suggest the probes undertaken are half heartedly implemented offering the easiest escape route to blame our adversaries adopted.
Major lacunae in the CRPF Strategy in Combating Terrorism
General Ved Malik, when he was the Chief of the Army Staff, had said that the most of the CRPF Battalions lacked intensive training imparted at the Army’s Counter Insurgency & Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) before being deployed in the mountainous, insurgency prone areas like the Manipur or J&K and the forests to combat the Maoists. While the Army has trained large number of CPOs personnel in jungle warfare and counter insurgency training that does not meet the fraction of their deployment. However, the then DG CRPF in the right perspective did not appreciate the comments of the then Army Chief. Needless to say, our CPOs and para military forces (PMFs) with the exception of the Assam Rifles woefully lack such training. While fighting insurgents in thick jungles and mountainous terrain, where limited roads and tracks network would always be covered by the insurgents, security forces perforce as operational necessity and maintenance of surprise will have to move cross country. Moving on single or few available roads and tracks, in long vehicular convoys carrying troops and stores, gives away surprise and the timings, position and direction of the movement and these vulnerabilities are so effectively used by the terrorists to ambush them time and again. The roads and tracks can only be used once security forces have sanitized the area and occupied and secured surrounding heights tactically ensuring road was clear, which was not done in the instant and the earlier such ambushes. Large number of CRPF personnel moving in a logistic and administrative convoy, in the insurgency environment must ensure complete route is sector/sub sector wise secured by leap-frogging or be capable of cross-country movement with combat loads both by day and night with stealth which is painfully slow as troops need exceptional navigational abilities along with highest standards of physical and mental toughness to operate self contained over a period with field rations, water, arms and ammunition and close quarter battle (CQB) shooting abilities to kill insurgents in any encounter. Both offensive and defensive battle drills and procedures, field craft, signals communication and drills while moving on foot or vehicles, patrolling, attacking, raiding ambushing or being ambushed need to be perfected to become part of soldier’s second nature. Battle space awareness i.e. knowing the terrain, opponent’s forces and equipment, own strength and weaknesses create abilities to pre-empt, prevent and prevail over the impending threats. In the Army, in our days, each soldier fired over 250 rounds during annual range classification and promotion/retention in service was denied unless minimum standards achieved. All ranks including officers, Junior Commissioned Officers/Non Commissioned officers (JCOs/NCOs) and jawans in each training year were required to achieve minimum qualifying standards in classification firing (that includes CQB firing), battle physical efficiency tests (BPETs) and attend at least one individual and a collective training cycle to maintain their combat effectiveness. Standards for the commandos, Special Forces and paratroopers were even more stringent. Each arms and service had operations specific criteria as per training standards, logistic support terrain and weather conditions laid that must be achieved by individuals and the unit as a cohesive group in cooperation of other supporting arms and services for optimized combat effectiveness. Sadly, all our CPOs lack such training. The Pradhan Committee constituted by the Maharashtra Government to investigate shortcomings in the wake of 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks had shockingly revealed that the Maharashtra State Police was woefully short of ammunition and had not done range practices for a long time.
Army troops before operating in the high altitude, desert, plains or counter insurgency environment are given familiarization and pre-induction training. Great emphasis is laid on development of leadership and motivation and leaders trained in specialized courses in Army’s numerous training institutions. Does Home ministry have this type of infrastructure for its police and PMFs and the answer simply is NO. There is urgent need to establish number of CIJWS to cater operational training needs in each Maoist and insurgency/terrorism infected State. Retired servicemen trained in counter insurgency operations and those with instructional tenures in Army’s CIJWS need to be employed as core groups by the MHA to impart intensive counter insurgency training to police and CPOs/PMFs personnel. Besides training, officers and constabulary, units and sub units being inducted in insurgency environment should run capsule training peculiar to their sector(s). Raising so called specialized unit(s) with fancy names like ‘Greyhounds’, ‘Chetaks’, ‘Panthers’ ‘Cobra Force’ or wearing black dungarees and patkas or having ceremonial quarters guard like the Army does not make the CPOs a specialized force but training, equipment and leadership does.
Though the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has taken up the issue of compulsory counter insurgency & jungle warfare training for young police officers in states affected by the Maoist extremism and Chhattisgarh has taken the initiative to set up its own College of Counter-Terrorism & Jungle Warfare in Raipur, several other states affected by the Maoist insurgency are yet to take a call on the same. Also, these institutes lack standardization and impart training to own police personnel restricted to operating against the Maoists while operating in the Kashmir Valley needs specialized training to operate in Pak sponsored Muslim terrorists, under the operational command of the Army.

Reorganization of the CPOs and Police
Unlike Army that is organized in the combat arms and the services maintaining optimized teeth to tail ratio, CRPFs are simply organized, trained and equipped for maintenance of law and order problems where adversary is mostly unarmed and untrained. Such an establishment cannot cohesively and effectively operate in the high intensity counter insurgency environment. Therefore, police reforms should address this problem in each CPO earmarked for counter insurgency operations. Also, CRPF is not employed/deployed operationally and administratively as homogenous units. While on inspection of the security arrangements of the Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan Kendra, Srinagar during the Kargil War, I was shocked to find that the three CRPF platoons of different battalions were deployed to protect Doordarshan Kendra and Radio Kashmir Srinagar with no chief of the security as the commander nominated. Infact, within the platoons constables were different sub units and units and the parent battalion of the one of the platoons was located in Gwalior while of the other in the Northeast. I was shocked by this arrangement and the CRPF officers justified me that this is very common not only in their force but other CPOs/ PMFs as well. Thus, there are no homogeneous units and sub units with well defined vertical and horizontal command and control structure for the administration, training and operations. The CRPF Company does not come like an infantry Company and neither is it deployed as such following principle of add on or put out. Such a force would always lack cohesiveness, administration and logistics support, leadership, motivation and command structure so very essential in synergizing combat effectiveness. Behind the curtain sending individuals on temporary duties to replace each other, lets them earn extra TAs /DAs at the cost of combat effectiveness!
Due to the control that bureaucracy and police lobbies exert, there are large numbers of redundant post in the super-time and superior scales to ensure quick promotions. In some of the states we have dozens of DG P’s some of them such as DGPs Welfare, Housing, Computers, Sports or Uniforms and not much is done for the cadre officers’ advancement. The deployment of National Security Guard commandos to maintain inflated egos of politicians are another example of wasting country’s such a highly trained resource. As per old newspaper report, when the home ministry rotated the Black Cat Commandos for some politicians, one of them vehemently insisted on retaining the existing set up, arguing that he had trained them to take care of his farms.
Leadership and Police Reforms
In the armed forces, soldiers are enrolled for a particular regiment or service and remain in it till superannuating. Similarly, officers are commissioned in the regiment/service till superannuating. Contrarily in the CPOs/PMFs, while constables, junior leaders and some cadre officers recruited directly the bulk of the senior officers are posted from the Indian Police Service (IPS) from the various state cadres. There are instances, when DIG/IG/DG level officers who have never served say in the CPO and lack combat experience in the counter insurgency operations, are posted there. Rightly, in the Assam Rifles, the only para military force (PMF) NO police officers and personnel are sent on deputation. It is officered by the army officers with fair amount of Assam Rifles cadre officers. While police personnel are professionally capable in policing, yet group cohesiveness and combat effectiveness in such units in insurgency environment would be lacking. Therefore, IPS officers who want to command CPOs/PMFs, like the armed forces officers, should be commissioned, groomed and trained in their respective CPO/PMF. Also sizeable number of cadre officers should be given command assignments.
Our police reforms are overdue since ages despite numerous recommendations of various expert committees. Many CPOs are under staffed, ill equipped, ill trained and physically and mentally unfit. The pot bellied police man carries colonial stigmas of ‘सरकार’ -Daroga Raj, bribes, corruption and fear psychosis amongst the masse! Hordes of local police are equipped with antiquated World War 1 Enfield .303 rifles while terrorists masquerade with the latest AKs, ammunition, explosives, sat phones and global positioning systems. Our entire police force needs rifles and equipment of the day, physical, mental and emotional training, motivation and good professional leadership. Needless to say, police must be people friendly with high professional integrity.
Logistics & Infrastructural Support
Unlike armed forces that are self contained having own supply depots, ordnance depots and factories, signal and communication centers, transport, field and base workshops, firing ranges, transit camps, various training institutes and hospitals, the PMFs lack such support and depend mostly on out sourcing. While all the infrastructural support like the Army is not needed by the PMFs, yet there is need to institutionalize some of them. Their training institutes, firing ranges, transit camps, hospitals and medical services, rations, aviation, ordnance and clothing needs could be combined and standardized.
The Austrian author Karl Kraus had stated that corruption was worst than prostitution as the latter might endanger morals of the individuals but the former endangered the morals of the entire nation. It is sad but true that this cancer has become a way of life in our democratic set up and widely spread in police, bureaucracy and business. The dishonesty of one bureaucrat in the MHA responsible for purchase of bullet proof jackets for the police and PMFs was perhaps responsible for killing of CRPF personnel in Dantewada. This bureaucrat responsible for ordering substandard life saving jackets was taken in police custody for taking bribes/commission. It was shocking to read the front page Times of India dated 1 May 2010 revealing the police-CRPF nexus selling arms and ammunition to Maoists. If that be true, even Gods cannot save us from our malice.
Management of Violence
Management of violence in insurgency scenarios is complex time consuming and strenuous for police forces as it differs from the comparatively easier law and order problems. The terrorists being sons of the soil easily mingle in the local tribal population and any collateral damage or loss of innocent life attracts adverse attention of the human rights groups and media. All this needs specialized training, perseverance, and ability to operate in small groups with deceit and communication skills of very high order.
Since independence, India has been forced to face Pakistani belligerency in the full fledged wars in 1948, 1965, and 1971, limited Kargil War in May 1999 and series of terror attacks like Pathankot, Uri, and Pulwama. None of these could resolve bilateral pin pricks and issues resulting in accelerating violence, mistrust, brinkmanship and one-upmanship.
Intelligence Failure
In the instant case, the National Highway 1A (NH-1A) is the only life line connecting via Pathankot-Jammu-Srinagar- Baramulla/Kargil/Ladakh that was closed for 4 days due to heavy snowfall and rain. It opened on 14 Feb 2019 with heavy rush of vehicles moving up laden with essential supplies and movement of over 2500 CRPF constabulary traveling in 78 vehicles many of them perhaps hired from the local Muslim transport contractors from the valley besides so many civilian carriers, losing patience to move up with men, materials and essential supplies. It is obvious that lots of emails, WhatsApp, twitter and Facebook messages would have been generated by all those involved in providing vehicles and carrying essential supplies of food and rations. The youth, so much radicalized by the Pakistan, are the kith and kin of the contractors, drivers and passengers, many of them radicalized, sending messages across informing the terrorists and their handlers in Pakistan. Since road opening parties were either not sent securing the tactical heights or did not do their job as per the standing operating procedures (SOPs) and drills in the high intensity insurgency environment, the terrorists chose the ideal time and place to ambush the CRPF convoy and cause maximum attrition. It is intriguing how civilian vehicles were permitted to move along the CRPF convoy, providing a golden chance of his life to highly motivated and radicalized Dar to ram his SUV laden with 200 kgs of high explosive with the CRPF vehicle, just months before the general election. Tired of traveling and half-asleep, these personnel were nothing but ‘sitting ducks’ for the JeM operatives. It appears that the CRPF instead of deliberately planed road opening and securing operation just did the routine patrolling.

In the valley, besides the local police, there are numerous CPOs/PMFs and the armed forces that need and collect, collate and disseminate intelligence. With huge information gathered there is utter lack in collation and drawing meaningful assessments and timely dissemination of the real time hard actionable intelligence to the units combating insurgency. The Subramanian Committee had highlighted this aspect after the Kargil War and so did the Henderson Brooke Committee after the 1962 Sino-Indian debacle, but after the initial euphoria, nothing tangible is achieved till we face another disaster to react again as in the past. The National Intelligence Agency, the Intelligence, Bureau, the Research & Analysis Wing and other central and states intelligence agencies need to be trained, equipped and coordinated for this important but neglected aspect. In every incident, including the Pulwama, the police and the intelligence agencies, like in the past, were reactive and never a head has fallen.

Media Management
In a democracy right of expression is a fundamental right BUT our electronic media gets hysterical blasting 24x7 gory clippings and videos of the massacre with huge crops of political, retired defence and diplomatic analysts making each channel sort of operational rooms to launch surgical strike(s)/limited war with numerous options to teach a lesson to Pakistan. Media should be discreet and restrained blatantly discussing various military options against our adversaries that is prerogative of the armed forces after the governmental directive.
India’s Imperatives
Time has come for our firm multidimensional integrated response against the rouge state Pakistan. This can only yield results if diplomatic, military and economic pressure from the international community of nations and the UNO is exerted against Pakistan and those countries that are funding and supporting the terrorism. Unless the US, Russia, China, Japan, Israel, the European Union and the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Commonwealth, the SAARC and the ASEAN etc will not act firmly in unison, isolation of Pakistan and the terrorists would not be possible. But it is indeed an uphill task for India as out of the 58 countries that condemned the recent Pulwama attack, only the US named Pakistan and China did not give any assurance to India that it will back India’s appeal to list the UN-proscribed Pakistan-based JeM terror group's chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. China being permanent member of the Security Council will always veto any Indian move to declare Azhar as global terrorist or blame Pakistan for terrorist attacks. Even if he was declared as the one, India has to think how much it helps in ending the Pakistani supported terrorist attacks! Our country must review our failing Pakistan strategy over the Kashmir issue and the China- Pakistan nexus in the light of Sino-Indian relations.
Clearly, Pakistan is in hand and glove in spreading terrorism in Afghanistan, Iran and India. Simultaneously along with JeM led Pulwama attack, the Iran’s Revolutionary Guards were ambushed killing 27 guards by the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia supported Sunni terror group Jaish al Adl (Army of Justice- the Salafi Jihadist terrorist organization operating in the Sistan and Baluchistan) in a suicide bombing attack. According to Daniel Coats, the Director of the U.S National Intelligence, Islamabad has failed to curb militants and terrorists in Pakistan and they continue to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan leading to sustain threats to the US security. Therefore, the time has come that the international community ensures isolation of the rouge State of Pakistan and destruction of all terrorists and their bases and logistics support camps and Iran, Afghanistan and India jointly calibrate operations from the north, north west, and east of Pakistan with effective naval blockade with Indian and the Iranian navies with the tacit support of the international community and tough relentless diplomacy. Pakistan too has soft targets and disenchanted population in the POK, Baluchistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh that can easily be targeted and subverted for indigenous proxy wars by Iran, Afghanistan and India jointly.
Along with fighting and eliminating terrorism, India must launch surgical strikes within the valley for deep cleansing of selves. We must isolate radicalized indigenous terrorists likes of Dar, create good governance, weed corruption, devote on basics like schools, sanitation, water, housing and creation of jobs. We need to ensure that madrassas are reformed and stop providing radical education to youth at impressionable age and their syllabus has modern education vocational oriented content. The smart phones and cyber security safeguards need to be stringent as misguided youths communicate military information to enemy and militants through mobile phones, twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp and emails and in no time gather stone throwing parties or huge crowds on funerals of militants for publicity and recruitment. The Pakistanis and the Chinese are the notorious hackers of the Indian cyber sites. In any insurgency, people friendly civic actions, winning of hearts and minds of the people and galvanizing aggrieved communities in the main stream pay rich dividends. It is time we abrogate Article 370, J&K’s separate constitution, flag and J&K Ranbir Penal Code (RPC) replacing it by the Indian Penal Code(IPC). For ease of administration, India should divide administratively J&K in three divisions as Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. These are tough decisions that can only be taken by tough political leadership with spine not caring for losing or winning the next general election!

The J&K has 22 districts BUT only 5 districts (Srinagar, Anantnag, Baramulla, Kulgam and Pulwama) are adversely affected by the Pakistani sponsored terrorism and radicalsation while the rest 17 are pro-India. Out of 1.25 crore population, Kashmiris are 69 lakhs while Jammu has 53 lakhs Dogri/ Punjabi Hindus and Ladakh has 3 lakhs Buddhists who peace loving Indians. Only 33 % people are Sunni Muslims and some of them support the insurgency. Poonch and Kargil have 90% Muslim population who are against terrorism. All Shias who constitute 14% of the population are peace loving and pro-India. By such division and facts, we can internationally project to the world that only miniscule of population in 5 districts away from the border are under the influence of Pakistani sponsored terrorism. The Kashmiri men and women should be allowed to marry anyone and anywhere in the country. The Government should let Kashmiri Pandits return to their villages and ensure their rehabilitation. Like the Kashmiris migrants to other states for better education and jobs, the other Indians should be welcomed to settle in the J&K and acquire properties. Letting big Indian industrial houses to establish industries in J&K will generate employment and encouragement in the growth of cottage industry and tourism will bring prosperity with peace. J&K has potential to generate tremendous amount of hydro-electricity for its development and revenue generation. Over a period the cosmopolitan demographic changes and development would let state and people emotionally merged with the main stream.
While on the onset of such avoidable tragedies, the country and the opposition political parties now in unison want India teaching a lesson once for all to Pakistan, but with passing away of time, the euphoria dies till such unfortunate incident happens again. Once with strong political will any action plan is envisaged against Pakistan, the military should be given free hand to plan and execute it operations with stealth and support of all the political parties and the government should also deliberate on the option of striking terrorists camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) after taking the US, Russia, China and the European Union in confidence. Our political and military leadership has to evaluate that any limited offensive or operation could lead to a full-fledged war while India, China and Pakistan are on nuclear threshold. Needless to say, too much media publicity and hype on matters military and national security should be refrained.
Along with above measures, we must proactive and take relentless punitive actions against, the terrorist bases along the line of control (LoC) like the Israelis. Our Government must ensure modernization of the armed forces, CPOs/PMFs and overcoming deficiencies in the men, materials, budgetary constraints and intelligence gathering and its dissemination.
I have suggested above tough political, economic, military, and diplomatic measures. Do we have the political will to withstand them or else unfortunately, we will keep suffering from the Kargils, Pathankots, Uris and Pulwamas like Pakistan sponsored terror attacks in future as well.
Lastly, will somebody answer my last question! An Olympic shooter was given over Rs 3 crores on winning a gold medal. But another shooter dies fighting terrorists and enemy and his family barely gets compensation of few lakhs. Do we have conscience as a nation..!!

E-Paper Preview
Stock Watch
BSE Sensex
NSE Nifty
Cricket Scorecard
© 2009-2010 All Rights Reserved. The Northern Times Newspaper Developed By Ideogram Technology Solutions [P] Ltd.