Fighting shadows

In the early morning of 26th September 2013 militants attacked the Hiranagar police station and 16th cavalry army unit at Samba resulting in loss of lives. The attack on that fateful day is still a mystery. The incident left a lot of missing links and questions to be answered. The Indian army claimed that the militants involved crossed the LoC (line of control) during the intervening night. Questions like why the military lacked preparedness and how it was possible for the militants to have an easy passage through the sensitive border (LoC) where military presence is quite high throw doubts on the claims. Still it seem hard to believable that the militants travelled all the way to Samba undetected and attacked the army unit; entered the camp without much resistance.

The whole incident had put the Army in a disappointing position and they retaliated with a statement at Srinagar miles away from the site where the incidents occurred. Lt Gen Gurmeet Singh stated that Army thwarted a major infiltration bid at Keran area of Kupwara. Army claimed that 30-40 militants tried to infiltrate through LoC and 10-12 were shot dead by the army with bodies lying on ‘Indian side of Kashmir’. The claims went further and realized that rest of the militants were cordoned by the Indian army to be gunned down. The operation lasted for two weeks.

Large deployment of Indian army was engaged in the operation for 15 days before they called it off. This little but historic operation left lot of blank spaces in the claims and the actual ground report. Like always, national media turned it into hype with jingoistic claims. Analyst on TV channels declared it as mini Kargil war.

Strangely, Indian army also claimed killing a dreaded militant in Lastak forests of Machil, the operation that took place on September 23. The body was handed over to local police. The credentials of the militant killed raised serious doubts as the body of militant turns out to be of a 70 year old man (as per reports), and visibly shot dead from a point blank range.

Till date we have no heard of any militant 70 years old to have crossed over the tough barricade of LoC and the region that is always under vigil. It is unlikely that the physical strength of such an old man could support the carriage of such huge ammunition that was reported to be recovered from the militant. With so much to doubt and so little to believe, people think of it as another fake encounter, which is nothing new in Kashmir. No one can forget the Pathribal, Machil, Bumai, Kupwara fake encounters orchestrated to justify the presence of Indian army in Kashmir.

Such incidents provide an explanation as how AFSPA, the dreaded piece of legislation that gives security forces in Kashmir special powers Kashmir, continues to remain unrevoked.  The encounter of 70-year-old man provided the quizzical show that national media cherishes most.

About the claims made of infiltration bid, destabilising the government, etc., there has been no evidence to support the theories. After weeks of operation not a single body of any militant was recovered. A national daily reported: “After the initial sighting on September 23, there was never any concrete evidence that dozens of militants were holed up. Also, there was no recorded ceasefire violation in the area by the Pakistani army.”

Reports point out that while militants tried to infiltrate on 23 September, they must have withdrawn immediately after a fire fight with Indian forces. It is believed during the initial face off resulting in injuries to army men, militants escaped from the place. Further the claims by Indian army hold no ground that militants retrieved the corpses. Logically, it is impossible as the army claimed the corpses fell on in Indian side of Kashmir and how could the militants take them despite the heavy deployment of army. The militants were believed to be cordoned by the Indian army. After 15 days, it needs a lot of ammunition and food reserves to be able to break through the tight grip.

Again, the claim that militants were provided from across the border seems weak to be true as they were reported to be cordoned on all sides. Militants killed in Fateh Gali and Gujjardoor, which are very far from the site of operation had little or no relevance regarding the situation at Keran. There are many doubts that need to be cleared. Who was Indian army fighting with for 15 days?