Srinagar: After years of relative lull, there has been a steady increase in the militant related incidents in areas south of Pir Panjal Range, which includes key border districts like Poonch and Rajouri, security officials say.
The militant activity has increased in the past few months with an outcome of higher recovery of significant amounts of arms, ammunition and narcotics by the police and armed forces. In the region, which is surrounded by the Line of Control (LoC) on three sides, the government forces, including the police, army and the paramilitary, carried out a cordon and search operation on January 23, following which they recovered an AK assault rifle with three magazines, three Chinese pistols and magazines, four hand grenades, one UBGL grenade and over 100 bullets.
The recovery, according to an official posted in the area, was made in the forest area of Doba Mohalla, close to Mandi town in Poonch. In the area, the armed forces have also recovered several consignments of narcotics like Heroine, including a recent 330 gm haul in Balakote’s Dabbi village.
According to a police official, the searches in the said areas is continuing as they have recovered arms and ammunition from the village. The police are also investigating a “terror angle of this drugs recovery” as the area falls near the LoC indicating, according to the official, “trans-border smuggling.”
The Jammu and Kashmir Police and the army recovered two pistols, seventy pistol rounds and two grenades in the Dabbi village days after three militant associates were arrested on December 28, 2020.
The arrests and recoveries, according to an army official, are not limited to Poonch-Mendhar-Rajouri areas. “These are not isolated incidents, there is clearly an emerging pattern and it’s not only because the north Kashmir route is inaccessible due to snow,” the army official told NewsClick on condition of anonymity.
The recent incidents in areas of Krishna Ghati and Bhimber Galli, both in the south of Pir Panjal Range, along with Samba and Kathua – both areas located near the International Border (IB) – also suggest a sharp increase in activities related to militancy.
The security forces have detected four infiltration tunnels – some of which run over 300 metres deep – along the Jammu border in the past six months. Recently, at Hiranagar sector of Kathua district, the officials detected a tunnel and within a week, another tunnel was detected by Border Security Force (BSF) on the IB. The tunnels, the officials say, are not the first ones to have been discovered as the forces have discovered back in 2012 a 400-metre-long tunnel with oxygen supply, which was used to transfer armed insurgents, logistics as well as narcotics. The concern is the rapidity with which the tunnels are being used now along the 200 km long border-area. Besides, the use of drones has compounded these concerns.
On January 18, the Ramban police claimed to have arrested two Valley-based militant operatives from whom they recovered a cache of arms and ammunition. Both were residents of Semthan village of Bijbehara in Anantnag and are believed to have travelled from Kashmir Valley to the IB near Vijaypur area in Samba. The youth, a security official said, received the arms consignment dropped with the help of drones somewhere along the border.
“The areas along the south of Pir Panjal range are becoming hot with renewed insurgency network. The borders are porous and vulnerable and the situation is not favourable, so we are witnessing a rise,” the security official said.
This also comes at a time when there has been an overwhelming increase in the cross-LoC ceasefire violations between India and Pakistan especially after the revocation of the ‘special status’ of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on August 5, 2019. Over 5,100 incidents of ceasefire violations, highest in over a decade, have been reported last year alone as compared to over 3,200 incidents in 2019.
The 740-km long LoC in the 3,300 km long India-Pakistan border is guarded by the Indian Army while the IB is guarded by the Border Security Force (BSF). In January alone, three army personnel have been killed in the ceasefire violations along the LoC.
NewsClick has reached out to IGP Jammu for a comment but has not received a response yet.