Heed messaging by terrorists targeting Jammu, engage locals

Foreign terrorists have infiltrated through Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch in the past.
For representational purpose only
For representational purpose onlyFile photo

Terror has resurged in Jammu & Kashmir, albeit with a difference. On June 9, terrorists fired upon a bus in Reasi, resulting in the death of at least nine people and injuries to 33. Soon after, terrorists also struck in Kathua and Doda districts, leaving seven security personnel and others injured. The timing of the first attack was unmistakable—right when Narendra Modi was taking oath as prime minister for a third consecutive term. And so was the messaging—challenging the narrative of normalcy in the Union territory.

The Reasi attack was the first of its kind on pilgrims, as was the area. Jammu has not been a hot-bed of terror activities. The push from the other side of the LoC is seemingly to turn it into one. The attacks in Kathua and Doda confirm the ploy and planning.

Foreign terrorists have infiltrated through Kathua, Rajouri and Poonch in the past. They would often use these areas as transits to get to Kashmir, but terror incidents in Jammu were minimal. The old infiltration routes are being used again, this time for direct attacks. These are freshly-arrived terrorists.

Their focus seems to have shifted from the Kashmir valley to Jammu, where the forces are relatively thinly spread. Attacks in Jammu rattle the sense of security in this Hindu-dominated region where the BJP has won both the Lok Sabha seats. With impending assembly elections in the Union territory, the objective is to disturb the populace and challenge the normalcy that has returned after the abrogation of Article 370.

There is no appetite for an uprising in J&K post August 2019. But it is important to heed the terrorists’ messaging and act timely and aptly. Prime Minister Modi, while reviewing security in the region, emphasised deployment of the “full spectrum” of anti-terror capabilities.

The government needs to take a focused approach and neutralise these terrorists on the Indian side, identify their local support, sort out the shortfalls, gain the confidence of locals, and win them over. A common command among the multiple security forces in J&K can be worked out for smooth counter-terrorism operations and greater accountability. If Pakistan pushes the envelope, the ceasefire can go up in flames. And villagers on either side will bear the brunt.

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