THE LONG HAUL TO PEACE
India Today|July 26, 2021
The Valley has witnessed a definite ebb in terror and violence over the past few years but security forces are bracing for newer threats, evident from the use of drones by militants and the flow of narcotics from across the border
Raj Chengappa

It is a particularly tense and tough day for Lieutenant General D.P. Pandey, General-Officer-Commanding of the Indian Army’s Srinagar-based Chinar or 15 Corps that guards the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir, apart from carrying out counter-insurgency operations in the Valley along with the J&K police. On July 2, a combined party of the security forces had closed in on five terrorists in the Rajpora area of Pulwama district and, in the ensuing encounter, killed all of them, including a district commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). But a havildar of the army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles was also killed. There was grief in Pandey’s eyes as his aide sent him a slip about the death of one of his men.

Pandey is a veteran of counterinsurgency operations in J&K. Earlier, he commanded the Kilo Force of the Rashtriya Rifles that guards Kupwara, Baramulla and Srinagar. Notwithstanding the encounter that claimed one of his soldiers, Pandey says with quiet confidence: “Based on all security parameters, the current situation in the Valley is very good. Terrorist incidents, atrocities committed by terrorists, use of explosive devices, civilian fatalities, stone-pelting and other law and order issues are all significantly down.” Elaborating on how things have improved, he says: “The parameters of violence are 50-60 per cent down from five years ago. As for protests, stone-pelting is not even 10 per cent of what it was in the past. Recruitment [of militants] from the local cadre is also on a decline this year. I won’t say it has reduced to a great degree, but it has come down a lot.”

Not far from the 15 Corps headquarters where Pandey sits, Vijay Kumar, Inspector General of Police (IGP) for Kashmir division, is visiting the police’s central monitoring centre, oddly called ‘Cargo’ (because it was at one point used by Air India for that purpose). At the centre, Kumar is being given a demonstration of a high-tech surveillance vehicle fitted with the latest gizmos to monitor law and order from close quarters. In an adjoining room, rows of TV monitors track every sensitive street in Srinagar, with powerful cameras providing instant close-ups of any suspicious person around. Such is the coordination between the police and the army that around the same time that Pandey received news of one of his men’s death, Kumar was drafting a tweet for the media, lauding the bravery of the deceased army havildar and congratulating the combined forces for a successful operation.

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