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Social Media Misuse ‘Time bomb’ In Kashmir Valley: Army

Won’t Be Cowed Down By ‘Small Incidents’ Like ‘Fidayeen’: Lt Gen Anbu

Udhampur—Terming the misuse of social media a "time bomb" and a challenge for security agencies, a senior Army commander said on Wednesday that local Kashmiri youths were being engaged via the medium from across the border on a minute-to-minute basis.

General-Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Lt Gen D Anbu said that this in addition to the coming together of Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad militant groups is a matter of concern.

He said social media was playing a big role in the increase of “violence” in the state.

"The reach of the social media is so large and as such, it is a time bomb for everybody," the Army commander said.

He, however, expressed hope that the Army would be able to reverse the trend, but said everybody - including the civil society - has a role to play in curbing the violence.

"Hizbul Mujahideen, LeT and JeM are hand in glove with each other after coming together in the later part of last year," Lt Gen Anbu told reporters here.

"(But) It will be taken care of," the Army commander said.

His remarks came at a time when the security agencies, including the Army, have been battling increased attempts by militant groups to target them.

Last week, militants targeted an Army camp in Jammu and killed seven people, including six Army personnel. On Monday, two militantists tried to attack a CRPF camp in Srinagar. After a 32-hour gunbattle, the security forces killed the attackers.

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who visited Jammu on Monday following the attack on the Army camp, blamed Pakistan for the attack on Sunjuwan military camp and said it will pay for the "misadventure".

Lt Gen Anbu attributed the increase in violence to the euphoria generated after the death of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in a security operation in July 2016. Months-long unrest had followed his killing.

"The curve (of violence) will take a while to come down," he said.

Referring to the media reports that said the Army was unable to visit certain pockets in Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama in south Kashmir last year, the Army commander said the situation has changed for good over time, and not only the Army, even the political leadership and elected members are freely moving in the areas.

"We reached out to the people as well as the militants. When you carry out more operations, the tempo will be more so the contact with militantists leading to their elimination. Some people also get killed or injured in the bargain.

"You will not find any militant initiated action happening... We want the situation to come under control.

When you sustain the tempo for a longer period, it will come down. You cannot have a short-term solution and jump to any conclusion," he said.

On stone-pelting incidents to hamper counter-insurgency operations, Lt Gen Anbu said the mechanism to keep people away from encounter sites has paid well.

"The system worked... When the operation is a planned one the stone-pelting is being tackled by police and CRPF but when the operation is sudden the Army columns do come under stone pelting," he said.

On the trend of local youths joining militant groups, he said it is a cause of concern for all of us.

"When we are looking at militantism as a whole per se, we look at three things - we need to stop infiltration from across the border, in the hinterland, whosoever is already there we need to eliminate them. And the third, the capability to induce the locals which is being the latest trend for the last couple of years which we need to arrest.

"If we will address all the three, you will achieve success and if anyone of them is not really paying up then you are not going to succeed as one would like. Last year, we focused on the leadership of militantists and we were able to eliminate many of them," he said.

Suggesting action against overground workers, he said "not only militants, overground workers need to be equally targeted. These two factors, if we are able to address will slowly come down the level of violence. He said the local youth joining militancy are no threat to the Army as they are not well trained and do not have weapons either.

He said there is a need to reach out to people and make them understand the futility of militantism.

He said the Army is doing its bit and carrying out operations to tackle militantists and reaching out to people.

He refused to accept the contention that a security lapse led to last week's suicide attack on an army camp in Jammu and said it was a "frustrated" attempt by Pakistan after it failed to counter the army's dominance at the LoC.

He said that the army is continuing with its "pro-active" strategy in the aftermath of the 2016 militant attack in which 17 soldiers died when militantists stormed the brigade headquarters at Uri in North Kashmir.

The army commander of the strategically-important Northern Command, which looks after the borders from Ladakh to Jammu, maintained that the force would continue with its endeavour of ensuring zero infiltration.

"Infiltration does take place. We endeavour to ensure zero infiltration that is our job and we put our best effort," he said.

According to the officer, there was considerable reduction in infiltration, but the number of attempts almost doubled in 2007 compared to the previous year.

The general said militants were always present at the camps and launching pads across the border to be pushed into India.

"If we take south and north of Pir Panjal, 185 to 220 are always present in south and 195-220 continue to remain in north," Anbu said. South of Pir Panjal are the areas in Jammu and North is in Kashmir.

On the Sunjuwan strike in the state on Saturday, he said, "It is the frustrated enemy (Pakistan) which does involve itself in such activities when it is not able to face us on the borders."

"It is but natural that the enemy is on the receiving end and looks for the easier alternative.

While immediately behind the borders we have strengthened ourselves and we are very well prepared, it picked up soft targets," he said.

The officer said that you cannot have the same security like in borders at areas which are peaceful.

"I will not accept a single lapse on the border because it is supported to be protected. The Army spent almost Rs 364 crore on different things to build up the security of the soft elements on the LoC," the officer said.

"We got our acts together as far as surveillance, sentry duty and drills and other things are concerned besides the intelligence," he said.

He said the army would not be cowed down by "small incidents" like "fidayeen" (suicide) attacks or other things and would rather work according to the strategy adopted after the Uri attacks.

"We have adapted to it very well and in the whole year, we have dominated the adversary. It has been a pro-active action after the Uri incident and we have not looked back," Anbu said.

Militants on September 18, 2016, had stormed a battalion headquarters of the army in North Kashmir's Uri town in the early hours, killing 17 jawans and injuring 20 other personnel.

Anbu said Pakistan and its snooping agency ISI were directly involved in militantism not only in Jammu and Kashmir but also in neighbouring countries.

Anbu, who is the seniormost army officer in the command, said the army was prioritising security of small camps in vulnerable areas and those which need immediate attention.

"The government has also come up with certain funds and I am sure we will be able not only to have a physical fence but also technology to assist it," he said.

On the casualties suffered by Pakistan in the retaliatory action to ceasefire violations, the officer said, "You do not come to know what is the damage caused across the border because our adversary does not believe in accepting the casualties. We are in a very dominating position."

Though some media reports suggest that Pakistan suffered 192 fatal casualties along the LoC, the army is not going to put a figure because of the simple reason that Pakistan has only admitted to 13 casualties, he said.

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