By Colonel Awadhesh Kumar, Special Forces
Srinagar is the Capital of J&K state but the Centre of Gravity of the Kashmir Valley is located in South Kashmir which comprises just 7% of the area of Kashmir Valley but holds 23 % of the population. In fact a vast tract of South Kashmir is heavily forested and mountainous. Therefore it implies that the size of populated area is much less than 7% of the total land area, which means that all the towns and villages have very heavy concentration of population .
Apart from the heavy population, Shopian town is the nerve centre of the entire fruit business of Kashmir Valley, implying its own dynamics on Economic, Social and Political issues of the region. Equally important is Pampore the Saffron hub. A new factor which has been added to the existing National Highway No 1 coming from Udhampur is the Railways which originates near Quzigund area, just down the Banihal tunnel……i.e. the pathway to both Kashmir valley and Ladhak passes through South Kashmir. Then comes the summer rush of tourists to Pahalgam and Lidder Valley with yet another major factor in the shape of the annual Amarnath Yatra.
Politically too, South Kashmir is equally important. All the top bosses of PDP, Congress and most of the other smaller parties belong to South Kashmir. Though the Abdullahs of National Conference belong to Ganderbal, other NC leaders are from South only. Surprisingly top leadership of the indigenous Terrorist and Separatists groups like HM, Jaamat e Islam and others too belong to this area only. To name a few, Shabir Ahmad Shah is from Kadipora and Burhan wani was from Tral.
Interestingly the top controller of all the Pakistan Sponsored Terrorists operating in Kashmir Valley has the designation of Deputy Chief Supreme Commander South Kashmir. Even from the Indian Army side, the mainstay of Anti terrorist and anti insurgency, the Rashtriya Rifles have one HQ bang in the area …..Victor Force in Awantipore and the other one just bordering it ……Kilo Force.
So it is very evident that to take control of Kashmir Valley, one must take control of South Kashmir or the other way round, whoever controls South Kashmir will always be able to control rest of Kashmir. Therefore every one from Pakistan to Terrorists, Separatists, Political Parties, NGOs…..State Police, State Govt, Central Security Forces, Indian Army and the Central Govt all perforce have to concentrate on South Kashmir.
Recent days have seen a number of attacks and killings in North Kashmir. This shows the desperation of both the terrorist groups and the Separatist groups to do something to drive deep fear into the hapless civil population of Kashmir. This is likely to sharpen the focus of chair borne counterinsurgency tacticians sitting in AC offices and homes, News and TV media Editors, Human Rights activists, NGOs and politicians of various varieties on to this area.
That is only natural as vultures always head for the carrion and Pakis will definitely like it this way. Then without batting an eye lid the overall verdict will be that Govts entire focus must shift on to North Kashmir as soon as possible.
However, it would be a grave mistake to sharpen focus so intensely on Northern part of the of the Valley as to ignore South Kashmir.
According to the local population and own civil and military intelligence, scores of foreign militants are now hiding in north Kashmir area of Sonawari-Safapora belt and have even indulged in some violence in recent weeks. An even larger number could be hiding in the forested hills that stretch from Handwara to Baramulla, not far from the Line of Control but this is pure conjecture.
Most of these suspected terrorists are said to be foreign militants who have infiltrated not now but over the past years through routes across the Shamsabari range and right across the Kupwara district. This summer they have again begun trying infiltration in large numbers but have been generally hunted down right on the LC fence. Though it is possible that a few may be getting through.
Similarly, the forests around the Bandipora region are likely to be home to a few more foreign militants. There are also reports that infiltrations have taken place from the Dras area and into the Valley through Gurez. Then another centre is Sopore. which has been the epicentre of insurgency for decades. In early 90’s Militants roamed freely and even army convoys took detours to avoid the town.
The concentration of attacks and encounters in North Kashmir is designed to give the terrorists in the South a chance to take firm roots again and prepare for future action. The foreign infiltrators are far better trained than the kashmiri terrorists who are generally trained locally. The arms that these foreigners bring with them too are more sophisticated and lethal. Most of the local terrorists have armed themselves with rifles left over from the past and what they have been able to snatch from state police or Central Police personnel after an ambush.
The ISI is also leaving no stone unturned. The social media and the local whispering campaign is again spreading misinformation in the Valley by spreading rumours of a further increase in violence after Eid. This is to just boost up the morale of the Separatists, who after the NIA raids know that their game is over.
Last year too, there was similar talk during the month of Ramzaan about heightened unrest after Eid and indeed ended with hunting down of that killer terrorist Burhan Wani.
All this should be welcomed by the Indian Army because finally all the terrorists have to enter South Kashmir and as has been happening since raising of Victor Force, they will be promptly despatched to hell.