Conflict

The deadliest attack that created new faultlines 

After facing the deadliest attack on its forces since the start of insurgency in Kashmir, New Delhi is now mulling a “befitting reply”. Amid the fast created fissures and belligerence, Pulwama attack has created a new challenge for the security grid in Kashmir.

With belligerent guards popping up with the deadliest Pulwama attack, leaving 49 Indian paramilitary personnel dead on Srinagar-Jammu highway, the “twin paradox” has now emerged and become a telling remark on the otherwise vigilant intelligence-security grid of Kashmir.

First: How did explosives in a massive amount reach Kashmir amid the heightened vigil?

Second: Why weren’t the intelligence dispatches sent by local sleuths of a possible Fidayeen attack in Kashmir taken seriously?

Last time, says a CID official, when the alert was ignored, “we had a Fidayeen attack at the same Lethpora area.”

The clandestine cop was making a reference to the December 31, 2017 attack when Fardeen Khandey and Manzoor Baba, the two Kashmiri fidayeen stormed the highly-barricaded paramilitary Commando Training Centre (CTC), at Lethpora Pulwama, along with their Pakistani associate.

That attack left five CRPF personnel dead.

“In both these attacks,” the cop says, “there was a clear intel about the fidayeen attack. Alas. None was taken seriously.” Governor Satya Pal Malik is now acting fireman amid the sabre-rattling response over the attack, saying, there was a “security lapse”.

Last time, too, teen fidayeen from Tral had shot a video before the attack, with the same content: “By the time you will watch it, I would be in paradise.” It was a first such video, shot by any fidayeen in Kashmir’s 30-year-long insurgency. Even the fidayeen phase of Kashmir insurgency—1999-2002—had never seen such things.

The immediate scene of the Pulwama attack.

Almost a year after Fardeen’s video, Aadil would follow suit, repeating the same method and message. Soon he drove his “350-kg explosive” laden Scorpio to Lethpora and rammed it into the paramilitary convoy. The impact was so intense that 20 km away in Srinagar, residents shook with its impact.

A Lethpora shopkeeper clearing the shards of glasses of his shop soon after the explosion rose to capture, what many called “Dantewada in Kashmir”.

But more than the Maoist-style “ambush trap”, what was more devastating was the scene of suicide bombing, catching the multi-tier security gird off guard. Now to investigate the rattling strike, a team of National Investigation Agency, the NIA has been flown to assist the state police.

But Aadil’s uncle, who sells chickens for living in the nondescript Kakpora’s GandiBagh village, is still wondering over the call that he received from a police officer, on heels of the resounding attack.

The caller made it short, informing him that his nephew has just blown himself up on highway.

“I thought it is a regular summon,” Abdul Rashid Dar, Aadil’s uncle says, “before I headed to the spot littered with human flesh and vitals.” Blown to smithereens, his nephew was not even found.

“We never knew his silence will take such a stormy form one day,” wonders his friend.

Among other things, the fresh-faced fidayeen sitting in the foreground of Jaish-e-Mohammad’s flag, terms his outfit’s move “just a beginning” in the video.

Aadil Ahmed Dar.

And this is what is now worrying the security grid, which was looking forward to conduct the polls after “preparing the ground for it”.

Before leaving home on March 19, 2018, along with his cousin, Aadil wore a quintessential image of a simple village boy who had faced two incidents, which his family says “changed something in him”.

“He was shot in his leg during 2016 uprising,” says his uncle. “On other occasion, he came home, sulking, telling us that he was forced to rub his nose by some cops.”

Even then, this class 12 dropout mason defied the sense of harbouring a mindset of a militant. But last year, when he went missing, he soon fared with his new identity—Commando Waqas of Jaish-e-Mohammad—on social media.

“I was waiting for this day from last one year,” Aadil says in his pre-recorded video. “And there are thousands like me,” he warned.

This is where the local intelligence officers are anticipating ‘changed insurgent methods’ in Kashmir. “Problem is, once something become fashionable, it creates its own following in Kashmir,” says a senior intelligence officer, who had his stints in south Kashmir earlier.

But right now, these stark concerns aren’t getting noticed in the larger media attention. With New Delhi blazing all guns—warning “befitting reply”, the mood stays belligerent.

Government sources in New Delhi even talk about the immediate change in internal state policy and a “free hand” to armed forces is perhaps the first sign of it.

Driven by “isolate Pakistan” slogan, Modi government has clearly assumed a martial stance on the Pulwama attack. While such an approach is likely to plunge the region into further chaos, many hope that better sense prevails and New Delhi starts talking over Kashmir to end the bloodshed.

 

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