For Lieutenant General K J S Dhillon, General Officer Commanding, 15 Corps, the current tenure in Jammu and Kashmir is his seventh stint since 1988. A Kashmir veteran, he took charge in the Valley on February 10 this year, just four days before the attack on a CRPF convoy that killed 40 in Pulwama. In an interview to The Indian Express, he says that there has been no cross-Line of Control infiltration as is being rumoured in Gulmarg. “I sleep well in the night,” Lt Gen Dhillon says, when asked what worries him when he goes to bed.
It has been a month since the Centre decided to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories. What is your assessment as we speak today?
Post-August 5, what is news for us? It is peace and no loss of life, which is what Kashmir needs. There has been wonderful synergy between all segments of administration – security and civilian. The atrocities have been only from terrorists and stone-pelters. Maintenance of normalcy has been the objective all along.
How has this coordination worked? What was the mechanism to tackle day-to-day issues in the Valley?
We hold meetings once in two days, and these last for about two to two-and-a-half hours. Initially, these meetings were chaired by the NSA. Nowadays, these meetings are chaired by Advisor to the Governor. Top officials from the police, paramilitary forces, the Army, and the civilian establishment take part in the meetings and discuss situations in complete detail. Everyone is free to give their views. The meeting would discuss the decisions to be taken over the next 48 hours. Decisions are taken unanimously with very stakeholder included. This way, synergy is maintained.
What about responses to situations which demand sudden and immediate attention?
We do contact each other whenever there is a need.
Many talk about unease below the surface. The calm in the Valley masks the tension and unease. There are instances where you have concerns. For instance, cross-LoC infiltration may lead to increase in the number of terrorists in the hinterland. This can lead to disruption of life of common citizens, and also cause loss to public and private property.
We have looked at the LoC very closely. It is well-covered and taken care of. In the hinterland, there were concerns that the situation can get volatile. These were well visualized and well-coordinated too amongst all stakeholders including civil administration.
Give us an example of some decisions taken by the collective leadership that would have helped local Kashmiris.
There has been considerable focus that we should take decisions that touch people’s lives. The collective leadership gets complete feedback by consolidating aspirations of people. It was brought to our notice that the apple crop is ready, and there was fear if the farmers would lose income because of the situation. Accordingly, the government decided that NAFED and the horticulture department would pick up the apple crop of farmers here itself. The details of this initiative are in public domain.
In spite of rumours that terrorists would obstruct movement of apples, scores of trucks loaded with apples are moved every day. This is done under umbrella security provided by the forces – our dominating presence, regular patrolling and search operations jointly with other forces. And our very presence has ensured that the route, including National Highways, are well covered. An overall feeling of security exists now.
What are the directions that you have received from Army headquarters on handling the situation post August 5?
There are two aspects to this. One relates to conventional operations and LoC-counter infiltration. How to deal with this situation. The other relates to a charter on how to work with security forces and civilian administration to maintain peace and order. Here, the main pillars for the Army are good faith and minimum force. We stick to these two pillars.
Of late, there has been increased rumours of infiltration from Gulmarg.
This rumour has been there since two Pakistan terrorists were caught in the Gulmarg sector. I can confirm with all the authority on my command that all this is not true. Many journalists have already been to Gulmarg to assess the situation first hand. In my last media briefing, I said there have been 350 operations in Gulmarg near the Line of Control and the hinterland. Yes, there has been infiltration attempts. The launchpads in PoK have been full — tanzeems including LeT, JeM, Hizbul and Al Badr, frequently come to Pakistani posts. Every day, there is firing. Attempts of infiltration are also made in Poonch, Rajouri and Jammu sectors.