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 terrorist 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 at Udhampur.
“(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 terrorist groups to target them. Last week, terrorists targeted an Army camp in Jammu and killed seven people, including six Army personnel. On Monday, two terrorists 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 terror 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 terrorists leading to their elimination. Some people also get killed or injured in the bargain. “You will not find any terrorist 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 terrorism 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 terrorists and we were able to eliminate many of them,” he said. Suggesting action against overground workers, he said “not only terrorists, 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 terrorism. He said the Army is doing its bit and carrying out operations to tackle terrorists and reaching out to people.