Author: Saadut
•7:32 PM

On 23rd September, 2013, army claimed to have killed a ‘dreaded militant’ while ‘infiltrating’ across the LoC (Line of Control) in the Lastak forests of Machil sector in Kupwara district. Indian army had further claimed to have recovered from his possession “an AK rifle, 12 pistols and huge cache of ammunition” after “killing him in a fierce gunfight.” (Rising Kashmir, 27th September, 2013)

As the body was handed over by Army to local police, it was found that the killed was an old man of 70 years. At his age and physical strength the claims of army about recoveries made from him raised serious doubts of authenticity. It was impossible for a frail old man to be able to carry such loads of ammunition and trek over the hazardous, tough LoC terrain to infiltrate. Militants have always been known to be young men, pushing over the treacherous LoC journey that often results in firefights.  The old man had been had been visibly shot dead from point blank range, and this fact too belied the claims of Indian army about a “fierce fight where the infiltrator was killed.” But such claims have been made too often in Kashmir, which later got deflated, notwithstanding denials by New Delhi. We remember how in July 2010, Indian army officials (eight army men including a Colonel and two Majors were accused) had led three unarmed local Kashmiri boys to Machil, by offering jobs and petty money, and then killed them in a fake encounter claiming them to be “dreaded militants trying to cross LoC.” All this was done to earn monetary rewards and career benefits that India has been offering its forces in Kashmir. In yet another incident in April 2010, Indian Army had been accused of killing an old local beggar (again 70 years old) at Devar Vilgam in Kupwara district and labeling him as a “dreaded militant”. In the infamous Pathribal fake encounter case, personnel of Indian 7 Rashtriya Rifles had claimed to have killed five “dreaded terrorists” at Pathribal village in District Anantnag on 25th March, 2000. They also had claimed recovery of huge quantities of arms and ammunition from the five killed. After massive protests by locals forced an investigation, it came to light that all five were innocent civilians, who had been abducted by security forces and later killed in a fake encounter at Pathribal. Indian media here also had initially presented this incident as another achievement by the armed forces against “terror”, overlooking the facts behind the fake encounter.

The26th September (2013) attack on the Indian Army's 16th Cavalry tank unit at Samba has also raised too many unanswered questions. It was claimed that the three attacking militants had crossed border in Jammu region within 12 to 14 hours, prior to the attack. With the border between Indian held Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan sealed by multiple layers of security including electrified fencing, modern thermal imaging devices, manned heavily by Indian Border Security Force and supported by floodlighting across this border line, how could any infiltration have even passed unnoticed? And even after these armed men had attacked and killed at the Hiranagar police station, how could they have travelled all the way towards Samba, undetected, attacking the army unit without much initial resistance there. How was it even possible to have such a lowered guard at the army camp, or smooth passage for the attackers even after an alert had been sounded post the Hiranagar attack? I am not suggesting that it could be an inside ops, but was the (unlikely) lowering of guard at Hiranagar border, the lack of reaction after the Hiranagar attack and the low perimeter defence at the Samba army unit a coincidental laxity or more than that?

Few days before the Samba attack happened, Indian army had claimed a massive infiltration bid taking place at Shalbato Jamagund in Keran, Kupwara district on the intervening night of 23rd September. The two incidents may not have been linked, but both have raised questions about the participants of Kashmir conflict. Initially the Army claimed that 30 – 40 militants were involved and that more than 10 of them had been killed. But in later days these statements kept fluctuating. Not only did the Indian army project it as a major infiltration bid aimed at “destabilizing Kashmir”, the Indian media also played its act by adding jingoistic hype to these claims thus deliberately deflating any peace overturns between Indian and Pakistan over Kashmir. This LoC ‘operation’ was however suddenly called off by the Indian army, after 15 days of “fierce encounter claims” and war posturing, but many questions were again left unanswered about the Keran episode. While the Indian army had earlier claimed that they had “cordoned off the militants”, they could not explain how these militants could have sustained a fight for 15 long days, with no possibility of ammunition refilling and food supplies if they had been really cordoned. They surely would have needed war like ammunition stores to sustain a 24 hour fight for 15 days against huge columns of Indian army (in addition to other units, two brigades the 268th and the 68th Mountain Brigades were involved in this operation). Where did such ammunition exist on the ‘cordoned LoC’, which would fight such a mammoth army machine?

Even while the Indian army claimed that they had killed 10 to 15 militants, not a single corpse was retrieved or presented as proof of these killings. The images of militant corpses flashed across Indian media while ‘crossing the LoC’ were actually from Fateh Gali and Gujjardar areas, which are far from the Shalbato Jamagund area, hence these encounters cannot be connected. There were other reports in the Indian media, attributed to the army, that militants had succeeded in retrieving bodies of killed militants across the LoC. But given that it would take two or more men to retrieve a corpse from LoC, how would it be possible for dozens of men to drag corpses across LoC when thousands of Indian army guns (especially special forces snipers) were being fired at this spot? And how could the corpses have even been retrieved across LoC given the initial claim of a cordon by Indian army?  

Indian media claimed that the army had recovered medicines, ID cards and uniforms from militants, proudly displaying them as proof of these incursion and ‘encounter’ events. But when have you heard of dying militants leaving behind ID cards and uniforms while their corpses vanish in thin air? And since when did militants need to carry ID cards while infiltrating into Kashmir? Do they show ID cards at the LoC to be let in? Indian Army also claimed to have killed militants in hostile, inaccessible territory at Keran after a “fierce encounter lasting days”. How did they get access to militant ID cards and uniforms sans corpses during a continued ‘fierce encounter’? Do militants even wear any uniforms in the first place?

As Indian Express reported (on Wednesday, 9th September 2013) “After the initial sighting on September 23, there was never any concrete evidence that dozens of militants were holed up. Also, there was no recorded ceasefire violation in the area by the Pakistani army.” Reports point out that while militants tried to infiltrate on 23rd September, they must have withdrawn immediately after a firefight with Indian forces. So what was the Indian army imagining and firing at near LoC for 15 days, ghosts of Keran?

While there might have been incursion attempts on 23rd September, but the enactment that followed in the coming days seemed anything but the truth.  Given the fact Kashmir has become a big conflict enterprise for too many players, each incident and its inflated presentment is aimed at whipping a mass mindset (call it hysteria) in India and worldwide. And such conflict canvas is only drawn to keep the military conflict in Kashmir raging for bigger political and war machine interests.  A peek into this conflict enterprise was given in “The Meadow” by Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark. Sadly in this conflict enterprise, Kashmiris have been relegated to the firewood used to burn for bigger political interests. Now for many days these bloody political interests will be pimped shamelessly on TV channel debates, where the Ghosts of Keran will be resurrected every evening by jingoistic anchors and worn masks of terror by half baked self assuming experts, to whip Kashmir hysteria in the prelude to 2014.