A dangerous trend has emerged in the Kashmir valley where youth carrying Islamic State flags and stones flock to shootout sites during gun fights to help militants flee.
Despite General Bipin Rawat’s warning that Kashmir stone-pelters interfering during anti-militancy operations will be treated as “overground workers of terrorists” and can be fired on, hundreds of people attacked the forces with stones on February 18 in Urivan village of south Kashmir in Pulwama district.
Indian Army is facing the challenge of terrorists seeking refuge in populated areas and getting a section of the local population to disrupt operations by stone-throwing.
Though earlier it was easier for Army to cordon off areas and neutralise them, the new form of warfare offers terrorists a better chance to escape. It is difficult for the Army to engage terrorists as they seek cover in villages and towns. Soldiers fire cautiously to avoid civilian casualties. In fact, terrorists are using civilians as human shields.
However, the Indian Army is changing its tactics to tackle stone pelters in Jammu and Kashmir.
During the Handwara encounter, during which four security personnel were martyred during the encounter, the Army faced this recurring problem. In a high-level meeting, a four-step procedure has been circulated to Army, central paramilitary forces like the CRPF, the J&K government and police.
1. A joint control room, located within an armoured vehicle, will be set up at an encounter site. It will ensure greater coordination among security groups involved in the operation.
2. Deputy commissioners have been asked to impose prohibitory orders to prevent the assembly of people at the site.
3. Police will identify persons acting as collaborators.
4. Then Police will also list stone-throwers and initiate legal action against them.
A security official said the stone pelters are now breaking the security cordon and try to engage security personnel in a gunbattle. The distraction gives terrorists a chance to attack and flee.