09-24-2023     3 رجب 1440

Kashmir relative stable, witnessing normalcy after long time: GoC Lt Gen D P Pandey

'Biggest gain of improved law and order situation post-Aug 2019 is ZERO civilian casualties in stone pelting and NO mob violence'

February 23, 2022 | Ashok Dixit

Maintaining peace is the prime goal of all security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and especially in sensitive areas of the Kashmir Valley.
The Indian Army in coordination with paramilitary forces, intelligence agencies and the police has achieved a measure of success in curbing terrorism and militant-related activity on the one hand, and performing a softer activity of engaging with the local citizenry through various initiatives such as organising Sadbhavna tours, sports, education and cultural programmes for the youth, on the other.
To get a better understanding of the army and other security agencies role in the Union Territory, Brighter Kashmir (BK) spoke with Lt Gen. D.P. Pandey, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar- based Chinar Corps. He talked at length about militancy, hybrid terrorism, peace in Kashmir, army-civilian connectivity, etc.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

BK: What is the main challenge which security forces are facing with regard to hybrid terrorists in Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: ‘Hybrid terrorist’ is the new format adopted by ‘White Collar Terrorists’ and their Pakistan affiliates. They are usually local youth living normal lives and their families and friends not being aware of their conversion to extremism. They can be anyone, from your neighbour to a local shop owner or even a street hawker. They are given smuggled pistols to carry or hide in their homes for a specific terror act in the future.

BK: What is their agenda?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The agenda of this nexus is simply to instil fear and create an environment that polarises civilian society and sustains the cycle of violence. This inconvenience caused to the normal population by resultant security checks apart, we see an expression of selective outrage over some incidents which are bloated out of proportion to create a law and order situation.

BK: How do these hybrid terrorists identify targets for attack?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The targets are identified after careful reconnaissance and the hit is meticulously planned and usually done by one or two terrorists. They could include a spotter who could be an OGW and a hybrid terrorist not on the police list, but with a pistol and intent to kill. In recent times, we’ve seen a shift to softer targets like security force personnel on leave, low-level political workers and social activists with no security cover. The modus operandi has changed and is akin to criminal-like activity, using pistols and carrying out assassination-type killings. After completion of their task, they return to their normal routine, making it more difficult for security forces to identify them. Therefore, it’s imperative that security forces, the local administration and citizens work more closely and tighten their noose around a handful of these terrorists. Civil society also needs to be vigilant about this modus operandi.

BK: What according to you continues to remain a looming threat with Pakistan proxies at work?

Lt Gen. Pandey: Proxies are the easiest and safest way for Pakistan to adopt a terror strategy to disturb law and order in the Valley. These proxies work with misguided local Kashmiri youth, use basic weapons such as pistols, conduct off and online training sessions under the guidance of a local commander to prepare them for attacks. Big terror hubs do not have to send terrorists or take the risk of infiltration, nor do they require the supply of heavy weaponry or intense training.

BK: Who is behind, or who supports this network of proxies?

Lt Gen. Pandey: There are no local extremist groups in J & K. All groups continue to be funded, armed and controlled from Pakistan or their proxies. Proxies like the LeT use The Resistance Front (TRF), United Liberation Front (ULF), Kashmir Tigers. The JeM uses People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), Lashkar-e-Mustafa etc. Multiple new names keep cropping up. Just give a small pistol which these ‘Hybrid Terrorists’ can hide in their clothing, give online training and use their local knowledge and network to execute an attack.

BK: Would you agree with the view that a degree of normalcy has returned to Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The Kashmir Valley has witnessed relative stability and normalcy after a long time. Despite the pandemic, the year 2021 has been a good year for the Valley and the only people unhappy with the changed environment are Pakistan affiliates. Since the abrogation of Article 370 (in October 2019), there has been a drastic decline in infiltration, stone pelting incidents and shutdowns. The terrorists, however, are looking at different ways to disrupt peace.

BK: What measures are you taking to harmonise relations between the army and civilians?

Lt Gen. Pandey: There is no disconnect between the security forces and the citizens, though there is always more to do. The Indian Army has a long tradition of going the extra mile to maintain a connect with citizens. It is this spirit of the Indian Army that it continuously works to carry out CT ops with self-imposed restraint, ‘minimum use force’, even in life threatening situations, to avoid collateral damage.
In addition, activities under Sadbhavna are designed for the ‘Citizen-Army Connect’. Our focus remains on empowering the youth and women from all sections of Kashmiri society. And, I can say with a sense of achievement, that it has contributed a lot in improving the lives of people of Kashmir.

BK: Can these achievements be listed to get a better sense of this harmonisation?

Lt Gen. Pandey: Approximately 10,000 plus students are getting quality education in 28 AGSs/AGPS and more than 600 teachers and staff are employed in these schools. Our boys and girls from AGS have won national/international medals in sports and made the state and the country proud. In addition to that, we have successfully established 50 youth centres and women empowerment centres promoting skill development at various levels. Many centres are accredited with Nation Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). We also have special programmes like Super-50 (Engineering) and Super-30 (Medical), which have given good results, empowering the youth of the valley in competing with bright students across the country to gain admission in the entrance exams of IITs and NEET. This year we have included 20 vacancies for girls in Super 50 for medical preparations addressing a gender gap.
There is overall increasing participation of citizens in cultural (Junoon-e-Hunar & Wular Festival), sports (Women Cricket Premier League, Kashmiri Girls’ Hockey Tournament and KPL) and other empowerment activities are heartening as they spread positivity in the lives of citizens affected by fear of violence and disruption of normal life. Soldiers and citizens rubbing shoulders in cultural and sports events drastically improves soldier – citizen connect.

BK: How was the experience when you travelled personally as Corps Commander on the streets of a volatile district like Shopian?

Lt Gen. Pandey: I have been meeting, citizens at various places to get a ground feel. The stopover at Shopian was one such and it was for a festive occasion. I was accompanied by GOC Victor Force and decided to wish and interact with the locals. We shared sweets amongst local shopkeepers and villagers. The villagers, old and young alike as always very welcoming and many of them took selfies with both of us. We had chats with men, women and kids of the village and it was indeed a pleasure to experience the warmth of the locals. I have always relished interactions with citizens in an informal environment. That gives the best ground feedback.

BK: What is your assessment about the ceasefire status and is it going to work in spite of Pakistan actively pushing ultras into Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: This truce deal is desirable for both nations and the main beneficiaries are the people on the Line of Control. The attempts to foment violence in J & K are the primary reason for a volatile Line of Control. The onus is on Pakistan to stop abetting terrorism in J & K. That done, peace on the Line of Control will sustain.
That is not to say that the threat of infiltration has subsided. In the last few months of 2021, we have seen an upshift in terrorist activity in the PoK and their support in infiltration bids. Some of these we have foiled at the LoC itself. It shows that Pakistan’s intent is a question. On our part we are committed to the LoC ceasefire and will maintain it in letter and spirit.

BK: Do you see an end to the current stalemate in Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The situation compared to the past is largely peaceful. The security measures are in place and the civil administration is in full control. The complete synergy amongst the security forces with support from the local administration and citizens has played a vital role in eliminating top terrorists and in the rebuilding of Kashmir.
Our key approach to break the cycle of violence is that while the visible end of terrorism is a terrorist; that is being catered for and we have already talked about it. However terrorism is sustained by a different network of Over Ground Network and this includes people who provide logistics, people who do recruitment and their handlers and there are also the people who instigate them in the form of ideologues in terms of disruptive diaspora and vulture journalists and anti-Indian intellectuals who feed victimhood so that more youth can keep joining terrorism.
The main effort is to target the OGW and the white collar terrorist network. The second effort is at positive youth engagement, which includes providing platforms for intellectual debate with Kashmiri youth for a progressive future.
Another effort is to counter the mechanics that leads to alienation and radicalisation through creative engagement of the society. We have to address all three levels to effectively break the cycle of violence.

BK: How do you perceive the role of local media in mitigating conflict situations?

Lt. Gen. Pandey: India is the world’s largest democracy and in a democracy, the press is considered to be the most effective fourth pillar of the state. It has a huge responsibility to ensure the well-being of the nation and its citizens. They have to be steadfast in reporting the truth. Somehow this tenet is not being followed by some media personnel.
Kashmir has a very robust and extensive local media presence in electronic, print and now even in social media platforms. They are doing very good work to bring updates on daily happenings to the people of J & K. However, some are deeply compromised to support a nexus that is involved in feeding scenes of victimhood, fear and despondency in Kashmir. These double dealing media men are dangerous as they are part of the ‘white collar terrorists’ network that benefit from a conflict economy.
The technological advancement in the field of communication, including social media, has significantly increased the responsibility of local media for conflict resolution. Local media has a big role in creating an environment that incentivises the good and results in peace, stability, progress and happiness in Kashmir.
The majority of the media, however, has remained steadfast in promoting peace, development and an inclusive society based on the ‘Idea of India’.

BK: Do you think that action against separatists by the present government has helped in curbing stone pelting and protests in Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The biggest gain of the improved law and order situation post August 2019, has been zero civilian casualties in stone pelting and similar violent mob violence related incidents. This does not suit the radicals as their propaganda was based on regular deaths of Kashmiri youth to fuel further alienation. We saw this happening in 2008-2010 and then again 2016-17. These separatists want the pot to remain boiling, while some political entities do it for creating unrest and build a vote-bank. All that cannot be allowed to happen again. For us, Kashmir lives are important and we will not let them be compromised by the radicals with a personal agenda. Even the general public is happy to see normalcy return in the functioning of their offices and of public services and utilities.

Kashmir relative stable, witnessing normalcy after long time: GoC Lt Gen D P Pandey

'Biggest gain of improved law and order situation post-Aug 2019 is ZERO civilian casualties in stone pelting and NO mob violence'

February 23, 2022 | Ashok Dixit

Maintaining peace is the prime goal of all security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir and especially in sensitive areas of the Kashmir Valley.
The Indian Army in coordination with paramilitary forces, intelligence agencies and the police has achieved a measure of success in curbing terrorism and militant-related activity on the one hand, and performing a softer activity of engaging with the local citizenry through various initiatives such as organising Sadbhavna tours, sports, education and cultural programmes for the youth, on the other.
To get a better understanding of the army and other security agencies role in the Union Territory, Brighter Kashmir (BK) spoke with Lt Gen. D.P. Pandey, General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Srinagar- based Chinar Corps. He talked at length about militancy, hybrid terrorism, peace in Kashmir, army-civilian connectivity, etc.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

BK: What is the main challenge which security forces are facing with regard to hybrid terrorists in Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: ‘Hybrid terrorist’ is the new format adopted by ‘White Collar Terrorists’ and their Pakistan affiliates. They are usually local youth living normal lives and their families and friends not being aware of their conversion to extremism. They can be anyone, from your neighbour to a local shop owner or even a street hawker. They are given smuggled pistols to carry or hide in their homes for a specific terror act in the future.

BK: What is their agenda?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The agenda of this nexus is simply to instil fear and create an environment that polarises civilian society and sustains the cycle of violence. This inconvenience caused to the normal population by resultant security checks apart, we see an expression of selective outrage over some incidents which are bloated out of proportion to create a law and order situation.

BK: How do these hybrid terrorists identify targets for attack?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The targets are identified after careful reconnaissance and the hit is meticulously planned and usually done by one or two terrorists. They could include a spotter who could be an OGW and a hybrid terrorist not on the police list, but with a pistol and intent to kill. In recent times, we’ve seen a shift to softer targets like security force personnel on leave, low-level political workers and social activists with no security cover. The modus operandi has changed and is akin to criminal-like activity, using pistols and carrying out assassination-type killings. After completion of their task, they return to their normal routine, making it more difficult for security forces to identify them. Therefore, it’s imperative that security forces, the local administration and citizens work more closely and tighten their noose around a handful of these terrorists. Civil society also needs to be vigilant about this modus operandi.

BK: What according to you continues to remain a looming threat with Pakistan proxies at work?

Lt Gen. Pandey: Proxies are the easiest and safest way for Pakistan to adopt a terror strategy to disturb law and order in the Valley. These proxies work with misguided local Kashmiri youth, use basic weapons such as pistols, conduct off and online training sessions under the guidance of a local commander to prepare them for attacks. Big terror hubs do not have to send terrorists or take the risk of infiltration, nor do they require the supply of heavy weaponry or intense training.

BK: Who is behind, or who supports this network of proxies?

Lt Gen. Pandey: There are no local extremist groups in J & K. All groups continue to be funded, armed and controlled from Pakistan or their proxies. Proxies like the LeT use The Resistance Front (TRF), United Liberation Front (ULF), Kashmir Tigers. The JeM uses People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), Lashkar-e-Mustafa etc. Multiple new names keep cropping up. Just give a small pistol which these ‘Hybrid Terrorists’ can hide in their clothing, give online training and use their local knowledge and network to execute an attack.

BK: Would you agree with the view that a degree of normalcy has returned to Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The Kashmir Valley has witnessed relative stability and normalcy after a long time. Despite the pandemic, the year 2021 has been a good year for the Valley and the only people unhappy with the changed environment are Pakistan affiliates. Since the abrogation of Article 370 (in October 2019), there has been a drastic decline in infiltration, stone pelting incidents and shutdowns. The terrorists, however, are looking at different ways to disrupt peace.

BK: What measures are you taking to harmonise relations between the army and civilians?

Lt Gen. Pandey: There is no disconnect between the security forces and the citizens, though there is always more to do. The Indian Army has a long tradition of going the extra mile to maintain a connect with citizens. It is this spirit of the Indian Army that it continuously works to carry out CT ops with self-imposed restraint, ‘minimum use force’, even in life threatening situations, to avoid collateral damage.
In addition, activities under Sadbhavna are designed for the ‘Citizen-Army Connect’. Our focus remains on empowering the youth and women from all sections of Kashmiri society. And, I can say with a sense of achievement, that it has contributed a lot in improving the lives of people of Kashmir.

BK: Can these achievements be listed to get a better sense of this harmonisation?

Lt Gen. Pandey: Approximately 10,000 plus students are getting quality education in 28 AGSs/AGPS and more than 600 teachers and staff are employed in these schools. Our boys and girls from AGS have won national/international medals in sports and made the state and the country proud. In addition to that, we have successfully established 50 youth centres and women empowerment centres promoting skill development at various levels. Many centres are accredited with Nation Skill Development Corporation (NSDC). We also have special programmes like Super-50 (Engineering) and Super-30 (Medical), which have given good results, empowering the youth of the valley in competing with bright students across the country to gain admission in the entrance exams of IITs and NEET. This year we have included 20 vacancies for girls in Super 50 for medical preparations addressing a gender gap.
There is overall increasing participation of citizens in cultural (Junoon-e-Hunar & Wular Festival), sports (Women Cricket Premier League, Kashmiri Girls’ Hockey Tournament and KPL) and other empowerment activities are heartening as they spread positivity in the lives of citizens affected by fear of violence and disruption of normal life. Soldiers and citizens rubbing shoulders in cultural and sports events drastically improves soldier – citizen connect.

BK: How was the experience when you travelled personally as Corps Commander on the streets of a volatile district like Shopian?

Lt Gen. Pandey: I have been meeting, citizens at various places to get a ground feel. The stopover at Shopian was one such and it was for a festive occasion. I was accompanied by GOC Victor Force and decided to wish and interact with the locals. We shared sweets amongst local shopkeepers and villagers. The villagers, old and young alike as always very welcoming and many of them took selfies with both of us. We had chats with men, women and kids of the village and it was indeed a pleasure to experience the warmth of the locals. I have always relished interactions with citizens in an informal environment. That gives the best ground feedback.

BK: What is your assessment about the ceasefire status and is it going to work in spite of Pakistan actively pushing ultras into Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: This truce deal is desirable for both nations and the main beneficiaries are the people on the Line of Control. The attempts to foment violence in J & K are the primary reason for a volatile Line of Control. The onus is on Pakistan to stop abetting terrorism in J & K. That done, peace on the Line of Control will sustain.
That is not to say that the threat of infiltration has subsided. In the last few months of 2021, we have seen an upshift in terrorist activity in the PoK and their support in infiltration bids. Some of these we have foiled at the LoC itself. It shows that Pakistan’s intent is a question. On our part we are committed to the LoC ceasefire and will maintain it in letter and spirit.

BK: Do you see an end to the current stalemate in Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The situation compared to the past is largely peaceful. The security measures are in place and the civil administration is in full control. The complete synergy amongst the security forces with support from the local administration and citizens has played a vital role in eliminating top terrorists and in the rebuilding of Kashmir.
Our key approach to break the cycle of violence is that while the visible end of terrorism is a terrorist; that is being catered for and we have already talked about it. However terrorism is sustained by a different network of Over Ground Network and this includes people who provide logistics, people who do recruitment and their handlers and there are also the people who instigate them in the form of ideologues in terms of disruptive diaspora and vulture journalists and anti-Indian intellectuals who feed victimhood so that more youth can keep joining terrorism.
The main effort is to target the OGW and the white collar terrorist network. The second effort is at positive youth engagement, which includes providing platforms for intellectual debate with Kashmiri youth for a progressive future.
Another effort is to counter the mechanics that leads to alienation and radicalisation through creative engagement of the society. We have to address all three levels to effectively break the cycle of violence.

BK: How do you perceive the role of local media in mitigating conflict situations?

Lt. Gen. Pandey: India is the world’s largest democracy and in a democracy, the press is considered to be the most effective fourth pillar of the state. It has a huge responsibility to ensure the well-being of the nation and its citizens. They have to be steadfast in reporting the truth. Somehow this tenet is not being followed by some media personnel.
Kashmir has a very robust and extensive local media presence in electronic, print and now even in social media platforms. They are doing very good work to bring updates on daily happenings to the people of J & K. However, some are deeply compromised to support a nexus that is involved in feeding scenes of victimhood, fear and despondency in Kashmir. These double dealing media men are dangerous as they are part of the ‘white collar terrorists’ network that benefit from a conflict economy.
The technological advancement in the field of communication, including social media, has significantly increased the responsibility of local media for conflict resolution. Local media has a big role in creating an environment that incentivises the good and results in peace, stability, progress and happiness in Kashmir.
The majority of the media, however, has remained steadfast in promoting peace, development and an inclusive society based on the ‘Idea of India’.

BK: Do you think that action against separatists by the present government has helped in curbing stone pelting and protests in Kashmir?

Lt Gen. Pandey: The biggest gain of the improved law and order situation post August 2019, has been zero civilian casualties in stone pelting and similar violent mob violence related incidents. This does not suit the radicals as their propaganda was based on regular deaths of Kashmiri youth to fuel further alienation. We saw this happening in 2008-2010 and then again 2016-17. These separatists want the pot to remain boiling, while some political entities do it for creating unrest and build a vote-bank. All that cannot be allowed to happen again. For us, Kashmir lives are important and we will not let them be compromised by the radicals with a personal agenda. Even the general public is happy to see normalcy return in the functioning of their offices and of public services and utilities.


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