Pampore attack: why is Kashmir becoming deadlier for the CRPF?
Kashmir is becoming deadlier for the security forces. According to a Central Reserve Police Force official, the paramilitary force has lost more men in the year since May 2015 than in previous two years combined.
Saturday's attack on a CRPF convoy in Pampore, the officer added, was the deadliest on them since the early 2000s. What has made matters worse is the increasing antagonism of the local people: a backup CRPF party dispatched from Awantipura was reportedly pelted with stones and not allowed to reach the place of the attack.
"We lost many men in 1990s when militancy was at its peak. But since early 2000s, we haven't lost as many men in a single attack as we did on Saturday. This place has become more hostile for our soldiers, the attacks have become deadlier," the officer added.
To give a picture of how dangerous the situation is, the officer revealed that since May 2015, the paramilitary forces have suffered seven attacks - two by the BSF and five by the CRPF. In all, 12 soldiers were killed in these attacks compared to only five terrorists.
Meanwhile, more details about Saturday's attack have emerged after a preliminary inquiry was conducted. According to a source in the home ministry, the attackers had come from the Punjab province of Pakistan.
Another interesting detail is about the precision of the attack. "There is a bend on the road on Highway 44 in Pampore, which is a busy marketplace. Now, the terrorists somehow knew that the CRPF soldiers would leave from their camp after an exercise, which happens once a year, and reach this bend, where they would have to slow down. How they came to know about this we'll have to look into," said K Durga Prasad, Director General, CRPF.
Prasad added that the role of some surrendered militants could not be ruled out. The CRPF has learned that the two attackers were dropped off at the site of the attack by two other people in an Alto car, who then proceeded towards Srinagar. Prasad said they have received some "inputs on the identities of the two people who aided the encounter". The CRPF is working with the police to track down the two men, he added.
Still, even two days after the attacks, some questions about the attack remain unanswered.
The two terrorists, who the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba has claimed are its members, are likely to have crossed the border recently. The place where the encounter took place is about 60 kms from the Line of Control. That the two militants crossed the border and apparently got got through a series of checkpoints to launch the attack raises questions about the ease with which infiltration is taking place.
According to data available with an MHA officer, around 50 militants have reportedly crossed over to India in the last five months. That means at least one militant is infiltrating every three days.
Also, how could a carful of heavily armed people travel in the valley without being stopped at a checkpoint? Two AK-47 rifles, 13 magazines, 174 rounds and seven grenades were recovered from the slain militants. This is a lot of ammunition to be carrying around in the valley without getting noticed.
Another question that hasn't been answered is whether the CRPF was following the Standard Operating Procedure. While Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar doesn't think the SOP was followed, the DG insisted otherwise. Prasad said "all rules in the book" were followed.
According to a senior CRPF officer, as soon as the bus carrying 44 soldiers came under attack, a mobile bunker was set up in front of it and the attackers were killed. However, a video clip of the attack shows that for a minute and a half, the bus was left to fend for itself and did not get any support from the escort vehicle.
The positive thing is that the CRPF has decided to learn from Saturday's attack: it's looking at installing bulletproof protection on its buses. "It's a proposal we are looking at. We are also looking at re-doing our convoy formations. Let's see what other things we'll be able to implement," said Prasad.