The twin terror attacks by terrorists, suspected to belong to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), in Dangri hamlet of Rajouri in Jammu & Kashmir, left seven people of the minority community, including two children, dead and 14 others injured
|The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army|
The advent of 2023 brought horror and a pall of gloom to the Dangri hamlet of Rajouri in Jammu & Kashmir facing terrorist attacks over two days. The death toll ultimately climbed to seven with one person in his early 20s succumbing to injuries at the Government Medical College (GMC) Hospital Jammu, where he was shifted along with several others critically injured in the firing by terrorists in Dangri on January 1, 2023. Four persons were killed and six others injured in the terrorist firing on January 1. Two cousins were killed and nine other persons injured in a powerful Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blast in the village the next morning. The IED was planted by terrorists before fleeing.
Overall the twin terror attacks in Dhangri left seven people of the minority community, including two children, dead and 14 others injured. A massive hunt was reportedly launched and the usual comment of “terrorists are getting desperate” appeared in the media. The suspected terrorists belong to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which is the covert arm of Pakistan’s ISI.
The J&K administration reacted only after the two-day terrorist attacks by moving around 1,800 CAPF personal to Rajouri and Poonch to assist J&K Police for protecting minority-dominated pockets
On October 4, 2022, Union Home Minister Amit Shah had held a public rally in Muslim-dominated Rajouri and announced the government’s intent to grant reservations to the Pahari community under the Scheduled Tribes category; at par with the Gujjar and Bakarwal communities. A J&K Police official told media that terrorist outfits are “frustrated” because of overwhelming response and crowds at Shah’s rally. Another J&K government official said, “A section of Muslims may be unhappy at the traction and public support BJP seems to getting in Rajouri. It seems LeT is trying to channelise this sentiment by going after minority Hindus. Any backlash by the Hindus is bound to cause communal tensions, creating conditions conducive for radicalisation and recruitment of locals for terror acts, thus fitting into LeT’s designs for Pir Panjal.”
Several locals had reported militant sightings ahead of Dangri attack in J&K’s Rajouri but according to news reports, the J&K administration reacted only after the two-day terrorist attacks by moving around 1,800 central armed police forces (CAPF) personal to Rajouri and Poonch to assist J&K Police for protecting minority-dominated pockets. A senior J&K official said, “The entire security grid in Rajouri has been strengthened. Special Operations Group (SOG) has been pressed into scaling up counter-terror operations in Jammu division.”
Bal Kishore (called Bala) from Dangri village is in the news. A former village defence committee (VDC) member, Bala in his late 50s fired few shots from his .303 rifle, which made the terrorists cut short the carnage and flee. The last time Bala fired the rifle was after getting it as a VDC member in 1999 and a basic arms drill by the Army. He had kept the rifle for decades despite notice in recent months for all VDCs to surrender their weapons. The Sarpanch of Dangri says, “Strengthening of VDCs is a must to restore shattered confidence of the people.” According to a police official, “This massacre could have been avoided if we had people with modern weapons.”
The Sarpanch of Dangri says, “Strengthening of village defence committee (VDC) is a must to restore shattered confidence of the people.”
Amit Shah chaired a high-level meeting in Jammu on January 13, 2023 to review the security situation with senior officials of the security forces and intelligence agencies. His plan to visit Rajouri was aborted because of snowfall. Speaking to the media after the meeting, Shah said, "I have spoken to all the seven families of the deceased over the phone… I have listened to their words very carefully and I have also spoken to Lieutenant Governor Manoj ji. The courage of those who lost their lives is an example for the country". Shah has promised an impregnable security grid in J&K soon – something that should have been executed decades back.
Media has quoted Dangri Sarpanch Dheeraj Kumar Sharma to say that Dangri has 170 ex-servicemen (ESM) and the UT government has decided to revive the VDCs and provide them with 40 x 7.62mm SLR rifles. The question is why were the VDCs disbanded and asked to surrender their weapons in the first place? The excuse inserted in media that VDC members holding weapons would themselves become terrorist targets is some sick joke for if they cannot defend themselves then how can they be expected to defend the villagers.
The dissolution of VDCs was apparently more to do with the government showcasing that everything has become “normal” in J&K, which is impossible bordering Pakistan and the political hierarchy without guts to transport the proxy war back into enemy territory not counting the “reactive” actions of one-time ‘surgical strike’ and ‘Balakot’ in response to mass casualties suffered at Uri and Pulwama respectively.
Shah should have known the possible terrorist backlash to his public announcements in Rajouri on October 4, 2022. This was more than evident on November 4 when Gujjars and Bakerwals lead protests against the Centre’s move to grant Scheduled Tribe (ST) status to Paharis; holding placards and raising slogans; with the rally under the banner of All J&K Gujjar-Bakerwal Joint Action Committee headed by President Haji Mohammad Yousuf reaching Hill Kaka in the border district of Poonch after passing through tribal areas of Baramulla, Srinagar, Pulwama, Ganderbal and Shopian districts.
Dangri has 170 ex-servicemen (ESM) and the UT government has decided to revive the VDCs and provide them with 40 x 7.62mm SLR rifles
Above required immediate re-institution and revitalisation of the VDCs, review of the security situation and taking necessary steps – the “impregnable” security set up Amit Shah is talking about now. But the government slept as usual. It does not affect the politicians wrapped in layers of security. How many people get killed is of no consequence to them despite the crocodile tears. But isn’t it a shame that Dangri had to undergo these attacks despite 170 ESM?
Shah’s statement in Jammu on January 13 saying that “the courage of those who lost their lives is an example for the country" is an example of what politicians would keep saying after every future terrorist attack to cover up everything else – kneejerk planning and execution included. Besides, there are scores of ‘three-bags-full’ officials and paid media ready to cover up the lapses. So the story will keep getting repeated.
As to reservations, every political party lays claim to B.R. Ambedkar but ignores the fact that Ambedkar wanted reservations to end 10 years from promulgation of the Constitution. But it is votes first not the nation for politicians.