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SOUTH ASIA INTELLIGENCE REVIEW
Weekly Assessments & Briefings
Volume 15, No. 36, March 6, 2017

Data and assessments from SAIR can be freely published in any form with credit to the South Asia Intelligence Review of the
South Asia Terrorism Portal


ASSESSMENT

INDIA
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J&K: Testing the Peace
Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management

On March 5, 2017, two terrorists and a Policeman were killed and five Security Force (SF) personnel, including an Army Major, were injured during an encounter in the Tral area of Pulwama District. The slain terrorists were identified as Aqib Molvi of Tral and Umar from Pakistan.

On March 3, 2017, a civilian was killed and a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) trooper was injured when militants hurled a grenade targeting SFs deployed on law and order duties at Murran chowk at Pulwama town in Pulwama District.

On February 23, 2017, three Army troopers and a civilian were killed and four Army personnel, including two officers, were injured in an attack by terrorists at village Mulu Chitragam in Shopian District. An unnamed Police spokesman disclosed that a cordon and search operation was carried out at Kungnoo in Shopian by personnel of the 44-Rashtriya Rifles (RR) and Police in the night of February 22: “The cordon and search operation concluded without any arrest or recovery. While returning from Kungnoo, the party was attacked by unknown militants at Mulu Chitragam at about 2 am [February 23] resulting in injuries to six Army personnel including two officers of whom three succumbed to their injuries.” One woman, identified as Taja, “was hit by a stray bullet inside her house during the cross fire” and died later. Two militants were also injured in the retaliation by the SFs. According to reports, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) was involved in the attack.

On February 14, 2017, eight persons, including four Army personnel and four terrorists, were killed in two separate incidents. Sources indicated that, on a tip-off, SFs launched a joint search operation at Parray Mohalla Hajan in Bandipora District. As SFs were sealing off the area, terrorists hiding in the village opened fire on the troops and hurled hand grenades. SFs returned fire, leading to a gun battle, in which eight soldiers were injured. Three of the injured soldiers later succumbed to their injuries. One terrorist, identified as Abu Haris, an LeT ‘commander’, was killed during the encounter.

In another encounter during the day, three terrorists were killed and an Army officer was injured in the Handwara area of Kupwara District. The officer died later. 

On February 12, 2017, eight persons, including four militants, two SF personnel and two civilians, were killed in the Frisal area of Kulgam District. Giving details, Brigadier R. Chakraborty disclosed, “At around 11.30 pm [February 11] we came to know from the police that four militants are hiding in Frisal village and some 4-5 suspected houses were immediately identified. Around 12 a.m., we cordoned off the houses where they were hiding. In the morning, we came to know that a civilian was also trapped inside the house along with the militants, which forced us to delay the operation for 4-5 hours. We would have otherwise finished the operation during the night… When we were moving in, the civilian saw us and started to run towards us but militants opened fire and killed the civilian. Two of our soldiers also lost their lives during the process…But soon after retrieving the bodies, we launched a final assault and killed all the four militants.” While two of the slain militants were from the LeT, two others belonged to the HM. In the meantime, people in the area came out on the streets as the encounter was in progress and pelted stones on SFs near the encounter site. SFs fired teargas and pellets in which around two dozen persons were injured. One of the injured persons, Mushtaq Ibrahim Itoo, succumbed to his injuries.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 43 persons, including seven civilians, 10 SF personnel and 26 terrorists, were killed in militancy-related incidents during the first 64 days of the current year (data between January 1, 2017, and March 5, 2017). During the corresponding period of 2016, such fatalities stood at 31 (one civilian, seven SF personnel, and 23 militants).

Through 2016, Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) accounted for 267 terrorism related fatalities (14 civilians, 88 SF personnel, and 165 militants) as against 174 such fatalities (20 civilians, 41 SF personnel, and 113 militants) in 2015. The quantum jump in overall fatalities is indeed worrisome. Though SFs managed to maintain a positive kill ratio of 1:1.87 against the militants in 2016, this was much lower than the ratio of 1: 2.75 secured through 2015). The steep increase in SF fatalities is a major concern. More worryingly, the terrorists carried out repeated successful attacks on SF bases and camps through 2016, highlighting vulnerabilities and a measure of complacence in the security establishment. In the worst ever attack in terms of fatalities of Army personnel since 1988, at least 17 Army personnel were killed and another 19 were injured when terrorists stormed the administrative base of one of the units of the Indian Army near the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri town of Baramulla District at around 5:30 am IST on September 18, 2016. Four terrorists involved in the attack were also killed. One of the injured soldiers died later.

The purported ‘paradigm shift’ in New Delhi’s policy towards cross-border terrorism, which resulted in the September 29, 2016, "surgical strikes" against terrorist launch pads in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK), has failed to alter this trend. According to SATP data, at least 30 SF personnel have died in 16 incidents, including two suicide attacks on Army camps since the "surgical strikes" (data till March 5, 2017). In one such attack, on November 29, 2016,  seven Army soldiers, including two Majors, and three terrorists, were killed in a suicide attack on a camp of the 166th Artillery Unit, just about three kilometers from the 16 Corps Headquarters, at Nagrota, in Jammu District.

More worryingly, stone-pelting by 'civilians' became a regular feature during encounters through 2016. There were also reports of large scale 'public' presence during the last rites of many of the terrorists killed during these encounters. Such incidents became more prominent after July 9, 2016, as J&K went through a protracted phase of street violence after the killing of HM 'commander' Burhan Wani in an encounter on July 8, 2016. According to official data provided by the State Government, at least 76 civilians and two Police personnel have been killed in street violence since July 9, 2016 (data till December 31, 2016). Though no official data about the number of civilians injured has been provided, varying media reports suggest that up to 10,000 protestors may have been injured in clashes with SFs. According to Government estimates "over 4,500 personnel of Police and Security Forces were also injured while safeguarding the life and property of the people." At least 133 buildings, including Police Stations and schools, were damaged or set ablaze during the “law and order disturbances” in the Valley (between July 9, 2016, and December 31, 2016)

Based on these broad and disturbing developments, some of Kashmir 'experts' have made an attempt to portray that worsening security situation in the State as irreversible, claiming that the present trends represented a 'revolt of the masses'. A former Union Home Minister went up to the extent declaring that "he had a sinking feeling that Kashmir was nearly lost for India". These assumptions are utter and contra-factual nonsense.

First, a varying measure of 'public support' has always been there, but what is missed out is that large majorities reject the terrorist and separatist agenda, though these voices are inexorably silenced by the terrorist bomb and bullet. Further, analysis of category-wise fatalities data demonstrates that 2016 recorded the lowest number of civilian fatalities in the State since the commencement of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in 1988. The previous low of 16 fatalities in this category was recorded in 2012. It is useful to note that fatalities in this category are perhaps the most significant index of the consolidation of peace in the State, which recorded a high of 1,333 civilian fatalities in 1996.

Moreover, though the present cycle has been the longest phase of street violence witnessed in the Valley, the 2010 street violence was much worse in terms of fatalities, with at least 101 persons killed and 4,288 persons, including SFs, injured. 46 persons were killed and 1,265, including SF personnel, were injured in the street violence of 2008. Furthermore, the magnitude of violence in 2016 started declining rapidly after the initial surge to alarming levels. On December 19, 2016, Director General of Police (Law and Order) Shesh Pal Vaid disclosed that a total of 2,380 ‘law and order incidents’ were reported during the ‘Kashmir unrest’, commencing July 8, 2016. Of these, at least 820 incidents were reported in July, which came down to 747 in August, 535 in September, 179 in October, 73 in November and just 25 during the first 19 days of December. According to SATP, there were another two incidents of street violence thereafter, in 2016. Since the beginning of the current year, at least 16 such incidents have been recorded.

It is useful to recall that, despite the unrest in 2010, the security situation in the following two years – 2011 and 2012 – improved significantly. The hanging of Parliament Attack accused Afzal Guru in 2013 and the subsequent unrest, though very limited, impacted adversely on the security situation in 2013 and 2014. Again, in 2015, the security situations improved. There is, thus, no permanent impact of the sporadic outbursts of unrest in Kashmir, and there is no sustainable 'revolt of the masses'. Rather, these wider mobilizations are the outcome of focused strategies emerging from Islamabad, with street demonstrations orchestrated with the help of terrorist formations operating from Pakistani safe havens, and separatist proxies in J&K.

Indeed, on December 19, 2016, DGP (Law and Order) Shesh Pal Vaid had stated, “The unrest period is virtually over. Situation is returning to normal. The game plan of Pakistan to keep the pot boiling by fuelling unrest through its sponsored militants has been foiled by the Police.” Echoing a similar view, the then CRPF Director General (DG) K. Durga Prasad, stated on February 27, 2017, “The situation is not as naazuk (sensitive) as it was last year… The intensity with which it (stone pelting) happened is no longer there… The situation of stone pelting on security forces is not bad as earlier."

The peace secured by SFs in Kashmir over the past years is irreversible. The Forces have the strength to overcome transient disturbances. The crisis remains within the political spectrum, with both the central and state Governments failing to conduct themselves in a manner that is expected of them. It is the absence of political sagacity and focus, and, indeed, periodic and intentional political mischief, that has produced the cyclical disturbances of the recent past, despite tremendous gains registered by SF action. Regrettably, there is no respite from petty-politicking – both by ruling and opposition parties. This remains the real challenge, and possibly insurmountable obstacle, to restoring Kashmir to an enduring peace.

INDIA
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Kerala: Lurking Threat
Deepak Kumar Nayak
Research Assistant, Institute for Conflict Management

On January 15, 2017, Security Forces (SFs) in Kerala warned that the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) was planning a coordinated movement of its urban and rural forces to strengthen its activities in India’s southern States, mainly in Kerala. SFs made this claim on the basis of the review report of the CPI-Maoist’s ‘South Zonal Committee’ (SZC), retrieved by the Police from the site of the November 24, 2016, Nilambur encounter. The report asserted that the Maoists had been able to defeat ‘enemy’ plans and successfully organize their meeting in the forests of the ‘tri-junction area’ – connecting Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu – under the protection of People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) Forces, and with the ‘support’ and ‘participation’ of people.

A 'central committee (CC) member' of the CPI-Maoist, Kuppuswamy Devarajan aka Shanker, and Ajitha aka Kaveri, a woman leader, were killed in an encounter with the Police inside the Nilambur forests in Malapuram District on November 24, 2016. Giving details, Director General of Police (DGP) Loknath Behera stated on December 3, 2016, that it was the Maoists who fired at the Police Force first. He further disclosed that the Maoists had fired at the Police seven times in the preceding two years and had raided houses of Adivasis on several occasions, though, "Fortunately, there were no casualties."

On January 2, 2017, Police received evidence that the CPI-Maoist, with the ‘support’ of tribal people, had taken control of some forest land along the Kerala and Tamil Nadu border, cutting down hundreds of trees. A series of video clip, released by the Police, showed armed CPI-Maoist and tribal people removing trees in the forest and installing a CPI-Maoist flag in the area. Police suspect that the area shown in the video is the Agali Forest region of Palakkad District.

Though there has been no Maoist-linked fatality in the State in 2017 thus far, (data till March 5, 2017), developments through 2016 indicate that Maoist activities are on the rise. According to partial data collated by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), Kerala recorded two Maoist-related fatalities (both Maoist cadres) in 2016. Both these fatalities took place in the Nilambur encounter. There was no LWE-linked fatality in 2015. One Maoist was killed in 2014.

Though there was no violent action targeting civilians through 2016, there were several reported incidents of expansion activity, including:

March 29, 2016: An armed group of suspected CPI-Maoist cadres visited a tribal colony at Pattakkarimbu in Malapuram District and convened a meeting of the locals in which the group ‘urged’ the people to boycott the Kerala Assembly elections, which were held on May 16, 2016.

September 26, 2016: A group of seven armed CPI-Maoist cadres, consisting of six men and a woman, conducted a ‘class’ for the tribal people at Mundakkadavu Adivasi (Scheduled Tribe) Colony's community hall in Mallapuram District. Police said the meeting was convened by the group's leader Soman. The meeting had not ended when the Police reached the colony and, on seeing the Police, the armed group escaped through the back exit, using the Adivasis as human shields and shouting Maoist slogans.

October 28, 2016: CPI-Maoist cadres operating in the Nilambur area in Mallapuram District issued warnings to those who were acting as ‘informers' of the Police and other intelligence agencies. This was disclosed in the first issue of Chenkad (Red Forest), the ‘official’ mouthpiece of the Nadukani squad of the CPI-Maoist.

December 8, 2016: A couple of hand-made posters by the CPI-Maoist Bhavani Dalam (armed squad), alleging that the State Government was trying to suppress the Naxals, surfaced at Mele Ommathampatti at Pudur Panchayat (village level local self-Government institution) in Attappady in Palakkad District. The posters demanded the withdrawal of the Kerala Thunderbolts (the Kerala Police elite commando force) from Attappady.

According to Union Ministry of Home Affairs (UMHA) data, at least 12 LWE-linked incidents were recorded in Kerala in 2016, as against no such incident in 2015. The State registered eight such incidents in 2014.

Further, according to SATP data, the Maoists were engaged in three reported exchange of fire incidents in 2016, as against two such incidents in 2015, and two in 2014.

Based on SATP data for 2016, six Districts in the State were Maoist-affected. These include   Mallapuram, Idukki, Kasargod, Palakkad, Thrissur and Wayanad. While Mallapuram can be categorized as moderately affected, the other five were marginally affected.  In 2015, nine Districts in the State, viz., Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur, Palakkad, Malappuram, Kozhikode, Wayanad, Kannur and Kasaragod, were categorized as marginally affected. On March 1, 2016, Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary, stated in the Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) that activities and presence of Maoists had been noticed from the Wayanad, Kozhikode, Kannur, Mallapuram, Palakkad and Ernakulam Districts of Kerala since 2013.

Six of these Districts – Wayanad, Kozhikode, Kannur, Malapuram, Palakkad and Ernakulam – in Kerala fall along the Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu tri-junction area. Significantly, the Maoists had merged with the Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist – Naxalbari (CPI-ML-Naxalbari), under the CPI-Maoist banner, on May 1, 2014, with the aim of securing a foothold in the Karnataka-Kerala-Tamil Nadu tri-junction area. The CPI-ML-Naxalbari had, for long, an independent presence in Kerala, and the Maoists believed that the merger would provide them the resources and manpower needed to spread their influence in this strategic region.

Further, informing the Lok Sabha on February 24, 2015, Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs, had stated that, in order to spread their area of influence, CPI-Maoist was making efforts to spread its influence in South India, particularly on the tri-junction of Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.

In spite of these intentions, levels of violence in the region have remained low. This is primarily because SFs have played a significant role in containing the ‘Maoist movement’ across the country and also preventing them from expanding their base in other areas. However, the Maoist intent has also played a part in this outcome. Media reports on January 24, 2017, indicated that a letter suspected to be written by a CPI-Maoist Central Committee or politburo member had warned ‘comrades operating the tri-junction area’ in South India against launching attacks on the Police, as the leadership thought such an action would be detrimental to the organisation at the current stage of the movement in the region. Consistent with their broader strategy and tactics, the Maoists seek a far greater and sustainable consolidation before escalating violence.

The State Government has, nevertheless, taken clear cognizance of the emerging threat. On February 27, 2017, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan informed the State Assembly that the Unified Command formed under his leadership to contain the spread of Maoist activities in the State was also mandated to focus on operations against Maoist sympathisers in the State. The Unified Command would also serve as a forum to review developmental activities in the Maoist-affected areas of the State.

The Kerala Government constituted the Unified Command under the Chief Minister on January 17, 2017, as suggested by the Union Government, to contain the spread of Maoist activities in the State.

On December 3, 2016, State DGP Loknath Behera, acknowledged that the Maoist threat was on the rise in Kerala along the tri-junction area.

Though the Kerala Police has been quite effective against the incipient threat of a spreading Maoist presence and activities, it is useful to acknowledge enduring capacity deficits that make its task difficult. According to the latest data provided by the Bureau of Police Research and Development [BPR&D], as on January 1, 2016, the State had 53,881 policemen, as against a sanctioned 60,502 policemen, leaving 6,621 police posts vacant, a deficit of 10.94 per cent.  Further, at least 41 Indian Police Service (IPS) posts were vacant in the State, against a sanctioned strength of 163 – a deficit of a 25.15 per cent.  Also, the Police/Area Ratio (number of policemen per 100 square kilometers) is 138.64, as against the sanctioned strength of 155.68 – a deficit of 10.94 per cent. However, the all-India ratio stands at 54.69 per 100 square kilometres, as against a sanction of 72.03. Such deficits will eventually impact adversely on the State’s capacity to contain the Maoists and must be urgently addressed.


NEWS BRIEFS

Weekly Fatalities: Major Conflicts in South Asia
February 27-March 5, 2017

 

Civilians

Security Force Personnel

Terrorists/Insurgents

Total

BANGLADESH

 

Islamist Terrorism

0
0
1
1

INDIA

 

Jammu and Kashmir

1
1
2
4

Arunachal Pradesh

0
0
1
1

Left-Wing Extremism

Andhra Pradesh

0
0
1
1

Bihar

1
0
0
1

Chhattisgarh

0
2
1
3

Total (INDIA)

2
3
5
10

PAKISTAN

 

Balochistan

0
0
1
1

FATA

0
7
16
23

KP

1
0
0
1

Punjab

0
1
0
1

Sindh

0
0
1
1

Total (PAKISTAN)

1
8
18
27
Provisional data compiled from English language media sources.


BANGLADESH

Derailed militants who would come back from wrong path would be rehabilitated in future, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Parliament on March 1 said that derailed militants who would come back from the wrong path would be rehabilitated in future. "Arrangements for rehabilitation including providing legal aid to the derailed militants, who would return to normal life leaving the wrong path of militancy, would be made in future," she said while responding to a tabled query from treasury bench member Kamal Ahmed Mazumdar in the House. The Independent, March 2, 2017.  

Government has created massive awareness against militancy and terrorism, says Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on February 28 said her Government has created massive awareness against militancy and terrorism. "Huge mass awareness has been created against militancy and terrorism due to the government's ongoing campaign against these social menaces," she said. In this connection, Sheikh Hasina said the people of all strata including guardians, teachers, religious leaders, students and public representatives have been engaged in the campaign. The Independent, March 1, 2017.  


INDIA

Terror outfits created by Pakistan against India are now harming host country, Indian Ambassador asserts in UN: The terror outfits that Pakistan created against India are now harming its host country, Indian Ambassador to United Nations (UN) said in Geneva on March 2. "Pakistan has created terrorist outfits against India. This monster is now devouring its own creator," Anil Kumar, India's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN said. The most wanted terrorists of the world have found "succour and sustenance" in Pakistan in the last two decades, Mr Kumar said. NDTV, March 3, 2017.

Stone-throwing protests in Kashmir have spread to rural regions, say Intelligence Agencies: According to Intelligence agencies, stone-throwing protests in Kashmir, which picked up after militant leader Burhan Wani was killed in an encounter with Security Forces (SFs) July 2016, have now spread to rural regions. Report said that authorities are worried as they say the crowds in the countryside are more belligerent. Boys as young as four and five are participating in the stone-pelting, said an officer. After being caught, many of these kids reveal that they have no idea what they are involved in. India Today, March 1, 2017.

Nine Districts in Assam have Muslim majority population, says State Planning and Development Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma: As many as nine Districts of the State are now Muslim majority, State Planning and Development minister Himanta Biswa Sarma informed the Assembly on February 28. As per 2011 census, Dhubri District has 79.67%, Barpeta District has 70.74%, Darrang District has 64.34%, Hailakandi District has 60.31%, Goalpara District has 57.52%, Karimganj District has 56.36%, Nagaon District has 55.36%, Morigaon District has 52.56% and Bongaigaon District has 50.22% people of Islamic faith. The Sentinel , March 1, 2017.

SIMI 'chief' Safdar Nagori and 10 others get life sentence for waging war against State: Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) 'chief' Safdar Nagori and other 10 members of his terrorist outfit were sentenced to life imprisonment in a 2008 case of sedition by a special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Indore in Madhya Pradesh on February 27. Special CBI judge B K Paloda convicted all 11 for sedition, collecting arms, ammunition and explosives with the intention to wage war against the nation and for being active members of a banned terrorist outfit. Nagori was the 'general secretary' of SIMI when it was banned. Times of India, February 28, 2017.

ISIS won't be allowed to become a threat to India, says Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh: Union Home Minister (UHM) Rajnath Singh on February 27 said that the Islamic State (ISIS) won't be allowed to become a threat to India. "The government has kept an eye on the ISIS, and that won't be allowed to become a major challenge for the country", said Singh in Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh. Replying a query on the arrest of two suspected ISIS men on February 26 in Gujarat, he said that the ISIS would fail to influence Indian youth, as the people are alert and supportive to the Government. Times of India, February 28, 2017.


NEPAL

SC orders Government to furnish written statement about preparations for holding all three tiers of elections: Supreme Court (SC) on March 3 ordered the Government to furnish a written statement about the Government's preparations for holding all three tiers of elections by January 21, 2018 in line with the provisions of the new constitution. Responding to a writ petition filed by Advocate Chandra Kanta Gyawali and others, a division bench of Justices Hari Krishna Karki and Anil Sinha asked the Government to inform the court about the progress toward meeting the obligatory constitutional provision. My Republica, March 3, 2017.

Constitution amendment bill tabled in Parliament would not get passed under present circumstances, concedes Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal: Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal while meeting the officials of Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) at his residence in Kathmandu on March 2 (today) conceded that the Constitution amendment bill tabled in the Parliament would not get passed under the present circumstances. Recalling his meeting with the ruling coalition members on March 1, the Prime Minister said, "The parties have made it clear that they would vote against the Constitution amendment bill."The Himalayan Times, March 2, 2017.


PAKISTAN

Islamic State cadres hide among general public in FATA and KP: The cadres of Islamic State or Daesh hide among the general population, using small businesses as a cover, a Police official said on the condition of anonymity. The official under the condition of anonymity said that their approach differs from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), whose cadres used to openly establish camps in parts of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and even in the settled areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). They are highly experienced in sabotage and concealment" since most cadres had previously belonged to the TTP, he added. Tribune, March 2, 2017.

De-weaponisation part of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad: Army on February 28 said that recently launched Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (elimination of discord) also envisages a countrywide 'de-weaponisation' campaign. But no timeline can be given for the completion of Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad, said Major General Asif Ghafoor, the Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR). Speaking in a television interview, Major General Ghafoor said the very name of the operation was self-explanatory. Tribune, March 1, 2017.


SRI LANKA

Separatist groups capable of arming 15,000 terrorists within 48 hours, warns Joint Opposition: Joint Opposition on March 2 warned that the separatist groups are capable