Five security personnel including three CRPF jawans and two officers of the Jammu and Kashmir Police were killed on Sunday in a three-day-long encounter with terrorists in Kupwara. Eight others including a commandant were injured in the operation, which the police officials said was prolonged due to difficult terrain and presence of civilians in the area.
And even though two terrorists were eliminated in the encounter, there was also large scale collateral damage which involved several houses and other buildings where terrorists took shelter. Reportedly, one civilian was killed in the firing as well and several others were injured following clashes near the encounter site on Friday.
The encounter began on Friday morning when security forces launched a search operation in the area in north Kashmir, following information about the presence of militants.
Where are the 'Black Cats'?
However, the large number of casualties suffered by the armed forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir recently, have raised questions as to why the government hasn't yet taken the help of National Security Guards (NSG) commandos for high-end operations like these.
There were reports in 2018, of 'Black Cat' commandos of the NSG being deployed in Jammu and Kashmir to help security forces in dealing with encounters and hostage-like situations.
The Ministry of Home Affairs was examining a proposal to deploy a contingent of the elite counter-terror force in the Kashmir Valley so that they can join the Indian Army, the CRPF and the state police when a high-risk militancy related incident takes place.
However, despite the security forces suffering subsequent casualties on the frontline, NSG has rarely been used in such situations.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said that the government was planning to see as to how the NSG's role could be "enlarged" vis-a-vis the new security challenges faced by the country, as NSG commandos can play a "big role" in operations such as those where terrorists take a human as shield and enter civilian premises. Their special skills of carrying out house intervention and hostage rescue can act as "clincher" during a terror siege and house intervention in densely populated areas, officials had said.
NSG faced resistance from other forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir
However, in October 2018, Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik said that there was no plan to deploy 'Black Cat' in counter-terrorism operations in the state, saying that the elite force could be used only in the "gravest of grave" situations.
"This is absolutely wrong. The NSG chief had met me recently. God willing, I am sure that we may not have any such situation where we require a specialised force but may be in the gravest of the grave situation, we may request them and that too after consulting the Centre," Malik said in an interview.
When asked that some of the NSG commandos were deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for training and other purposes, he said, "They have come for training and impart training as well to police personnel, but so far there is no involvement in anti-militancy operations."
The NSG had also trained commandos of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) at its Manesar headquarters near Gurgaon for anti-terrorism operations.
Reportedly, the proposal to deploy NSG commandos in the Valley could not materialise as the state forces had opposed the deployment of special force in the region.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had sought an opinion from the forces on the ground. "There is no immediate need to add a new force on the ground as there is already a thick presence of forces in the Valley which is why we are still mulling the move," a senior ministry official had told NDTV.
Usually, security forces try to tire out terrorists by continuous firing using high-calibre weapons. The rate of firing is such that the structure collapses or catches fire causing property damage. In light of all these operational roadblocks in tense scenarios, the NSG had been asked to be stationed in Budgam and Srinagar. But the local police opposed the proposal.
Therefore, after Malik refuted the possibility of NSG's deployment in the state, it sought the intervention of the home ministry, according to a report by The Hindustan Times. The force, which was asked in May 2018 to handle specialised house intervention actions in the Valley, was not used in the Fateh Kadal encounter in October 2018, and was told to be on standby by the state police, the report said.
Two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants were killed by a special operations group team of the state, and one Jammu and Kashmir Police commando lost his life while two others were injured in that encounter.
NSG director general (DG) Sudeep Lakhtakia, who has handled Naxal and Islamist insurgency in stints with the Andhra Police and the Central Reserve Police Force, flew down to Srinagar a day after the encounter and met Governor Malik well as state Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh apparently to remind them that the decision to deploy house intervention teams of NSG was taken by the home ministry and under the explicit directive of the National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval, the report stated. As per the report, the home ministry took serious note of Malik’s interview.
Limited use of NSG commandos in terror operations in Valley
The NSG's core efficiency is in counter-terrorism, counter-hijacking operations and proximate security for the VVIPs. They were used during the 90s in limited operations in Kashmir. The force uses state of the art weapons such as corner shot rifles and wall radars to neutralise targets.
However, in the last few years, the NSG has rarely been used in anti-terrorism operations in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab with Army Para commandos doing the job. In fact, in some of the operations, Indian Air Force's Garud commandos and Indian Navy's elite fighters Marcos were involved in the Valley.
Normally, a small NSG team comprises five commandos led by a non-commissioned officer along with bomb experts and crack marksman. The commandos use sophisticated Heckler and Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, sniper rifles, through-the-wall radar and C-4 explosives to eliminate holed up terrorists without causing much damage to the structure.
NSG commandos were deployed to tackle the terrorists who carried out the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, January 2016 terror attack at the Pathankot air base as well as eliminating the terrorists who attacked the Akshardham temple in Gujarat.
The NSG was raised in 1984 in the aftermath of Operation Blue Star, which was carried out to flush out terrorists hiding in the Golden Temple in Punjab's Amritsar. There are around 7,500 personnel currently working with the NSG, PTI reported.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Mar 04, 2019 18:02:20 IST