The attack on a 78-vehicle military convoy and the death of 40 CRPF jawans in Pulwama was well-planned and executed. It serves as one more blood-soaked reminder that our boots and ears on ground intelligence failed.
Even if it is a remote-controlled explosive device, the fact that it was strategically placed indicates that the JeM, the outfit which has taken ‘credit’ for the blast, was fully aware of this movement of troops and vehicles. When such a large convoy moves in hostile territory (and there is no point pretending it is otherwise), it usually has a scouting party that goes ahead and those inside the trucks are on alert. Perhaps the cold weather had something to do with hunkering down and lowering the guard and not being as watchful as one should have been.
The intel failure underscores two ongoing conditions. One, that our CRPF jawans are easy targets and that those who have the weaponry and mean ill towards us will always attain some success. Two, with this sort of a morale-destroying victory for terror, it indicates that our troops are hampered by far too much limitations placed on them.
The need to appease the public has left us vulnerable. To what extent are the forces being hog-tied and asked to risk their lives without being given a free hand? If we don’t grasp this nettle and seek some answers, these attacks will continue.
It is all very well for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to say these 40 soldiers will not have died in vain and for Arun Jaitley to chime in with a promise of a fitting lesson to the perpetrators of this dastardly deed, but these are only words. What befitting lessons can we give?
The cruel truth is our armed forces, including the standing army, are under far too many orders to soft pedal and be nice, regardless of the danger that their lives are placed in. From letting off stone-pelters to political correctness dictating conduct from the safe corridors of power in New Delhi, to pulling up officers and men for crossing the line, to holding back on shooting first or even shooting second, these men are put at a major disadvantage.
Adding to this is the indifference and lack of moral fibre and support in the country over the three decade presence of the armed forces deployed in Kashmir. Far too often, media and the masters portray the men in uniform and occupiers in a negative light and we have seen this ‘need to balance’ things in the multiple incidents where stone-pelters have been given licence and our army taken to task for use of excessive force. Even a teargas lobbed is seen as bad form. Soldiers are attacked and beaten up (remember Lt Fayaz) and there are no equal responses.
This pussyfooting approach also cripples the intelligence-gathering process as a work in progress. We may have knowledge of the hideouts, the underground infrastructure, the whole shoot-and-scoot approach from the militants and yet, unable to make full use of this knowledge. The potential Burhan Wani clones could be known to us but no action is taken to stop them before they mature into killers. Major Gogoi was pilloried in the media for saving his men by using guile and tying a civilian to a jeep. Extreme tolerance is often mistaken for extreme weakness.
To this extent, the central government must share the responsibility for this horrible massacre. It must review its ‘no go, no do’ rules of engagement for the armed forces and allow them to defend themselves without so much recrimination for every move they make to protect themselves.
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Updated Date: Feb 15, 2019 08:40:58 IST