Even as the killers of RSS leader Chandrakant Sharma from Kishtwar are yet to be identified, security forces are desperately hunting for a group of seven to eight terrorists who are believed to be tasked by their Pakistani handlers to target leaders of a particular community and desecrate their places of worship in an effort to stoke communal strife.
Alarm bells have started ringing in the security establishment as the heavily-armed group is still at large after infiltrating into the region from across the Line of Control (LOC) from launch pads in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) about a week back.
Intelligence reports said terrorists are likely to carry out attacks in Batote and Udhmapur regions besides Kishtwar.
All these regions in Jammu region south of Pir Panjal have not seen terrorist related incidents in the last one and half decades thereby posing a fresh challenged to the security forces.
Not ruling out more attacks in the coming days, sources in the security establishment said on Thursday the main aim of the ISI and Pakistan Army is to up the ante in all the districts South of Pir Panjal in Jammu division.
Elaborating upon the “deadly” game plan, officials said the terrorists who infiltrated into the region were specifically instructed to target minority group leaders and desecrate religious places. This region has so far seen communal harmony and virtually no terrorist related incidents even as North of Pir Panjal region including the Srinagar valley and other regions are witnessing terrorism.
Given the geographical spread of South of Pir Panjal region comprising Doda, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch, they said this area is much bigger and rugged than the Srinagar valley and other districts in North of Pir Panjal.
In this backdrop, the Army had to create three control centres of its own, including Romeo force to take care of Rajouri, Delta Force for Doda region and Uniform centre for other regions.
All these centres comprise Rashtriya Rifles troops of the Army. Incidentally, they are only two such centres in North of Pir Panjal as the area is small.
The early 1990s had witnessed large scale infiltration in South of Pir Panjal and terrorist related incidents and relentless operations over the years brought the situation well under control after a few years.
In fact, the region had not seen any incidents in the last one decade.
Taking note of the threat posed by Pakistan renewed effort to increase levels of violence in this region, sources said it may pose a far bigger challenge given the vastness of the area. The security establishment will undertake a review of its counter-insurgency and counter-infiltration strategy in the background of the emerging situation, they added.
Meanwhile, the mortal remains of Sharma and his Personal security Officer (PSO), Rajinder Kumar, killed in a terrorist attack inside district hospital on Tuesday, were consigned to flames at a historic Chougan parade ground in Kishtwar.
In effort to prevent any communal strife in the wake of the murder, the district administration continued with curfew restrictions in Kishtwar region even on Thursday. Kishtwar Deputy Commissioner A S Rana said there was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere in the district and strict vigilance was being maintained in all sensitive areas.
Situation in the area was volatile despite heavy presence of security forces on Wednesday as a group of agitated local residents pelted stones on the office of Superintendent of Police near Chougan parade ground during the funeral procession. Police had to resort to use of tear smoke shells to disperse the crowd.
Rana said the situation was brought under control as some protesters pelted stones after the cremation ceremony was over. He said the army columns remained deployed in the area and no major incident of violence was reported in the area. Earlier, district authorities prevented large gathering of mourners in the area anticipating violence during the last rites. Several senior BJP leaders and local residents were not allowed to proceed towards Chougan by the local authorities in the wake of curfew restrictions.
EX-BJP MLA Shakti Parihar, along with his supporters, was not allowed to proceed towards Kishtwar from Doda by the district authorities and prevented from travelling on the highway.
Similarly, chairman of the Dogra Swabhimaan Sangathan party Lal Singh was taken in to preventive custody while he too was moving towards Kishtwar to attend funeral procession of RSS leader.
As regards the investigations into the killing of the RSS leader, the police have picked up several over ground workers (OGWs) for questioning. “We have picked up some people, mostly known as over ground workers (OGWs). They are being interrogated,” the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Jammu zone, M K Sinha told reporters on the sidelines of his visit to a polling station to oversee the security arrangements, reported PTI on Thursday.