Indian army bears brunt in Kashmir

Indian army, the second largest army in the world, is bearing the brunt when it comes to fighting insurgency in Kashmir as militants strike with impunity resulting in the increasing casualties of officers engaged in counter-insurgency operations.

The casualty figure in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir during peace time is much higher than war time, admits top brass of Indian army of 15 Corps based in Srinagar.

Indian defense ministry officials go on record saying that each day a soldier or a paramilitary trooper gets killed fighting militants in Kashmir.

The number of army or paramilitary personnel killed in 2002 fighting militants in Kashmir is estimated at 450-500, sources said. Almost double this figure have been injured or maimed.

What is shocking for Indian army is that officers of the rank of major are losing their lives while battling militants.

Major Vinod Kumar Rana of Rashtriya Rifles, a special force wing of army, was killed while fighting militants, who ambushed an army patrol in Mendhar area of Jammu on October 20, 2002.

Major Rajiv Dahiya of Rashtriya Rifles was killed on September 29 last while leading his men in Surankote area in Jammu province.

The list doesn’t end here. Major Vivek Singh of 18 Madras was killed in Machil sector of Kashmir on August 29 last.

Earlier, a Commanding officer and a Brigadier were killed in a mine blast in August in Jammu province. Apart from casualty from militant violence, there is a distressing and warrying trend that has surfaced off late in army cantonments.

The frustration of prolonged deployment has taken its toll on the discipline as soldiers get berserk and kill colleagues or officers.

In August last year, an army man in Mahore area near Indo-Pak border took out his gun and shot dead Colonel K.S. Padhi, who was his commanding officer.

Similar incident took place in same month as three army soldiers were gunned down by fellow colleague in a drunken state and in another incident at Jammu railway station, a Border Security Force, a paramilitary force, man opened fire at his commandant after a duel over leave sanction.

According to an army officer based in Srinagar, year of uninterrupted engagement in counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir has had an impact on the traditionally trained army, which is meant to fight enemy as an enemy.

“Nowhere in the world so far has such prolonged forced deployment of forces been undertaken as in India. The hostile environment and psychological distraction has added to the milieu,” he said.

It is often because of over enthusiasm of young officers and soldiers that get them into trap of militants.

“The youngsters do not realise that the time is on their side once militants are trapped or caught in a cordon. The officers and jawan have shown tendency to move into militant hideouts in the middle of the gun battle to bring an early end to the encounter,” said a senior army officer on condition of anonymity. Militants are often positioned on higher reaches from where they can watch the troops’ movements and launch offensive. Such offensive initially cause losses to the soldiers.