3 terrorists killed in Srinagar encounter were repeatedly asked to surrender, but they chose to attack instead
A report by Al Jazeera overlooks crucial facts as it seeks to build a false narrative about the encounter by the security forces
When it comes to terrorism and Jammu & Kashmir, certain foreign media platforms work with a clear agenda to spread disinformation - even if it means twisting facts and leaving out important details from a story. Journalistic ethics go for a toss, giving way to manufactured narrative.
Three terrorists were killed in Kashmir on the outskirts of Srinagar, at Lawaypora near Hokersar, in an encounter with security forces that began in the evening of 29 December and ended by noon the next day. The terrorists were identified as Ajaz Maqbool Ganie, Ather Mushtaq (both residents of Pulwama) and Zubair Lone (resident of Shopian).
Al Jazeera in its report “Indian forces kill three Kashmiri men in Srinagar” conveniently avoids giving details of the encounter and official statements of security forces while using nomenclature that is clearly aimed at pushing a pre-determined narrative.
Outlined below are some of the key points made in the article along with the facts that it chooses to ignore.
India, which has been trying to quell resistance to its administration of part of the disputed Himalayan region for decades, has killed more than 200 people this year, according to official data.
First of all, the word “disputed” is incorrect and highly objectionable as there is no legal “dispute” relating to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir (including present day Union Territories J&K and Ladakh) is clearly listed in the Indian Constitution as the 15th state of India, from the day the constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly of India on 26 November 1949. It is not listed in the United Nations or any other international body as a “dispute”. No other nation of the world (including Pakistan) has ever listed Jammu and Kashmir state or the said region as their area in their constitution or any other legal document.
Then, the reference to 200 “people” killed actually refers to terrorists killed in crossfire with security forces. The words “resistance” and “people” when referring to heavily armed terrorists is testimony to Al Jazeera’s covert agenda to set an anti-India narrative.
The fact is that the Indian Army has been focusing on getting local terror recruits to surrender and return back to normal life. In this incident too, the terrorists were given ample opportunity to surrender. However, they chose to attack the security forces with grenades and gunfire instead.
Over the past decades Pakistan-backed terror outfits have created a network of well paid over-ground workers (OGWs) in some areas of Kashmir region, who also double up as recruiters. Youngsters in Kashmir become soft targets for these recruiters who brainwash them to join terror ranks. The terror recruitment is now steadily declining following concerted efforts by both the local government as well as security forces.
The terrorists involved in the Srinagar encounter were youngsters who were similarly brainwashed. Despite repeated offer by the security forces to surrender, they went on the offensive, using heavy ammunition. The ensuing encounter lasted for about 18 hours before all three were neutralized.
Though their families have claimed they were not terrorists, the use of heavy arms and ammunition tells a different story.
A spokesman for the Indian Army declined to comment, referring the matter to the police.
Al Jazeera has conveniently avoided reporting a detailed press briefing by General Officer Commanding (GoC) Kilo Force HS Sahi on the very day the encounter ended. Lt. Gen. Sahi’s statement was broadcast by all local as well as national news agencies and is easily available on the Internet.
ARMY’S DETAILED PRESS BRIEFING
“Since past many days, intelligence inputs were pouring in continuously about the movement of terrorists on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway. Yesterday, we developed leads and came to know that terrorists are hiding in a house right opposite Noora hospital at Lawaypora in HMT area,” GoC Kilo Force HS Sahi said at a press briefing after the encounter.
“The Army, Jammu Kashmir Police and CRPF launched a joint operation last evening. At the very outset, the forces called out to the terrorists to surrender. One of them even tried to come out of the building but his associates started firing at the security forces, hurled grenades and called him back inside. The operation was suspended for the night, though we maintained the cordon. When the operation was resumed at first light next morning, repeated announcements were again made, giving the terrorists the option to surrender. This time too, they started firing and hurling grenades at the forces, which gave us an indication they had no intention to surrender. The three terrorists were killed in the ensuing crossfire. The operation ended by 11:30 a.m.”
“The kind of arms and ammunition used by the terrorists made it very clear that they had planned some major attack near the national highway,” Major General Sahi pointed out.
“Parents might not be knowing activities of their wards,” Vijay Kumar, Kashmir Valley’s top police official, said about the men killed in the early hours of Wednesday morning, adding that they were supporters of armed groups and likely planning an attack.
Kumar said one rifle and two pistols had been recovered from the site of the gun battle.
The Al Jazeera report has given a very sketchy reference to the police statement that was released to the press soon after the incident. The details of the incident as narrated in the police statement have been completely left out. The report has also avoided using the words ‘terrorists’ or even ‘militants’. Instead, it preferred to term terrorists as “supporters of armed groups” – while the fact is that neither the Jammu Kashmir Police nor the Indian Army ever use this nomenclature to refer to terrorists.
The police statement gave a detailed account of the sequence of events leading to and during the encounter. The details are the same as shared by Lt. Gen. Sahi in his press briefing. “It is pertinent to mention here that the trio killed in today’s gunfight were given ample opportunity to surrender both yesterday evening and today morning but they didn’t surrender and instead fired and lobbed grenades on the search party,” the police statement pointed out clearly.
Indian security forces said they killed three fighters in an overnight gun battle in Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar, but the families of the dead men said they were innocent civilians.
Bashir Ahmad Ganai, Aijaz Ganai’s grandfather, told reporters present at the families’ protest that his grandson was not a fighter.
“He was a student. Why did they kill him?” he said.
The security forces never use the term “fighters” to refer to terrorists. The police shared the background of the three terrorists with the media, but of course the Al Jazeera report makes no mention of it. The police chief also openly questioned the families’ claim, but the report is silent about it.
When asked about the allegations made by the three families, Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh said: “The families of two youth claimed that their children had gone to submit forms at a university. I want to ask them what were their children doing at the encounter site if they had gone to submit a form.” Nevertheless, the police will investigate the claims made by families, he said while speaking to the press.
“Although the three killed in today’s encounter were not mentioned in our list of terrorists, yet two of them are hardcore associates of terrorists. Pertinently, one of the two is relative of top HM (Hizb-ul Mujahideen) commander Rayees Kachroo who was killed in 2017. Reportedly, third might have joined very recently. Generally parents don’t have idea about the activities of their wards. Several OGWs after committing terror crimes like grenade throwing and pistol shooting etc. stay normally with their family. For instance, one student from Pulwama who was taking coaching in Srinagar was caught for lobbing a grenade with the help of CCTV footage. His parents were totally unaware about his activities,” the police statement said earlier.
A case under relevant sections of law has been registered and investigation has been initiated, the police statement said.
The Indian Army has been focusing on getting terror recruits to surrender and return to normal life. In another recent encounter between terrorists and security forces in south Kashmir's Kulgam district on 22 December, two terrorists belonging to terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba surrendered to the security forces. In that case too the encounter took place on the basis of specific input about the presence of terrorists in that area. While the operation was underway, families of the holed up terrorists appealed to them to lay down their weapons and surrender. The armed youth listened and surrendered.
The two terrorists were identified as Yawar Waghey and Amir Ahmed Mir. "As we launched the operation, we came to know that both were locals who had joined the ranks of terrorists a couple of months ago,” a PTI report said quoting an official.
Their families were contacted and their parents were asked to appeal to them to surrender.
"Waghey’s elderly father and mother made appeals to their son and finally he came out and surrendered before the troops. We requested Mir’s parents to do the same and he, too, came out and laid down his arms," an official said.
There is a video capturing the moment of Waghey's parents with their son. It shows Waghey's mother kissing him on the forehead while the father reassures both that the Army was there to protect them and would take care of them. "...Tell them everything and you will soon have meals with us," the father tells the son.
Three months ago, a 24-year-old from the Valley was persuaded to join terror ranks by a local recruiter Abbas Sheikh. He was given a grenade and designated a member of The Resistance Front (TRF), a shadow group believed to be a subsidiary of the banned Lashker-e-Taiba terror outfit, the PTI report said.
The disenchantment set in soon after. The youth, whose identity is being kept under wraps, spent a night on a tree, tired, hungry and fearful of a wild bear who lay in prowl. He had been roaming the jungles of Kokernag when he encountered the bear.
"The bear ran after me and I managed to climb a tree. I was on the tree the entire day and night on an empty stomach with a grenade in my hand. I realised that our mentors are making fools of us," he is quoted as saying in his interrogation report.
It was a turning point. He gave up his arms at a nearby Army unit in the interiors of south Kashmir. He was promised that he and his family can now lead a normal life.
There have been over a dozen such surrenders this year. Though the efforts don’t always work – as they didn’t work in the case of Srinagar encounter.
Success of anti-terror ops
Continuous and focused anti-terror operations by security forces have ensured a decrease in terrorist incidents, infiltration and civilian killings in Jammu and Kashmir in 2020. In more than 100 "successful" counter-terror operations, 225 terrorists have been eliminated this year, the state police said at its annual press conference on 31 December.
“Among the killed terrorists, 47 were top commanders belonging to various outfits. Today, all top commanders of various outfits have been eliminated," DGP Dilbag Singh said at the conference.
During the year, 299 terrorists and their associates were arrested and 12 terrorists surrendered, he said. "As many as 635 OGWs were arrested and 56 out of them were booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA)," he said.