The recent grenade throwing incident in the Nirankari Bhawan in Amritsar’s Rajasansi village left three dead and ten injured. The police claim that bike-borne individuals lobbed the grenade and escaped. The state was already on a high alert as intelligence inputs had stated that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists had entered Punjab and were planning to move towards Delhi. The attack is being investigated as a terrorist strike. With this announcement a team from the NIA would join the investigations.
The situation in Jammu and Kashmir is slowly being brought under control. Over 200 militants have been eliminated this year already. Most of the top leadership of terrorist groups have been killed. Intelligence inputs continue to flow leading to successful operations with limited collateral damage. This has added to frustration within the deep state.
The recently held Panchayat elections witnessed a record 64.5% votes in the Kashmir region, while 79.5% voted in Jammu. This was a massive rebuke to terrorists and separatists, all of whom had given a call for a boycott. With the setting in of winters, movement of terrorists from across the LoC would reduce. Thus, the situation may undergo a complete change during the next few months.
Pak attempted to push militancy South of the Pir Panjal, into the Jammu region. The same has been dealt with and security forces remain on high alert to ensure it is curtailed and prevented. Thus, all Pak attempts to enhance militancy in the valley and Jammu region are being nipped in the bud.
It is with this backdrop that Pak realized that the only way to hit at India is to recreate the terror network in Punjab. It is seeking to avoid pushing in its own terrorists as it could imply a strong military response from India. It is seeking to revive the old Sikh militancy in the state. Punjab had always been on Pak’s radar.
A report in Mar this year by the Home Ministry stated that Sikh youths were being trained at ISI facilities in Pak for carrying out terror activities in India. The report added that members of the community settled in Canada and elsewhere were also being instigated by false and malicious propaganda. The government had accepted that radicalization of youth by terrorist groups through the internet and social media was becoming a major challenge.
The influence of Pak based terror groups on the Sikh movement was also witnessed when Indian officials were prohibited from entering the Gurdwara Panja Sahib in Pakistan on Baisakhi. Photographs also emerged of Hafiz Saeed with Sikh militant leader Gopal Singh Chawla in Lahore. To further the Pak propaganda, militant leaders had placed posters of Sikh referendum 2020 in the Parikrama of Gurdwara Panja Sahib.
In Aug this year, the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) organized a rally in Trafalgar Square, London, demanding a referendum in 2020 for an independent Khalistan. The same has been criticised by all political parties including Punjab parties. It is evidently the work of anti-India Sikh groups, part of the support being provided by Pak.
In recent times terrorist modules are being detected and neutralized in Punjab. All those neutralized had links to Pak and were being directed by their Pak handlers to attack local targets. Pressure cooker bomb making units have also been busted. Thus, evidently Pak influence is increasing amongst radicalized youth.
The above incidents and inputs of increased Pak interest to revive militancy in Punjab is what prompted the Indian army chief, General Bipin Rawat, to state in a seminar early this month, ‘We have to be careful. Let us not think the Punjab problem is over. We cannot close our eyes to what is happening in Punjab. If we do not take early action now, it would be too late.’ It is evident that intelligence inputs are suggesting Pak interest in reviving militancy in the state.
Pak cannot risk employing its terrorists from known terror groups, presently operating in the valley, for an incident in Punjab. Any militant strike in Punjab would enhance anger against even Sikh militants which it is training in its camps. It would set back all attempts it is making towards enhancing demands for Khalistan. Further, India could respond with even greater force than it did post the Uri attack, which could impact Pak. It would therefore seek to only employ Sikh militants, which it could support from across the border.
There is no doubt in Pak’s desire to enhance turmoil in Punjab. With it failing in the valley, Punjab appears to be its next target. With many militant leaders camped and protected in Pak, it can influence youth to join militant ranks. While Pak’s actions are at an early stage, they cannot be ignored.
The grenade attack was a signal that more may follow. The Governments at the state and centre need to overcome their differences and work jointly to nip the problem in the bud. The state needs to handle its drug menace and control the flow of funds from the same. The centre needs to enhance measures along the border restricting flow of drugs and infiltration. Similarly, the Centre needs to enhance measures to prevent influx of Punjab militants employing Nepal as a conduit.
Delay in acting or treating intelligence inputs flowing on a regular basis as rumours or exaggerated may lead to a situation which could damage the growth, development and existing peace in the state. Acting in time would ensure continued peace and stability in the State.