It is no more an ‘intrusion’ of terrorists into Kashmir. It is ‘armed intrusion’.
The last time the government used such a term emphatically was during the Kargil war in 1999.
The army has moved up almost 800 Rashtriya Rifles men to deal with the onslaught.
Television reports said encounters between the infiltrators and security forces were on at eight locations and that commandos were being air-dropped.
Reluctant to brand them as Taliban, top government officials here admit that qualitatively different types of terrorists are intruding into Kashmir this year.
Many are beginning to call the entry of heavily armed, seasoned terrorists as “armed intrusions”, shedding their otherwise preferred, and milder, nomenclature.
Sources said there is no confirmation if the over 20 hardcore terrorists who entered Kashmir in March-April are of the Taliban. “But there are indications that they are not from the traditional militant bases of Punjab and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” a senior official said.
Two intercepts of conversations between terrorists in the valley indicate as much. One of them tells the other that the intruders are “Taliban” but it could be their way of referring to a ‘foreign’ fighter, establishment analysts pointed out. “We have heard them referring to Qaeda but that has turned out to be false,” the official said.
At the highest levels there is concern about the changing pattern, including the fact that groups of an unusually large number of heavily armed terrorists are crossing the Line of Control into India.
Army says the large-scale infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir is actually armed intrusion.
“We can no more call it infiltration. They are armed intrusions,” said a source. “They are ready to fight their way into the valley when challenged by the army,” he pointed out.
Last week, the home secretary, defence secretary and senior officers met key security officials in Jammu & Kashmir to discuss the new trend. An unusually large number of them — over two dozen in some cases — are coming together and putting up a stiff fight with the army when intercepted. They would sneak into the valley in groups of five or six. Some get killed, but many enter Kashmir. “They could be terrorists from the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan, hired for a payment, to step up violence,” said an intelligence source. It could be also be the Taliban. “It doesn’t make a qualitative difference to us. They are hardcore terrorists capable of putting up unusually violent attacks,” said an army officer.
Veteran terrorists are being sent in along with less experienced or fresh recruits of other groups such as the Hizbul Mujahideen. “The veterans may have escaped. The less experienced have been killed by agencies,” said a senior official in the security establishment.
Last month in Kupwara, security forces gunned down 18 terrorists and eight soldiers were killed in an encounter. Similar intensive cases of infiltration have been intercepted in Gurez and Handwara recently.
The government believes that Pakistani terror groups, especially the Lashkar-e-Taiba, in collusion with a section of the Pakistan army and Inter Services Intelligence, may be pushing these hardcore terrorists into India. Some could be entering India to escape the tightening grip of security forces and increasing American attacks in that country.
With this infiltration, terror attacks in J&K and elsewhere in India could significantly increase this summer, according to intelligence assessments. The new entrants could try to disrupt the elections. There is no concrete evidence, though home minister P Chidambaram generally cautioned political leaders.
There were three major infiltration bids involving large groups in recent weeks. The operation has entered the fourth day in Lolab Valley of Kupwara, where another big, heavily armed group had entered.
Analysts believe that 20 to 40 veteran terror operatives may have sneaked into J&K in March-April.
Muzammil, an alias of a senior Lashkar operative who may have played a key role in the Mumbai attacks, is among those steering this aggressive infiltration. But there is no evidence to show it is the same Muzammil. Many key Lashkar leaders are behind bars or their movement is restricted.
Investigators, however, have substantial evidence against Zarar Shah, coordinator of the Mumbai attacks.