Pampore attack: ROPs to secure highways from militant ambushes

The thrust is on the Road Opening Parties which were not in place at the time Pampore attack took place. The convoys will move only when ROPs issue clearance.

Srinagar: Army officers pay their last respect to Captain Tushar Mahajan and Lance Naik Om Prakash who were killed during an encounter with militants in Pampore of Jammu and Kashmir; at Badami Bagh Cantonment, Srinagar on Feb 22, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Post Home Minister Rajnath Singh’s visit, J&K has decided to set up a Joint Competent Authority which will work to safeguard the highways from future militant ambushes. The authority will coordinate with the security agencies and ensure that the Road Opening Parties are in place before the convoy movement begins.

In recent months, around 30 kilometre stretch between Bijbehara and Pampore has witnessed six attacks by the militants which has led to many casualties, The Pampore attack alone led to the death of eight CRPF personnel and the attack on Entrepreneurial Development Institute killed three Army commandos including two captains.

The thrust is on the Road Opening Parties which were not in place at the time Pampore attack took place. The convoys will move only when ROPs issue clearance.

Already Army, CRPF and the police have started maintaining vigil at the identified vulnerable spots. There will also be no convoy movement on festivals like Holi, Eid, Navratra, and holidays like Sundays. An investigation of the Pampore attack has revealed huge security gaps which have now been recommended to be plugged.

In 2013, J&K had similarly undertaken a comprehensive review of the security along the 15 kilometre part of the highway passing through Srinagar city after an ambush at the upscale Hyderpora left 11 security personnel dead. Militants, armed with AK assault rifles, attacked an Army convoy from the front as well as back.

Militants even captured the attack on camera, uploading it later to the social sites where it went viral. The attack carried out in the heart of Srinagar is believed to have given a fillip to the fresh militant recruitment in Valley. In fact, Hyderpora attack was a watershed moment as the militancy only showed a steady upward trend after it. The previous 2012 had seen the violence plunge to lowest with only 84 militants, 17 security personnel and 16 civilians losing their lives.

After Hyderpora, the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), constructed around 20 new bunkers along the road from Pampore to Parimpora, the stretch of the highway crossing through Srinagar city.

This certainly helped. Ever since, the segment has been by and large free of the attacks. But the past six months showed the militants had moved to a longer 30 kilometre Bijbehara to Pampora stretch to mount their ambushes. And the strategy has proved successful. The densely settled areas near Pampore and at the other end at Bijbehara plus the heavy volume of the traffic ensured militants could remain undetected and unnoticed up until they pressed closer to the Army or paramilitary convoys.

Will establishment of the new authority help the matters? The coming few months will provide the answer. The new count of the militants, despite the killing of 73 since January remains 179, which means replenishment of the depleted ranks has taken place fast.