M for Mumbai, M for Mendhar: 26/11 to 31/12
by Himanshu Jain on 07 Jan 2009 3 Comments

It was said that ten terrorists entered Mumbai on 26 November, via the coast. Then, another ten entered Mendhar (district Poonch, J&K) over the last 40 days. The Mumbai encounter lasted 62 Hours. The Mendhar encounter has entered the seventh day (and still counting, though the army is now said to be closing in). Thus India entered 2009 with an encounter, which continues at the time of writing. Already three security personnel and four terrorists have been killed so far.

? Army troops fired rockets and mortars targeting the militants' cave hideouts in Bhati Dhar forest area near the Line of Control in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch district, defence sources said.

? Army, along with special forces and commandos of the state police force, is planning conducting surgical operations to destroy the hideouts and neutralise the terrorists, who have taken positions in natural cave-type fortified bunkers in the area in the last 90 hours, they said.

? Over 10 militants are hiding in the area and intercepts decoded have revealed that some top commanders of Jaish-e-Mohammad, al Badr and Lashkar-e-Taiba were holed-up inside the hideouts, it said.

? Romeo Force's 29th unit, 26 Rashtriya Rifles and Special Operation Group of Jammu and Kashmir police, authorities have rushed para units of special forces to the area besides some additional troops, the sources said.

? Police have arrested a retired assistant sub-inspector, Muzaffar Shah, from Bhati Dhar for allegedly helping the militants in taking shelter in the area, the sources said.

? During preliminary interrogation, Shah revealed that militants used the caves for making solid bunkers over the past four years and a large number of ultras from different groups have taken shelter there.

? Also, a woman identified as Muneeza Begum, an anganwadi worker and wife of an NRI Mohammad Shafiq, was arrested from Thara village in Mendhar for her alleged involvement in providing support to militants, they said.

Since the 26 November 2008 attack in Mumbai, the Indian government has been very alert. An international effort has been launched to corner Pakistan, and Islamabad has been given evidence regarding complicity in the assault. Pressure is being built on Pakistan to hand over terrorists based on its soil. Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram is going to travel all over the world with the evidence against Pakistan.

Is India preparing for war? It is understood that leaves of army personnel have been cancelled till April 2009 (when India goes to the polls). Both armies appear to be taking up positions alongside the respective borders. International pressure is being mounted on Pakistan and the whole country is discussing war. Experts on TV channels talk of various options - a surgical strike, a commando operation, a cruise missile strike. India’s Foreign Minister, Defense minister, Prime Minister, National Security Advisor regularly issue angry press statements warning Pakistan. Daily someone or other had a warning for Pakistan.

Yet barely a month after Mumbai, another serious infiltration has taken place in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch. Mendhar is a predominately hilly region with Bhati Dhar forest and very little fertile land. It is an assembly constituency on the line of control. 77.67 % votes were polled in the recent assembly elections, and PDP won the seat.

Ten or more terrorists are still holed up in concrete bunkers made over the last four years in these jungles. Wireless communications between the infiltrators and their Pakistani counterparts are being monitored and leave no doubt of Pakistani Rangers (Pakistani Border Guards) and LeT’s involvement in the intrusion.

The Mumbai attack was on high-profile targets in densely populated spaces, with a large number of hostages. This is why the NSG and Marcos commandos took more than 60 hours to bring the situation under control.

But Mendhar has no issues of civilian hostages and property at stake. Hence, a full-scale operation should have been launched to flush out the infiltrators. Laser-guided bombs of mirage 2000 or cluster bombs could have been used to smoke out the bunkers. As the bunkers are inside India, right alongside the LoC, a full-scale and quick military action would have demonstrated India’s capabilities and resolve. Even helicopter gunships could have been used to clear the area within a few hours. This operation could have been used as an excuse to deploy thousands of troops along the LoC.

Tragically, Pakistan today views the UPA government as a harmless entity, or perhaps we should say non-entity! The UPA has mounted its biggest diplomatic offensive against Pakistan; it is trying to get world opinion on its side; but Pakistan knows that the UPA is SOFT and will soon forget the issue.

So Pakistanis simply ignores UPA’s international diplomacy and pushes in more terrorists across the border, just one month down the line! This is the sad reality for more than 100 crore Indians today. If India is seen as harmless and soft, rest assured we will see more and bigger attacks in the future. More Indians will die in bazaars, railway stations, hotels…

Sonia Gandhi in the last general elections went to every election meeting yelling about the NDA regime’s failure in Kargil. But despite being in power in J&K and at the Centre, her government could not prevent bunkers being built over a period of 4 years! She could not deter Pakistan assaulting us twice in 35 days. The bunkers were built during the time Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and Ghulam Nabi Azad were giving the healing touch (sic) to the militants (the polite term for terrorists).

India has lost a perfect opportunity to use its mighty strength and show Pakistan that it means business when it comes to defending citizens and territory. The UPA is answerable to the people why it did not detect the bunkers when they were being constructed, and why it did not attack them with full force once the armed intruders were detected.

Equally pathetic is the role of the press – the watchdog of our democracy and freedom. When the financial capital was under siege, the media covered the event graphically and debated every aspect to death. Now, a similar number of intruders have entered a sensitive border area, and granted that the same graphic visuals are not available, but a very similar operation is underway. Three security men have already given up their lives to defend our territorial sovereignty; many more lives may be lost before we recover lost ground.

So where are the TV channels? Why have they not reached the homes of the slain terrorists? Why is there miniscule coverage of the Mendhar infiltration? Why is it not being called 31/12?

And where are those who frantically lit candles all over India, abusing all politicians, and crying about the loss of comfort in their cushy lives? Why no candles for Mendhar? Is it a routine encounter; have the media and glitterati developed immunity towards attacks in Jammu & Kashmir?

We will have to be far more serious about national security. We are considered soft, even scared, because we refuse to be alert and vigilant. We allowed 11 cities to be bombed, Mumbai to be attacked, and now Mendhar.

Unless we wake up as a nation, we will be the laughing stock of the international community. Symbolic anger and synthetic protests will bring only faux sympathy and manufactured concern, and jihadis who laugh all the way to the next bloodbath.

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