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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2039

Spurt In Terror Activities In Punjab

By Rattan Saldi - Syndicate Features

The arrest of an ISI agent from Pathankot on Feb 2, 2016, who worked as a labourer at Mamoon cantonment, recovery of two AK -47 rifles, two Insas rifles and a large quantity of cartridges and a magazine from a tributary of Doaba canal and the recent countrywide arrest of 15 suspected moles of the ISIS, including the son of a top retired army officer from Vasco Railway station in Goa on Feb 3, 2016, make one believe that the intelligence agencies are on the prowl looking for nefarious elements trying to foment trouble in Punjab and elsewhere in the country.

But the run up to these developments presented a picture of lethargy, incompetence and lack of coordination on the part of intelligence agencies and security forces. The July 2015 attack on Dinanagar police station in which a senior police officer and several policemen were killed, and the sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib, the Holy book of the Sikhs in Gurdaspur district last October y were disturbing, to say the least.

So was the early morning attack on an RSS Shakha in Ludhiana in January 2016 when gun-trotting motorcycle riders indiscriminately fired at RSS activists gathering for their morning drill. No one was hurt in the firing but the case remains unsolved like the incidents at Dinanagar and other places. The NIA and the CBI claim that they are investigating vigorously though.

As many as six Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militants of Pakistan struck at the Pathankot air base in the wee hours on 2nd January, shaking India from the hangover of New Year celebrations. There were similarities in the Dinanagar and the Pathankot attacks. In both cases, trained militants snatched vehicles from locals to reach their targets and left enough evidence that they were from Pakistan.

These attacks are a grim reminder of the need for vigil as the price for peace in Punjab. It shows that India cannot remain smug that militancy has ended in Punjab in the wake of Operation Blue Star in 1984.

Pakistan may have given up the Khalistan card in the post-Zia period but it has not given up its animosity towards its western neighbour. Nor has it given up its resolve to bleed India given the fact that the GHQ Shura in Rawalpindi runs Pakistan’s India policy.

While the Dinanagar attack brought home the message that terrorism was rising its ugly head after nearly twenty years of comparative respite from militancy in Punjab, the Pathankot attack has manifested the fact that the masterminds of Plan B – Backup plan to undermine India with terrorist groups, have no stake in the India-Pak peace parleys.

Radicalization and religious fundamentalism are again on the rise in Punjab and both are aided and abetted from across the border. The observance of the anniversary of Operation Blue Star and the death anniversary of the Khalistani protagonist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale under the very nose of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) in June 2015 were orchestrated from outside the state’s international border.

Punjab has 533 km long border with Pakistan. The border has been completely fenced and flood-lit for 462 km. The remaining stretch is either riverine or difficult terrain where fencing or erecting flood lighting poles is not feasible. It is this area that is being used for smuggling of drugs, narcotics and weapons by the drug mafia and arms smugglers.

Smuggling by small boats is the norm rather than an exception in riverine belt of Ravi and Beas rivers and their tributaries to the west of Gurdaspur and Pathankot and some areas in the Ferozepur district. There is a clear nexus between drug syndicates and smugglers engaged in arms and ammunition shipments into India. High tech surveillance aided by night vision equipment and telescopes has become no deterrence.

Well, drugs, heroin and opium entering Punjab originate in Afghanistan. There is much evidence in public domain to show that militant jihadi groups in Af-Pak region are engaged in heroin trade with the patronage of ISI. And within Punjab, the smugglers are said to enjoy the patronage of some politicians, policemen and the underworld. In a first, one senior politician was named in a FIR lodged last year on the basis of disclosures made by a known drug peddler.

According to the Border Security Force (BSF), 361 Kg of heroin was seized on the Punjab border in 2014 - up from 322 Kg in 2013. The seizures made in 2015 were estimated to be worth Rs 1,720 crore.

The spurt in narcotics smuggling is a clear pointer to the new ISI game plan. After failing in its attempts to divide the people of Punjab by aiding and abetting the Khalistani movement during the eighties and the nineties, Pakistan’s army –run intelligence agency is now trying to turn the valiant Punjab youth into drug addicts. It is also on mission to rake up communal disturbances in the state.

There is always a danger that some youth and politicians, policemen and security personnel wanting to make a quick buck are lured into anti-national activities. That is how ISI establishes its sleeper cells to provide logistical and other support to the terrorists.

The ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine has blamed the BSF for the drug – weapon smuggling menace. The BSF denies the charge. There is no denying however that the spurt in terrorist activities and drug-weapon smuggling is offering a handle to rival parties to score some brownie points as they gear up for assembly elections next year. Already political parties have started holding rallies as a show of strength since the Maghi Mela in Amritsar in mid-January.

Religious issues are raked up in the run up to every ballot in Punjab. The decision of former chief minister Capt. Amrinder Singh not to fight the Khadoor Sahib bye-election as a protest against the sacrilege of the Holy Guru Granth Sahib is a clear indication that the Congress party may use the issue as an election plank.

One of the issues warming up the pre-poll scene is the demand for release of Khalistani militants presently behind bars. Increasing unemployment is another issue. The SGPC has demanded the release of arrested Khalistani militants. The issue could see more lung-fire power as the Election Day draws closer.

There are not enough job opportunities in Punjab for the youth passing out of universities and technical and professional institutes. This has resulted in the flight of talent from the state. Many jobless youth are said to be becoming drug addicts or indulging in criminal activities.

Pakistani agency ISI is targeting the jobless Punjab youth to make them fall a prey to its designs. It is also instigating the Khalistani elements against the backdrop of Gurudwara politics, the influence of religious bodies in politics, and radicalization of faith besides vote bank politics.

The situation demands urgent attention to check the drift. There is also need for stepped up 24/7 vigilance. More so since the Lahore –perched garrulous global terrorist, Hafiz Saeed, is not resting on his 26/11 Mumbai laurels and has warned of more terror attacks on India.

- Asian Tribune -

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