South Asia Research and Analysis Studies

The bizarre case of Keran operation
Waqar Ahmed

The Indian Army recently conducted a military operation in the Keran Sector of Jammu and Kashmir against suspected infiltrators. The operation near the LoC followed talks between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session in New York.
The militants were first supposedly discovered on the night of September 14 in Fateh Galli and Gujjartur areas that adjoin the Shala Bhata village in the Keran sector. Initially, the Indian Army claimed to have killed 15 intruders, while its six soldiers were injured in gunbattle.

Last week, another senior Indian military official claimed that 12 militants were killed near an abandoned village in the densely-forested area. “We are proceeding with extreme caution in the flushing out operations at Shala Bhata to avoid casualties. The terrain is extremely tough, with thick undergrowth and crevasses. It is likely that we may find some bodies of the intruders and war-like stores.
The militants who have managed to flee back across the LoC may have booby-trapped the bodies,’’ media reports quoting a senior Indian Army officer said. According to Lieutenant General Sanjiv Chachra, the Indian military commander, 59 heavy weapons were recovered from the Keran area, along with a large amount of ammunition and rations. He claimed that markings on the weapons indicated “the militants had received help from the Pakistan Army” for their infiltration operation.
“It could not be possible without their support,” Chachra announced at a press conference in Srinagar. The Indian officials maintained that “the intrusion into the Keran sector was no routine affair, but a preparation for a bigger offensive that the terrorists wanted to launch during winter.
The number of infiltrators, the quantity of arms and ammunition they were carrying as well as the tenacity with which they engaged Indian troops has all come as a surprise.” Meanwhile, the Indian air chief NAK Browne also jumped into the controversy. At a press conference to mark the Indian Air Force Day, Air Chief Marshal Browne said there was a recent increase in violence on the LoC. He added that the Indian Air Force would provide any assistance sought by the army.
Nonetheless, the statements made by the Indian military officials regarding the Keran operation seem illogical and contradictory. If one follows their claims, several questions will arise in one’s mind.
Why was the operation continued for two weeks against some alleged infiltrators when the Indian Army had the firepower to finish it off much more quickly? Why only eight bodies were recovered as claimed by General Chachra while it was first claimed that 12 or 15 militants were killed?
Where did the other 30-40 alleged militants disappear as the Indian media was earlier informed by the army?Was the military operation carried out to coincide with the Nawaz-Manmohan meeting in New York?
How much of it was a public relations exercise to tell the Indians that their army was alert in held Kashmir?Was it an exercise to draw attention from the controversy surrounding the former Indian army chief V K Singh’s allegation that money was paid to ministers in held Jammu and Kashmir?
Why do the top Indian military leaders are claiming that there was no Kargil-like situation in the Keran sector? Why did the need to compare the alleged intrusion with Kargil arise?It may be noted that extra-judicial killings and made-up military and paramilitary operations are a norm in the held valley. In early September 2013, Inspector General of Police, CRPF, Nalin Prabat, claimed that three militants had attacked a CRPF security post with automatic weapons and tried to run away from the spot on a motorcycle. Nalin said that some arms and ammunition had been recovered from the dead militants. But local residents in Shopian confirmed the dead were stunt bikers who were killed in unprovoked firing by the CRPF Jawans. Protests subsequently erupted in the area over the killings. On the other hand, sources in Jammu and Kashmir Police, while confirming the deaths, did not agree to the account of CRPF IG and announced that they were ascertaining the identity of the dead people and were awaiting details of the incident.
In held Kashmir, the truth seems to be masked by false statements, where there is no controversy, one is subsequently generated and where there are no militants, several are made to appear from nowhere. “Extract every morsel of propaganda” is a tactic that seems to have been manipulated to perfection by the Indian forces.