Militants are increasingly targeting the Jammu region to counter a perceived rise in activities of Hindu right-wing parties in Muslim-majority areas, security agencies said on Wednesday, underlining a shift of focus by armed groups away from the Kashmir valley.
Officials pointed out that Wednesday’s terror attack on the Jammu-Srinagar highway near Udhampur, around 60 km from Jammu city, reflected a departure from the past when militants focused areas of Pir Panchal and Chenab Valley, drawing strength from a support base among the mainly Muslims inhabitants.
Two Pakistani militants carried out the audacious attack on a paramilitary convoy on the highway, killing two BSF jawans before one of them was shot dead by security forces. The other militant was captured alive.
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Officials involved in counter-terrorism operations said that the Jammu region have witnessed continued communal strife in the last one year, which secessionist groups see as the result of increasing influence of saffron parties in areas where Muslims outnumber Hindus.
The surge in militant attacks in Jammu, more than half-a-dozen since the BJP took over power in New Delhi last year, is being attributed to growing communalism in Jammu’s Muslim-majority pockets, where communal strife is said to have alienated a large population again.
Earlier this year, the BJP formed a government with the PDP in Jammu and Kashmir, the first instance the saffron party having a share of power in the country’s only Muslim-majority state.
According to intelligence officials in Srinagar, the latest attacks showed a trend of militants striking far away from the Line of Control and the International Border and deep into the Jammu region.
“There is more focus on Jammu (now),” said a Srinagar-based police official in-charge counter-insurgency ops, adding that there was a noticeable dip in fidayeen attacks by groups from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in the Kashmir valley.
“The armed groups now prefer to send special batches for target-specific tasks near the border areas in Jammu, which gives less time to security forces for counter-strategise,” said the official.
Sources pointed out that the growing trend of militant focus on Jammu started last year when Narendra Modi took over as prime minister.
Ten people, including three army officials and three civilians, were killed in a major attack in the Arnia sector along the international border on November 27, just a day ahead of Modi's Jammu visit.
Two major attacks in Kathua and Samba were carried when the PDP-BJP government shook hands for a power-sharing formula in the state in March this year, in which more than 10 people were killed, including seven CRPF jawans.
Wednesday’s attack came near a Muslim-majority area of Chenani on the national highway, reflecting a growing support base that was running dry for years now, the officials pointed out.