As the Army is interrogating three soldiers from the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry for their alleged links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), it has experts worried. For, this is the first time in the history of insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir that there is a suspicion of Army personnel having terror links.
Army sources said the names of the jawans cropped up during the interrogation of an LeT terrorist, picked up from the Rajouri area in a joint operation with the state police on June 15. He revealed that the Army men were providing logistics support to militant cadres. Sources identified the soldiers being questioned as Sepoy Abdul Haq, Lance Naik Mohammed Shakeel and Naik Mohammed Sharif.
Under arrest since “early July”, the Army personnel have admitted to their interrogators that they provided support to terrorists after they threatened to eliminate their families living in villages along the Line of Control (LoC) in Poonch district. Many in the defence establishment feel it would be incorrect to suggest the likelihood of terrorist infiltration in the force on the basis of a stray incident.
However, the present case does illustrate that the Army cannot afford to consider its own personnel above suspicion and there’s a pressing need to devise a mechanism to prevent the recurrence of such cases. A senior Army official said, “We will have to closely monitor problems being faced by jawans. They are usually given detailed briefings when they proceed on leave and debriefed when they rejoin duty. But it’s clear that security measures need to be strengthened and enforced.”
The Army, however, does not think that putting its personnel under surveillance is the answer. “It could affect troop morale. We have to fight as a cohesive unit and there’s no room for distrust,” he pointed out.
Lieutenant General JS Dhillon (retd), who served as director general of military intelligence from 1994-95, suggested administration at unit level should be ramped up to pre-empt jawans from falling into such traps. He said, “If unit commanders are more alert, it will not be difficult to identify the bad hats. The scenario is not worrisome right now but we cannot afford to be complacent.”
Home Minister Shivraj Patil on Wednesday informed the Rajya Sabha that the two persons arrested by the Jammu and Kashmir police for possible links with the LeT are from the India Reserve Battalion.