Jammu attack: Civilian interface a security hazard for military camps

While the Modi government has provided Rs 1,487 crore towards perimeter protection of army bases, there is an urgent need to ensure that growing civilian population does not encroach on cantonments.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2018 07:45 IST
Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Jammu army camp attack,Sunjuwan army camp attack,Jammu
Security personnel take position during an encounter with terrorists at Sunjuwan military station in Jammu on Sunday. Five soldiers and a civilian died in the attack on an army camp.(Nitin Kanotra/HT Photo)

Not long ago, Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat’s preference for high-end technology over manual protection of army installations proved to be a problem not too far away from his South Block office. As a test case, Rawat asked for motion sensors to be installed for perimeter protection at the Manekshaw Centre in the Delhi cantonment. The idea was to free up vital human resources.

The experiment wasn’t successful because motion sensors started picking up trucks using the National Highway 48, which runs close to the Manekshaw Centre, setting off numerous false alarms at the control centre.

The situation at the Uri brigade headquarters, which the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) attacked on September 18, 2016, and led to India responding with a surgical strike across the Line of Control 10 days later, had been no different when motion sensors were installed there.

The sensors were causing the Uri perimeter security all kinds of problems, with alarms going off every time a vehicle passed the Salmabad highway towards Chakoti-Muzafarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).

While the United States is willing to offer perimeter protection security to India that not only detects motion but also launches a pre-emptive grenade attack once the threat is identified, Indian forces have little option but to use electrified fences, concertina wires and manual patrolling because of civilian activity near these once-remote army installations.

Spread over seven square kilometres, the stage of the latest attack, Sunjuwan is one of the biggest army installations in Jammu.

The NH 44 runs right next to it and builders are advertising the newly constructed villas coming up not far away.

The Sunjuwan camp was attacked by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) militants on the morning of February 10, a day after the five-year anniversary of the hanging of Parliament attack accused Afzal Guru.

The attackers breached the perimeter security, killed five army personnel and one civilian, and injured 10 others including six women and children. Sunjuwan is merely 20 minutes from the Kaluchak army camp, which was attacked by the LeT on May 14, 2002, killing 31 people including family members of army personnel.

While the Modi government has provided Rs 1,487 crore towards perimeter protection of army bases, there is an urgent need to ensure that growing civilian population does not encroach on cantonments. The proximity of the civilian population with army or military installations makes both vulnerable – particularly in the troubled state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Read | Sunjuwan army camp attack: 7 times Indian security forces were targeted

Though Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa told the Senate in Islamabad last December that he wanted peace with India and Pakistan’s national security adviser Naseer Janjua reiterated that to his Indian counterpart in Bangkok, increasing ceasefire violations and terror attacks clearly show that the Indian military needs to be on constant alert and needs better protection of its bases.

For fewer casualties in case of attacks, the defence ministry must ensure isolation of army installations from civilian populations and then use high-end security devices to secure them. Otherwise, Indian security forces will continue to suffer losses during surprise attacks on its bases because it is virtually impossible to be on red alert 24x7, 365 days a year.

First Published: Feb 12, 2018 07:44 IST