The curious case of counting terrorists
Last week, a senior police officer revealed that there are 81 active terrorists in the Kashmir Valley as of now, including 29 locals and 52 foreign terrorists. How on earth can the data be so precise?
I’m well aware most governments and civil servants believe ordinary folk such as us will accept everything we are told. That’s true regardless of whichever party comes to power or who the bureaucrat in office is. But now and then, we are given information that would make the most credulous worm turn. And I guess it’s not surprising that this time, the issue concerns Jammu and Kashmir.
Last Saturday, the additional director-general of police (ADGP), Vijay Kumar, revealed astonishing details to the media. He said: “There are 81 active terrorists in the Kashmir Valley as of now, including 29 locals and 52 foreign terrorists”. How on earth can the data be so precise? Do we maintain a register these people sign in and additionally reveal their origin and background? Or do we have ways of smelling them out — perhaps quite literally?
However, that’s not all. The ADGP was more specific. “Bandipore, Kupwara and Ganderbal districts are free of local terrorists while only one local terrorist each is active in Anantnag, Srinagar, Baramulla, and Budgam.”
This time, let’s sidestep the question of how he could be so precise and specific. On this occasion, there are others that could take precedence. Is the ADGP suggesting that only foreign terrorists are at work in the first three districts? Second, if there is only one local terrorist in each of the last four districts — and if we know of their existence, I presume we know of their location — why are we unable to get them?
The police even seem to know how many local Kashmiris are recruited into terrorism each year. I presume either they are informing the police or someone reliable and close to them is squealing. The ADGP claimed that this year’s local recruitment is down to 99 from 201 in 2018. No one asked him how he arrived at these precise numbers, nor did he explain. Indeed, so confident was Kumar, he even offered a detailed break-up of the 99 figure.
The ADGP elaborated that of the 99 locals recruited into terrorism this year in the Kashmir Valley, 64 have been killed in counter-terrorism operations and 17 arrested, leaving only 18 active terrorists. I presume this means that 11 of the 29 active terrorists are of an earlier vintage. But this point was left perplexingly unexplained.
The bigger point the ADGP made was that, of the 64 that have been killed, 57 had joined terrorism only a month before their death. Again, how does he know? And if he knows when they joined, why weren’t they stopped or, at least, caught? But those questions weren’t asked.
Now, I’m not the first to be dumbfounded by the acuity of our policemen in the Valley. In the early 2000s, when the police regularly briefed us about the monthly tally of jihadis crossing the Line of Control from Pakistan, Gehad Madi, the Egyptian ambassador, couldn’t hide his astonishment. “They say 241 have crossed this month, 225 the month before and 230 the month before that. But how can they be so precise? Is there an office where these jihadis register when they cross the Line of Control and enter the country?” he asked.
Gehad was too much of a diplomat to raise his doubts in public. I, therefore, doubt if they were ever answered. But can’t similar questions be asked of the details ADGP Kumar has revealed?
It’s sad the journalists he speaks to don’t question him. It’s sadder still that he seems to know they won’t and expects the rest of us to accept what he says as gospel truth without demur.
Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold StoryThe views expressed are personal