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Operation Darind - A Lightening Raid

Counter-Insurgency Operations in Kashmir

By Yoginder Kandhari

Militants in Kashmir Valley always framed their own rules of the combat game. Their activities often subsided during winter months as much for closure of passes as for severity of cold. Unfortunately, security forces never exploited this combat procrastination, on the part of militants, so as to seize tactical initiative which mostly sides with the later in low intensity combat situations. Winter months often gave one an impression of an undeclared truce between the two sides, militants, on one hand, staying away from combat out of tactical compulsion of conserving manpower and material, while, on the other hand, there would be a virtual cessation of operations by security forces with their higher echelons conspicuous by their absence on ‘winter‘leave, almost en mass. During winter months, combat management was left to the wisdom of junior commanders who were unwilling to take any chances since their initiatives had been blunted by confused higher commanders who refused to stand by their subordinates in crisis situations conjured up by the third dimension of insurgency, the human rights bogey. It may be pertinent to mention here that security forces often reaped handsome dividends whenever they kept up momentum of counter-insurgency operation through the winter months. But such instances were very few to come by and the raid launched by our troops in village Darind is one such instance to substantiate this observation.

The month of February in year 1995 was no different since both climatic temperature and militant activities had frozen. Even intelligence inputs, through formal channels, had dried up. One could keep oneself abreast of only localized militant activities and that too through local contacts. Our column of troops was located at Zakura on Srinagar-Leh road. Right from the onset of militancy in 1990 and upto 1994, Zakura was only a summer location for troops tasked to keep Srinagar-Leh road open for winter stocking in Leh sector. However, in 1994 we were ordered to stay back in the area even after closure of Srinagar-Leh road and were tasked to dominate the area during winter months. Our area of responsibility included the highway stretch from Zakura to Nunar in the North and the area to the east of this road stretch. Area to the west of the road was under operational responsibility of Border Security Force. Our area included notorious places like Ganderbal, Malshahi Bagh, Darind, Rangil and the mountainous range to the east of the highway. In fact, domination of Ganderbal was strategically vital since most infiltration routes passed through it and militants were free to wander any where in the Valley provided they managed to screen off their movement through this area. Quite naturally, Ganderbal, and the areas around it, had a large presence of militants who would stage-manage smooth transiting of militants by engaging security forces in frequent fire fights. Needless to say that security forces would often party over a militant killed or a weapon captured but would be blissfully ignorant of groups of heavily armed militants sneaking past just under their very nose. Hence, it was essential to neutralize the local cadres of militants if we were to upset their larger design. Having been ordered to stay back in Zakura and with our combat responsibilities defined, one got down to establishing a reliable intelligence network in order to gain real time information about the militants.

Adjacent to our location, in Zakura, was another column of troops whose area of responsibility was to south of Zakura astride the highway. Commander of this column, a gentle man from south India, faced enormous difficulties in cultivating local sources for obvious reasons. That this column had no success to show was no aspersion on its professional ability or sincerity. One could not help but empathize with column commander’s dilemma and to assist him in all possible ways. Initially, he was skeptical about my offers for combat leaders in the Valley mostly wanted to ride on others’ shoulders to corner glory. One must admit, to his credit, that he was quickly to discern sincerity in my offers and readily agreed to coordinate our efforts in the larger interest. Initially, our joint efforts did not yield results. In fact, militants would often get prior information about our plans and pre-empt our raids or cordon operations. It did not take us long to find out that a JCO of the neighboring column was a bit too loud with our operational secrets. This compelled us to withhold operational plans till the very last moment and the results started pouring in.

Intelligence inputs: One had been getting inputs from locals about presence of section strength of Hizb -ul- Mujahideen (HM) militants comprising of their commander and five others. Starved of funds from across the border during winter months, this section had been on rampage to raise funds for Jihad. Locals were fed up because of their persistent demands for cash. This precisely was the reason why locals shared information with us. Ghulam Nabi, alias Sahib Dandana, the section commander, belonged  to a village atop the mountain range over looking Rangil, Dardind and Malshahi Bagh. Sufi saint Baba Dariyadin’s Ziyarat is located in this village. The village itself is known as Baba Dariyadin. Though this village had a number of hideouts, yet these Jihadis would come down to the foot hills in search of food and funds. They would normally enjoy the morning sun in Rangil Water Works Complex (see sketch). Located on a high ground, this Complex provided them domination, by observation, over the area.  A number of attempts by us to apprehend or eliminate these militants failed because of this tactical advantage to militants. As soon as the troops would peel off the highway on road to Rangil or Malshant Bagh, militants, forewarned of our intentions, would melt into nearby villages. Naturally, we had to plan with ingenuity to offset this tactical disadvantage.

Plan: The plan envisaged a swift vehicle based movement by the sister column through Rangil to raid the Water Works Complex. In conjunction with this operation, my column was  to undertake routine patrolling  of the highway towards Ganderbal and then turn back  to launch a lightening raid in village Dardind, hoping to catch fleeing militants unawares. In order to increase chances of militants being channelized into village Darind consequent to raid on Water Works Complex, a deception plan was conceived. Prior to actual operations our two columns jointly dominated Rangil and Malshahi Bagh by raiding all known militant hideouts therein and deliberately leaving village Darind untouched. A local militant, belonging to Malshahi bagh, helped us in locating the hideouts and he was to be used as ‘spotter’ during the intended operations. In order to ensure that plan was not leaked out by overenthusiastic troops, I decided to keep the plan to myself till the very last

Execution: February 4th, 1995 was selected as D-day. I called the neighbouring commander a day before and requested him to launch a swift raid on Rangil Water Work Complex the next day. In interest of secrecy, I withheld all other operational details from him. At the appointed time, both the columns moved out of their locations on respective missions. I retained radio control of the joint mission. As planned, my columns moved towards Ganderbal area. To my surprise, I found that another battalion had launched a cordon and search operation in Ganderbal. That we had no prior information about this operation in itself speaks volumes about poor coordination between various troops of same organization; leave aside total absence of coordination between different security agencies.

On confirmation that other column had reached the target area, I requested him to stay put in the Complex till further instructions. I turned back and wanted to head straight for village Darind. On my way back, I was stopped by the troops who had launched operation in Ganderbal. They requested assistance of my ‘spotter’. Reluctantly, I agreed to loan him for half an hour. In hindsight, this delay turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

For the final execution of the raid, I took on the wheels. Besides the ‘spotter’ my personal security guard and driver were traveling in my vehicle. We were followed by a heavier vehicle carrying a JCO and seven other ranks, all ready to jump to action. As soon as I reached Darind junction, I speedily turned my vehicle onto the track leading to Draind. I managed to speed through the muddy village track. At the dead end of the village we spotted two militants, barely five meters away from us, basking in the sun. Our delay at Ganderbal had helped us by lulling these two Jihadis into a tactical complacency. Startled, both took position behind an electric pole, aiming at us point blank. I accelerated my vehicle and sped menacingly towards them in a bid to unnerve them and, hoping like hell, to disturb their aim. This bold action worked. Instead of firing at us they took to their heels. Before we could manage ourselves out of the vehicle, one of them threw his weapon and vanished out of our sight. My driver chased him leaving me stranded and unarmed in this hostile area. He had picked my AK rifle from the vehicle in a flash. Later, it was revealed that my driver had not collected his weapon before leaving the camp. Soon enough, I saw other vehicle struggling up the slushy track. Subedar Sohan Lal, always an asset in a combat situation, swiftly swung into action. He picked up the abandoned weapon and fanned his troops to look for the second militant. Interestingly, inside a house he discovered an innocent looking man panting heavily and engaged in embroidery work. This aroused his suspicious. Spot frisking and snap interrogation revealed him to be much sought after Gulam Nabi, the selection commander. Besides apprehending him we also recovered two AK47 rifles, six AK magazines, 162 live rounds and eight hand grenades. We launched a thorough search for the second militant in the area but all in vain. He probably managed to sneak out of our sight through numerous undulations in the ground. Having abandoned his weapon, he in any case was a liability for his Tanzim. We gave up the search. Sure enough, this militant was summarily executed by his own colleagues for sowing timidity and for failure to pay up a huge amount for losing his weapon.

With Ghulam Nabi in our custody, we had a lot more to achieve which we did but I reserve those details for some other time.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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