security issues

Intelligence ignored: Why is Indian army being caught napping time and again?

The latest attack in Nagrota takes the toll of security personnel killed in border-related incidents this month to 11 – over 40 in the last three months.

Once again, militants crossing over from Pakistan targeted a military camp – this time in Nagrota, a cantonment 15 km north of Jammu city, killing two officers and five soldiers, just two months after the deadly attack on a military camp in Uri. The spate of successful attacks and high military losses raise several disturbing questions about the complacency that seems to have afflicted the Indian army and security forces deployed in the state.

The militants, believed to be from the Lashkar-e-Toiba, crossed over several hours before the attack, and were dressed in Jammu and Kashmir police uniforms, confusing the army sentries outside the Officers’ Mess, according to intelligence officials.

The militants stormed into the Mess at 5 am, lobbing grenades and firing from automatic assault rifles, before entering a residential building housing soldiers and their families. A Quick Reaction Team of the local Army Artillery Regiment was pressed into service to counter the militants, which managed to rescue several women and children, but lost an officer and additional men in the attempt.

The latest attack in Nagrota takes the toll of security personnel killed in border-related incidents this month to 11 – the figure is over 40 in the last three months. While militant attacks have gone beyond Jammu and Kashmir, such as the Pathankot attack earlier this year and the Gurdaspur attack the year before, they are concentrated mostly around military or police installations, ensuring that local support for militancy is not affected in any manner.

Barring a few attacks on civilian targets in Pampore, near Srinagar, the attacks have targeted soldiers and police personnel, indicating that a clear strategy is in place to undermine the security forces.

A Complacent Army?

A little over a week ago, Lieutenant General A K Sharma, who took over as the General officer Commanding of the 16 Corps in Nagrota in October, received a detailed intelligence briefing that included inputs about an attack on a “high value” target.

Sharma, originally from the 2nd battalion of the Sikh Regiment, has spent a considerable part of his career in Kashmir on counter insurgency duties. However, while he asked the formations and units under his command to take precautionary measures, most failed to sit up and take notice.

The result was a disastrous attack.

A lot of the blame for the increasing military casualties, it appears, can now be placed on an increasingly disconnected military hierarchy. Emerging details of the September attack in Uri, that claimed 20 lives show how complacent the military has become in a state that is termed as “war zone”.

Officials in the security establishment, who were part of the post-mortem carried out of the Uri attack came up with astounding details. The attack, which took place in the early hours of September 18, showed that even basic security measures were missing. The perimeter measures were rudimentary and had chicken coop fencing with abandoned sentry points at the golf course, which had been the point of entry for the militants. Some of the sentry bunkers were found with sandbags that had dense growth sprouting through them, indicating the state of neglect. Despite specific intelligence alerts, patrolling was minimal and the threat posture underestimated.

The soldiers from the incoming Maratha battalion had not been issued weapons on the night of the attack. When the attack took place, leading to fires in the tents, the soldiers did not even have the means to retaliate. This led to a high casualties, as the units were caught napping.

Some senior officers were also found to be in denial of a possible attack. With the army coming down hard on casualties, many field commanders had become defensive, as senior police officials pointed out. “Since the attack on Uri, nearly 12 major cordon and search operations have been conducted by the army, based on specific intelligence inputs about militants. All of them came back empty handed. In four of those cases, the militants fired back and managed to get away,” a senior state police official told

Worse, while the Uri attack was attributed to the militant outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed created by Maulana Masood Azhar, one of the the terrorists released by the Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government after the hijacking of IC 814, but subsequent evidence recovered from the militants killed conclusively established that they were from the Lashkar-e-Toiba, maintain those investigating the case.

A subsequent inquiry found that the Director General of Military Operations had based his claims on an intercepted phone call of a journalist speaking to his editor, claiming that the JeM was behind the attack.

Last year, intelligence agencies had busted a militant module, which had conducted detailed surveys of the military installations in Nagrota. They found video footage of the Corps headquarters, and the installations that were attacked on November 29. This was the clearest warning that the military cantonment was on the target of militants. The Corps is one of the biggest in the Indian Army, and before the creation of the Jaipur-based South Western Command, had one of the largest areas of responsibility, that stretched from Northern Punjab right up to Poonch in the Jammu sector.

The area around Akhnur, with a solitary bridge over the Chenab river is considered a particularly sensitive and vulnerable area that winds its way up through Palanwala, before the international border converts into the Line of Control. The area has two army divisions, the 10th Division in Akhnur and the 25th Division in Rajouri, as well as the Romeo Force, a Division sized counter insurgency formation, dedicated for operations north of Akhnur.

Surgical strikes nullified

In April 2014, just before the general elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah addressing an election rally claimed that once their party took power at the centre under Narendra Modi, the borders would be safe and no one would dare to enter India. However, the gap between political rhetoric and reality has been steadily increasing. What has also added to the complacency of the military is its increasing use for political brownie points.

Soon after the “surgical strikes” by Indian Army’s Special Forces, defence minister Manohar Parrikar had credited the “teachings of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh” for the action. He had also promised a “tit-for-tat” action against future attacks during a TV interview, but had not spelt out a clear strategy. However, despite the “surgical attacks” and the demonetisation, strikes against military installations continue unabated. Worse, government claims of past attacks have also been contradicted. For instance, while Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had claimed that there were “six terrorists” in the Pathankot air base attack earlier this year, the government told Parliament on November 29 that there were only “four terrorists”.

Such confusion in the top political ranks of the government does not inspire much confidence among the security forces, be it the military or the intelligence agencies and police forces. Security analysts are clear that more terror attacks are in the offing, and unless the political leadership gets its act together quickly, India will have to lose more of its soldiers in this unending conflict.

We welcome your comments at
Sponsored Content  BULLETIN BY 

In a first, some of the finest Indian theatre can now be seen on your screen

A new cinematic production brings to life thought-provoking plays as digital video.

Though we are a country besotted with cinema, theatre remains an original source of provocative stories, great actors, and the many deeply rooted traditions of the dramatic arts across India. CinePlay is a new, ambitious experiment to bring the two forms together.

These plays, ‘filmed’ as digital video, span classic drama genre as well as more experimental dark comedy and are available on Hotstar premium, as part of Hotstar’s Originals bouquet. “We love breaking norms. And CinePlay is an example of us serving our consumer’s multi-dimensional personality and trusting them to enjoy better stories, those that not only entertain but also tease the mind”, says Ajit Mohan, CEO, Hotstar.

The first collection of CinePlays feature stories from leading playwrights, like Vijay Tendulkar, Mahesh Dattani, Badal Sircar amongst others and directed by film directors like Santosh Sivan and Nagesh Kukunoor. They also star some of the most prolific names of the film and theatre world like Nandita Das, Shreyas Talpade, Saurabh Shukla, Mohan Agashe and Lillete Dubey.

The idea was conceptualised by Subodh Maskara and Nandita Das, the actor and director who had early experience with street theatre. “The conversation began with Subodh and me thinking how can we make theatre accessible to a lot more people” says Nandita Das. The philosophy is that ‘filmed’ theatre is a new form, not a replacement, and has the potential to reach millions instead of thousands of people. Hotstar takes the reach of these plays to theatre lovers across the country and also to newer audiences who may never have had access to quality theatre.

“CinePlay is merging the language of theatre and the language of cinema to create a third unique language” says Subodh. The technique for ‘filming’ plays has evolved after many iterations. Each play is shot over several days in a studio with multiple takes, and many angles just like cinema. Cinematic techniques such as light and sound effects are also used to enhance the drama. Since it combines the intimacy of theatre with the format of cinema, actors and directors have also had to adapt. “It was quite intimidating. Suddenly you have to take something that already exists, put some more creativity into it, some more of your own style, your own vision and not lose the essence” says Ritesh Menon who directed ‘Between the Lines’. Written by Nandita Das, the play is set in contemporary urban India with a lawyer couple as its protagonists. The couple ends up arguing on opposite sides of a criminal trial and the play delves into the tension it brings to their personal and professional lives.


The actors too adapted their performance from the demands of the theatre to the requirements of a studio. While in the theatre, performers have to project their voice to reach a thousand odd members in the live audience, they now had the flexibility of being more understated. Namit Das, a popular television actor, who acts in the CinePlay ‘Bombay Talkies’ says, “It’s actually a film but yet we keep the characteristics of the play alive. For the camera, I can say, I need to tone down a lot.” Vickram Kapadia’s ‘Bombay Talkies’ takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of emotions as seven personal stories unravel through powerful monologues, touching poignant themes such as child abuse, ridicule from a spouse, sacrifice, disillusionment and regret.

The new format also brought many new opportunities. In the play “Sometimes”, a dark comedy about three stressful days in a young urban professional’s life, the entire stage was designed to resemble a clock. The director Akarsh Khurana, was able to effectively recreate the same effect with light and sound design, and enhance it for on-screen viewers. In another comedy “The Job”, presented earlier in theatre as “The Interview”, viewers get to intimately observe, as the camera zooms in, the sinister expressions of the interviewers of a young man interviewing for a coveted job.

Besides the advantages of cinematic techniques, many of the artists also believe it will add to the longevity of plays and breathe new life into theatre as a medium. Adhir Bhat, the writer of ‘Sometimes’ says, “You make something and do a certain amount of shows and after that it phases out, but with this it can remain there.”

This should be welcome news, even for traditionalists, because unlike mainstream media, theatre speaks in and for alternative voices. Many of the plays in the collection are by Vijay Tendulkar, the man whose ability to speak truth to power and society is something a whole generation of Indians have not had a chance to experience. That alone should be reason enough to cheer for the whole project.


Hotstar, India’s largest premium streaming platform, stands out with its Originals bouquet bringing completely new formats and stories, such as these plays, to its viewers. Twenty timeless stories from theatre will be available to its subscribers. Five CinePlays, “Between the lines”, “The Job”, “Sometimes”, “Bombay Talkies” and “Typecast”, are already available and a new one will release every week starting March. To watch these on Hotstar Premium, click here.

This article was produced on behalf of Hotstar by the marketing team and not by the editorial staff.