One year ago, when 40 Central Reserve Police Force were killed as a car filled with explosives rammed into their convoy in Pulwama in Kashmir, I wrote about the glaring shortcomings in our security apparatus that had allowed such a deadly incident to occur. I had hoped that measures would be taken to rectify the flaws and the people responsible for allowing the massacre of the jawans through sheer negligence and abdication of responsibility would have been identified and dealt with.
Nothing like that appears to have happened. The security establishment appears to have decided to bumble on. No one has been publicly punished for ignoring the calls of the Sector Commander CRPF to airlift the large number of jawans who were assembled at a transit camp in Jammu due to a road block.
The officer who was Director General CRPF at the time has been rewarded with a post-retirement appointment of advisor to the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, no action appears to have been taken against the bureaucrats in home affairs ministry who failed to realise the enormity of situation and allot resources to the CRPF to airlift the stranded troops.
Massive intelligence failure
The most glaring lapse was the massive Intelligence failure of several agencies. The questions asked after the attack about how such large quantity of RDX could be procured by the perpetrator, loaded in the vehicle and brought to the scene of crime remain unanswered. Why weren’t the intelligence agencies able to trace the footprints, electronic or otherwise, which the perpetrators must have left behind while planning such massive operation and tying up logistic? Even the internal inquiry report of CRPF appears to have concluded that there was massive intelligence failure.
Repeated intelligence failure occur because those manning these agencies fail to differentiate between information and Intelligence. Our intelligence agencies seem to have forgotten the art of corroborating and synthesising pieces of information to establish a pattern for dissemination to the operational levels. This is because most of those responsible to carry out analysis in the intelligence agencies are on temporary lien for a short period. By the time they learn the art, it is time for them to go back to their home cadres. The transitory leadership of these specialised agencies is neither familiar nor able to cope with the high standards of professionalism required in these organisations.
Many operational lapses leading to the attack remain unexplained. How could the RDX-laden vehicle breach several layers of security and manage to ram into the vehicle? Why did the troops deployed at several road blocks along the route of the CRPF convoy not check and stop the attack vehicle before it inflicted the damage? The argument that the explosive-laden vehicle was already in the vicinity does not hold: it points to the failure of intelligence community to detect the attacker and forewarn the security forces. Secondly, even if the vehicle was already there, why could the Road Opening Party tasked to clear and secure the road not detect and isolate it?
The National Investigative Agencies has been investigating the incident for last year without any tangible results. Either the evidence is destroyed or if the evidence is available, it is too inconvenient to be disclosed. Any conclusion that the Jaish-e-Mohammand group is responsible for the incident is a no brainer because they have already claimed responsibility.
The press conference held by the Indian Army a few days after the incident to announce that those involved in the attack in Pulwama had been identified and eliminated was nothing but face-saving exercise. How did the very agencies that had failed to provide advance information about the incident suddenly became so efficient? Also if they had such detailed information, why could they not share it in advance?
It is in this context that the role of recently arrested Deputy Superintendent Davinder Singh of the Jammu and Kashir Police needs to be put under closer scrutiny. Was it a mere coincidence that he had links with a man executed for his involvement in the Parliament attack case? Some reports immediately after Singh’s arrest suggest that he was posted at Pulwama around the time of the attack.
Many of the CRPF soldiers who died in the incident were perhaps the only bread-winners in their families. That they died even while not engaged in combat is something the nation should not forget. Many reports indicate that the dependents of these soldiers haven’t even received their entire dues from the government.
It is high time that we stop making political mileage from these tragedies as has been done over the last year and reform our systems. Soldiers are real human beings. They shouldn’t be treated as mere statistics.
Sanjiv Krishan Sood is a former Additional Director General of the Border Security Force who retired after 38 years in service. His Twitter handle is @sood_2.