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In Rajouri-Poonch, Muslims spearhead People’s resistance to Pak-sponsored terror

Two AK-47 rifles, seven grenades, a pistol, and a large quantity of ammunition were seized from the militants.

On Sunday, 3 July 2022, residents of Tuskan Dhok village in Jammu's Reasi district captured two of the top wanted operatives of the Pakistan-based global terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LeT) and handed them over to the Police with their arms and ammunition. They were identified as Talib Hussain Shah of Draj Kotranka, Rajouri, and Faizal Ahmad Dar of Kashmir's Pulwama district. Two AK-47 rifles, seven grenades, a pistol, and a large quantity of ammunition were seized from the militants. On their custodial disclosures, the Police subsequently recovered another pistol besides a number of sticky bombs, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs).

While Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha announced a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh for the residents, Director General of the Jammu & Kashmir Police Dilbag Singh announced another reward of Rs 2 lakh from his organisation. "This kind of determination by the villagers shows that, the end of terrorism is not far away’’, an elated Sinha observed.

On Monday, DGP Dilbag Singh along with Additional DG Jammu Mukesh Singh visited Reasi to appreciate the residents' act of gallantry.

Talib Shah's capture, however, caused a flutter not only in the Union Territory but also across the country as until recently he had remained closely associated with the BJP. According to BJP's Minority Morcha head in Jammu & Kashmir, Sheikh Bashir Ahmad, Talib had been appointed as incharge of the Morcha's Social Media and Information Technology head in Rajouri district on 9 May after working with the party for some time. However, without joining his post, he tendered resignation on 27 May.

According to the police, both the apprehended militants had remained in touch with a Pakistan-based handler 'Salman' while Talib Shah had a liaison  with the Pakistan-based Lashkar terrorist Qasim.

On his Facebook page “Talib Shah Bjp Bjp’’, Talib Shah claimed to be working with BJP. His account also has a purported photograph of him with BJP’s J&K president Raina at the party headquarters in Jammu. Another photograph carried a message: “I support NaMo (Prime Minister Narendra Modi)’’. After the duo's capture, pictures in the social media purportedly clicked in New Delhi showed Talib in company of some top- ranking BJP leaders and Ministers.

Sources in the J&K Police described Talib Shah as the “mastermind of all terror activities, including some killings and grenade attacks, in the last 2-3 years in Rajouri and Poonch districts" bordering the Line of Control (LoC). “He had also motivated many local youth to carry out terror activities in Rajouri, include Shabir and Sadiq, who were arrested before their capture", sources maintained. They said that Talib Shah and Faizal Dar went into hiding soon after Shabir and Sadiq were arrested in Rajouri last week. As the Police published a lookout notice, both Talib and Faizal were seized by the residents in a hilly terrain in Reasi's Mahore area.

Sections of hate in the social media began hitting right, left and centre, while assailing everybody from the BJP to the Muslims for varied reasons. Some went to the extent of blaming the BJP for what they called "saffron terror". From the party, some leaders completely disowned Talib Shah while others pleaded that nobody's terrorist credentials were written on one's face. The BJP's J&K President Ravinder Raina alleged that Talib's entry into his party ranks was a "Pakistan-sponsored conspiracy". Many of the social media users commented that all the Muslims were "terrorists" and that the BJP should never trust them.

While there is no point to counter cynicism, the fact remains that the people who seized Talib and Faizal are also Muslims. According to the Police, they have several times in the past helped the Police and security forces to conduct counter-terrorism operations up on the hills and virtually finished the separatist insurgency in Pir Panjal and Chenab valleys. Quite a large number from these hill districts, with substantial Muslim population, work in the Jammu and Kashmir Police and security forces.

The dramatic seizure of the two LeT terrorists is, among many identical incidents, reminiscent of the unparalleled bravery of the then 20-year-old Gujjar girl Rukhsana Kausar who had hacked to death a dreaded Pakistani terrorist of LeT Abu Osama on the night of 27 September 2009 at her residence at Upper Kalsi in Rajouri. Three LeT terrorists led by Osama barged into the house of Noor Hussain and Rashida Begam and asked them to hand over their daughter Rukhsana to them. The couple and their son Aijaz, who had already protected Rukhsana under a cot, offered resistance. Thereupon the terrorists opened fire causing minor injuries to Noor Hussain's brother. Suddenly Rukhsana came out with an axe and hit Osama straight in his head from behind. She quickly picked up Osama's AK-47 rifle and shot him dead. Osama's two accomplices escaped, one of them injured.

Subsequently, Rukhsana and her family trekked a long distance over the hills and handed over the slain terrorist's weapons to the local Police Station. Rukhsana and her brother Aijaz were showered with a large number of rewards including the National Bravery Award in 2009 and Kirti Chakra, India's second highest gallantry award in peace time, in 2010. They were also honoured by different civil society organisations and governments of several States and Union Territories.

Rajouri is also known for the legendary bravery of an enfant terrible, a female Muslim Police officer from an adjoining hill district, who volunteered to head the counterinsurgent Special Operations Group (SOG), then called Special Task Force (STF), in the border area in 1997-2002. While breaking the glass ceiling and taking the formidable LeT, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Hizbul Mujahideen head on, the lady Sub Inspector is credited with having killed more than 80 terrorists in different encounters and operations. On several occasions, she had providential escapes, even as the only female member of her team was gunned down at a dargah in front of 60-70 people in broad daylight.

On one occasion, terrorists tried to trap her in an ambush but she had a serendipitous escape. As many as 15 members of her group were killed. Later the lady Police officer was elevated to the ranks of Inspector and Deputy Superintendent of Police on account of her brilliant counterinsurgency performance and profile. In 2002, she was given the prestigious President's Police Medal for Gallantry.

A number of the Muslim Police officers from the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch became role models for thousands of the recruits in the counterinsurgency domain. Even today, all the units of SOG in the Kashmir valley, now called Police Component (PC), are dominated by dedicated personnel, mostly Muslims, from Rajouri and Poonch.

Also Read: How militants ruled Srinagar jail till 2018