Stone pelting and terror: How Pakistan uses WhatsApp to entice mobs to disrupt anti-terror ops
Three civilians were killed and 43 jawans of the CRPF were injured as protestors began pelting stones even as an encounter with suspected terrorists continued in the Chadoora area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district today. Security personnel present at the scene said that as the militants were engaged in a gunfight with them, a group of masked youths reached the site and started pelting stones on them in an apparent bid to help the militants escape.
The incident is the latest in a long string of such occurrences, presenting a fresh challenge to security forces battling militants in Jammu and Kashmir in recent months. As an encounter against militants rages on, civilians turn up at the site to protest, raise slogans and even pelt stones to distract security personnel.
Security personnel at the encounter site were not the only target of anti-social elements who targeted CRPF vehicles at Nagam village, 3 km away from the ground zero. The CRPF vehicles were on their way to augment the strength of the security forces engaged in the gunfight.
CRPF said 43 of its jawans were wounded in stone pelting while 20 police personnel were also injured.
"43 CRPF jawans got injury and police reported that 20 of their men also were injured in the stone pelting today," Sanjay Kumar, DIG, CRPF, said.
He added that the operation in Budgam was "really difficult" as the forces had to fight on two different platforms.
"Operation was really difficult, we had to fight it on two different platforms -- against militants and ocal people," Kumar said.
The entire episode appeared to be a well-coordinated effort to sabotage the operation and help militants escape from the clutches of security forces. And while you may wonder how these mobs are mobilised every time an anti-terror operation is underway, we bring you the complete picture.
WhatsApp groups with Pakistani numbers as administrators behind crowd mobilisation
Incidents such as what happened in Budgam today highlight the coordinated effort groups based in Pakistan to help militants by mobilising stone-pelters against India’s security forces.
The Jammu and Kashmir Police recently unearthed the modus operandi of these groups. The investigations revealed that stone-pelters are provided information about the precise site and time of encounter to be carried out and reach there to create unrest.
The Police have found that WhatsApp groups with Pakistani numbers as administrators are involved in rumour-mongering and crowd mobilisation during anti-militancy operations in the Valley.
As soon as an encounter starts, the stone pelters are informed on these WhatsApp group about the time and location of the operation and are directed to reach there.
These WhatsApp groups, which are supported by overground workers of the terror groups situated in Pakistan, also send links to the youths in Valley to join them.
As soon the information is sent on these groups, the miscreants reach the site of encounter and start pelting stones on the security forces.
Jamm and Kashmir DGP S P Vaid said that these WhatsApp groups are involved in crowd mobilisation and radicalising the youth so that maximum number of innocent people come in the line of firing, which ultimately leads to more controversies.
“Social media is being highly misused in these situations. Terrorists from across the border send information about the site and real-time of the encounter. They mislead the youth in Kashmir so that innocent people come in the line of firing and there are more casualties,” said DGP S P Vaid.
“To deal with the problem, we monitor these social media groups and counter these. We try to inform the youth about the intentions behind these misleading messages,” he further added.
The Pulwama police have launched a massive crackdown on such underground and fake news WhatsApp groups who mobilise crowds to help the militants escape from search-and-cordon operations.
They have identified 30-35 miscreants who operate such groups on WhatsApp to mislead the youth in the Valley.
Rayees Mohammad Bhat, Superintendent of Police, Pulwama, said that terrorists from across the border use social media as a weapon for stone pelting, mislead the crown and also for rumour-mongering.
Budgam encounter ends after militant killed
An anti-militancy operation in Budgam district in Kashmir ended with the killing of the lone militant.
"One militant has been killed and a weapon has been recovered from the scene of the encounter," an army official said.
The encounter has ended, a police official said adding that one para trooper also sustained injuries.
Security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Durbugh area of Chadoora in the early hours today following information about the presence of militants in the area, a police official said.
He said the search operation turned into a gunbattle after the militant opened firing on security forces.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat's warning against those who obstruct security ops in J&K
In two separate operations against militants in Jammu and Kashmir last month, a Major and three other soldiers were killed.
Army chief General Bipin Rawat said the security forces faced higher number of casualties because the local residents hindered their operations and at times even helped the militants to escape. He further warned
people against attempts to hinder security forces' operations.
“We would now request the local population, that people who have picked up arms – and they are the local boys – if they want to continue with the acts of terrorism displaying flags of ISIS and Pakistan, then we will treat them as anti-national elements and go after them,” Gen Rawat said.
“They may survive today, but we will get them tomorrow. Our relentless operations will continue. We are giving them an opportunity; should they continue, we will also continue with our relentless operations that may be with harsher measures,” he said.