Are militant training camps across the de facto border with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir located at a striking distance from India to allow the armed forces to carry out surgical strikes and dismantle them?
No, say surrendered militants who have spent months in Pakistan receiving arms and explosives training for a separatist war in Jammu and Kashmir that began in the late 1980s. And the claim was corroborated by a top Jammu and Kashmir Police intelligence official who has been involved in counter-terrorism operations for over a decade and a half.
Two surrendered militants gave a detailed account of militant camps in Pakistan, particularly at the height of the insurgency in Kashmir.
They said no training camp ever existed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, parts of which, of course, acted as base or transit camps for militants before and after their military training, which is mainly given near the border with Afghanistan.
The former militants had crossed over to Pakistan through the Line of Control (LoC) — the de facto 740-km border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan — in the early and mid-1990s. They were top leaders of the pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen and Al Umar Mujahideen outfits.
“The common perception about these training camps that they are located just across the LoC is absolutely wrong,” said Majeed, refusing to give his second name.
The former Al Umar commander used to go by his nom de guerre Tariq Jameel. He surrendered in the late 1990s and is now running a small business in Srinagar after spending some years in prison.
Majeed said he went to Pakistan in 1993 to receive training with a group of eight men from across the valley. On reaching the densely-populated Muzaffarabad in Pakistan, some 70 km from the border town of Uri in India, Majeed’s group was lodged at a rented accommodation in the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“We were also under the impression that Muzaffarabad will be full of these tent houses where militants would be seen receiving arms training and occasionally offering namaz in a group. But that happens only in movies,” he said.
The former Al Umar commander used to go by his nom de guerre Tariq Jameel. He surrendered in the late 1990s and is now running a small business in Srinagar after spending some years in prison