Uri – What Happened, Why, And What Are We Going To Do About It?

When I heard about 17 of our soldiers dying in Uri yesterday because of yet another terror attack from across the border, I was instantly transported to a couple of years ago when on a trip to Kashmir I was fortunate enough to visit Kaman Post and passed through Uri, the last major town before the craggy, inhospitable areas that mark the LOC between Indian and POK. The terrible tragedy of our soldiers dying, the relentlessness of a shadowy enemy and poignancy of these horrific occurrences taking place in some of the most stunningly beautiful of landscape suddenly and starkly revealed itself.

What happened in Uri yesterday

There was a pre dawn fidayeen (suicide) strike on an army camp in Uri yesterday. In this encounter 17 Indian soldiers were killed and many others were injured in the attack by heavily armed and trained militants. The soldiers were in temporary shelters and tents, making them easy targets. The fact that the tents also caught fire increased the number of casualties. According to an army statement, the four terrorists were eliminated and combing operations initiated.

Where is Uri and why is it significant?

As one travels towards Kaman Post, the lonely outpost where the India Pakistan bus facilitates people crossing over the LOC, Uri is a town on the banks of the Jhelum in Baramullah District. Its proximity to the LOC means that this is where one sees these signposts for places in Pakistan and POK such as Muzzafarabad.

Why Uri was targeted

Uri is largely peaceful and many of the army’s community programs are much in evidence here. Even at the peak of Kashmir militancy in the past, Uri remained peaceful and largely unaffected. In Uri one starts to see the storage silos and the distinctive Pakistani trucks as they bring produce into India. It is believed that Uri was chosen because it is otherwise peaceful and is a significant bridge between the Indian army and the locals.

The rugged terrain around Uri

The terrain surrounding Uri is harsh and rugged, the army outposts that guard the borders exist in extremely tough conditions. The terrain is stark and inaccessible, the climate inhospitable, especially in winter, the threat of wild animals constant and the terrible loneliness of being stationed at the remote outposts for long durations heartrending.

What the Uri attacks reveal

A two point breach – one at the fencing on the LOC and another at the perimeter of the army brigade that was attacked – pointed to where the militants got in. The attacks point to possible laxity in terms of security and preparedness at the army outpost and to no lessons having been learnt from the attack on Pathankot earlier this year.

What we know about the terrorists

The terrorists had mission plans in Pashto and maps recovered revealed that the fidayeen were told to kill unarmed troops and attack the medical aid unit. The ultimate aim was to reach the officer’s mess and to blow themselves up there. It is thought that the terrorists were from the banned militant group, the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) which is a part of the Jaish-e-Mohammaed. They were well trained and knew their way about the place, which points to possible inputs by a mole.

So what now?

The PM has said the attack will not go unpunished, the Defence Minister has said that our soldiers’ sacrifice will not go in vain. But what is really going to happen as and by way of this promised “punishment”? Former army generals have asked for strong action including a possible military response. Will this avenge our fallen soldiers?

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