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‘CASO’ to be Reintroduced as Part of Counter Terrorism Operations

Indian Army has planned to re-introduce cordon and search operations (CASO) as a part of its counter terrorism operations after a gap of 15 years. The major objective behind the reintroduction of combing operations is to bring the situation in the Kashmir Valley under control. Hereafterwards, Army will carry out CASO in a major way to flush out militants in the militancy-hit areas of Kulgam, Pulwama, Tral, Budgam and Shopian in south Kashmir, indicating a change in strategy.

Background

CASO was a regular feature of Army’s counter-terrorism operations in the 1990s. The security forces made use of “area domination and sweep” operations in the 1990s. During those times, such operations were commonly conducted by the Indian Army. Later, following the complaints of discomfort caused to the local population, the Army switched to specific intelligence-based operations involving small teams and CASO was discontinued.

The recent decision to re-introduce CASO comes against the backdrop of the recent killing of unarmed Kashmiri Army officer Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz in Shopian by militants.

Recently, the Army, security forces and police had also carried out a massive cordon and combing operation in south Kashmir’s Shopian district following the recent militant attacks on policemen and banking facilities. It was the first time in 15 years that the combing operation of this magnitude involving 4,000 troops was conducted by the security forces.

 

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CRPF Command Shifted from Kolkata to Chhattisgarh

The strategic anti-Naxal operations command headquarters of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been shifted back from Kolkata to Raipur. In 2010, the central zone command headquarters was shifted from Raipur to Kolkata owing to logistics and connectivity issues. The recent decision comes at the backdrop of ambush in Sukma district that killed 37 jawans of the paramilitary force.

The central zone command headquarters was raised on August 7, 2009, to carry out the deployment of troops to the States affected by Left Wing Extremism such as West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

CRPF

CRPF is the largest central armed police force or paramilitary force in India. It functions under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).  It was established in 1939, under Crown Representative’s Police but after independence, it was made statutory after enactment of the CRPF Act, 1949. Its primary role is to assist States/Union Territories in police operations to maintain law and order and contain the insurgency. Apart from anti-Naxal operations, CRPF personnel also carries out several operations in situations of crisis like terrorist attacks, counter-terrorism operations, rescuing citizens during terrorist attacks among others.

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Assam declared as ‘Disturbed’ Area Under AFSPA for 3 More Months

The government has declared the entire Assam as a “disturbed” area under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act for another 3 months. As per the notification, the entire Assam besides bordering areas of Meghalaya has been declared as “Disturbed Areas”. In addition, the government has placed three districts of Arunachal Pradesh, namely, Tirap, Changlang and Longding and other areas falling under 16 police stations bordering Assam as “disturbed” area under the AFSPA.

The government has cited various violent activities carried out by certain insurgent groups like ULFA, NDFB and others as a reason behind the extension of AFSPA. In Assam, 75 incidents of violence have been reported in 2016 and 9 in 2017. The Assam has been placed under AFSPA since November 1990. The AFSPA has been under force in the three Arunachal Pradesh districts since January 2016.

AFSPA

Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts is collective name of several acts passed by Indian parliament for providing special powers to the Indian Armed Forces and to provide army officers and jawans legal immunity for their actions in disturbed areas.

Governor of the State and Central Government are empowered to declare any part or full of any state as disturbed area if it is in their opinion that it is necessary to prevent terrorist activity or any such activity that might disrupt the sovereignty of India or cause insult to the national flag, anthem or India’s Constitution. Section 4 of the act gives special powers to army officers in disturbed area to shoot (even if it kills) any individual who violates law / or is suspected of violating law (this includes assembly of five or more people, carrying of weapons) etc. The only condition is that the officer has to give warning before opening fire.

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