Sarp Vinash Hill Kaka’s untold story: NRIs came home to fight terrorists

The most heroic story of the Indian fight against militants in Hill Kaka has its origin in Saudi Arabia.

A group of around 20 young Muslim men from Marah, a border village in Poonch, left their jobs in the Arabian kingdom, and came back to fight the terrorists. It was they who first took the battle to the terrorist camps at a height of 12,000 ft.

More young men have come back since and they have the support of friends in Saudi Arabia — each of the 100-odd Marah expats contribute 100 Riyal a month to finance their battle.

Highly-placed sources say that the Operation Sarp Vinash against the Hill Kaka terrorists would not have been possible but for the help of the non-resident Indians who returned.

Deputy Inspector General of Police, Rajouri-Poonch range, S M Sahai, confirmed that some local Muslim boys left their jobs in Saudi Arabia, returned and offered to help in an offensive against terrorists in the Hill Kaka area. They were recruited as Special Police Officers (SPOs), he added.

Sources said that after a brief training in weapons and explosives, they were attached to an operation group — comprising jawans of 9 Para and police — which was formed to launch an offensive against militants on April 27. On the very first day, the group killed 14 militants at Panzabra in Hill Kaka. A jawan also lost his life.

Since then, the troops and police with the help of the local youth killed about 80 militants and smashed over 95 hideouts. The remaining militants fled the area and infiltrated to parts adjoining Rajouri, said sources.

What made them leave the comfort of petro-dollars to fight terror? The story began when Mohammad Arif came back from Saudi Arabia on vacation last year. A militant was killed in an encounter in the area and his colleagues thought Arif was the informer. He was abducted and later killed.

The revenge was not over. Militants started frequenting Marah and harassing women. Since most men are abroad, the village has mostly women, children and old people.

Then, Fazal Tahir, Arif’s brother, decided enough was enough. He chucked his job as a marble mason in Saudi Arabia, talked to his friends from Marah and decided to head home. Fazal knew what his mission was. He came back on June 26, 2002, and approached the Romeo Force at Palma.

He was attached to the troops at Surankote and was asked to provide information about militants to Captain Amar Sharma. ‘‘After a few months, Sharma got transferred and I started working with his successor Captain Tanvar Sharma,’’ Fazal said.

In the meantime, Fazal was joined by Mohammad Qasim, Molvi Ghulam Hassan and Haji Mohammad Aslam. On July 12, he, with the help of another villager, killed Rashid, the militant responsible for the killing of his brother.

‘‘However, as the things were moving at a snail’s pace, with no one interested in an all-out offensive against terrorists, we met Avtar Singh Badana at Delhi. He sent us to BJP general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and he asked us to meet Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani,’’ Fazal said.

Fazal met Advani who directed him to Defence Minister George Fernandes. ‘‘As we were fed up of visiting politicians, we returned home and again approached the troops for help,’’ Fazal said.

‘‘We started recruiting village youth on our own and formed the Indian Peace Pir Panjal Scouts (IPPPS),’’ he said, adding that the police provided them the guns.

Then a militant who surrendered gave vital information; a villager who was approached by the militants to be an informer turned a double agent and gave the group details of camps. ‘‘As we had information about the number and location of militants, we decided to launch operations on our own. As Rs 1,500 given by the police to an SPO per month is too little an amount to sustain oneself, our people working in Saudi Arabia agreed to contribute 100 Riyals each per month for us,’’ he said.

As it was not possible to fight the militants without the backing of troops, they approached the troops and police till the operation group was formed in April this year. That was when the Hill Kaka plot changed course.