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Thursday, July 18, 2024

The Resistance Front: A Rising Threat in Jammu and Kashmir

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I crossed paths with the ‘The Resistance Front (TRF)’ when a grenade was launched at the home of our journalist from GoaChronicle in 2021.

The Indian security forces eliminated 5 terrorists of the TRF claiming were responsible for the attack on the home of our journalist with the intent to target his mother the Sarpanch. Our journalist and his family continue to remain targets for the TRF in Kashmir. He has moved his family to Jammu and continues his work in Kashmir.

The Reasi terror attack, orchestrated by the TRF, left a harrowing toll of nine lives lost and 33 others wounded, casting a dark shadow over the region’s tranquility.

In the complex and volatile region of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), terrorism has long been a scourge, with various groups operating to destabilize the area. One of the most alarming recent developments is the emergence of TRF. This organization has rapidly gained notoriety for its violent activities and its role in perpetuating conflict in the region.

TRF emerged in late 2019, a period marked by significant political changes in Jammu and Kashmir. Following the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government, which revoked the special status of J&K there was an increase in unrest and violence. TRF is widely believed to be a proxy organization for the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), created to give the latter’s operations a veneer of indigenous legitimacy and to evade international scrutiny.

TRF’s formation represents a strategic shift by militant groups to rebrand their activities in response to increasing global pressure and enhanced counter-terrorism measures. By presenting itself as a homegrown resistance movement, TRF aims to gain local support and avoid the stigma associated with Pakistan-backed terrorism.

TRF propagates an ideology centered on the notion of ‘resistance’ against what it perceives as Indian ‘occupation’ of Jammu and Kashmir. Its objectives are twofold: to challenge Indian sovereignty in the region and to instill fear and uncertainty among the populace. TRF seeks to portray itself as a defender of Kashmiri identity and rights, attempting to garner local support through propaganda and social media campaigns.

TRF’s narratives often emphasize the alleged human rights violations by Indian security forces, aiming to exploit grievances and rally local youth to its cause. The organization frequently releases statements and videos glorifying its activities and martyrs, using sophisticated media strategies to spread its message and recruit new members.

Since its inception, TRF has been involved in numerous terror activities, ranging from targeted assassinations to large-scale attacks. These activities underscore its capacity and intent to destabilize the region. The group has been responsible for numerous attacks on Indian security forces, including ambushes, grenade attacks, and IED explosions.

On Wednesday, September 13, 2023, in what was a national tragedy, three officers from the security forces made the ultimate sacrifice in a gunfight with terrorists in the Kokernag area of the Anantnag district of Jammu and Kashmir. Colonel Manpreet Singh, Major Ashish Dhonchak, and Deputy Superintendent of Jammu and Kashmir police, Humayun Bhat, got martyred during the confrontation with the terrorists.

On 23 December 2020, TRF militants threw grenades at a CRPF party and then fired upon them, killing two and injuring another. On 5 April 2020, two TRF militants killed five Indian PARA SF before being killed themselves, in Keran. On 3 May 2020, five Indian security forces personnel, including one Colonel, one Major, and an Inspector of SOG, were killed by two TRF militants who were also killed later. On 5 May 2020, four CRPF personnel and one disabled local civilian were killed and five CRPF personnel were injured. On 6 October 2020, the TRF militants attacked the residence of a local politician BJP leader Ghulam Qadir, killing the PSO of the BJP leader. 8 June 2020: TRF militants assassinated a Kashmiri Pandit village hea Ajay Pandita.

Beyond targeting security forces and political figures, TRF has also perpetrated violence against civilians. This includes attacking minority communities to stoke communal tensions and create an atmosphere of fear and division. On 5 October 2021: TRF militants assassinated Makhan Lal Bindro, a Kashmiri Pandit businessman, in Srinagar. On 7 October 2021, TRF militants assassinated two non-Muslim teachers, including 1 Hindu and 1 Sikh, in a school in Srinagar. On 29 March 2021, TRF militants kill one policeman and two councilors during an ambush at a meeting of municipal councilors from the BJP in Sopore.

TRF utilizes social media and online platforms extensively to disseminate propaganda, issue threats, and recruit new members. The group’s online presence is marked by the frequent release of videos and statements showcasing its activities and threatening those it deems enemies. This digital strategy has helped TRF maintain visibility and attract sympathizers both within and outside Jammu and Kashmir.

The link between TRF and Lashkar-e-Taiba is well-documented, with TRF effectively acting as a front organization for LeT’s operations in Jammu and Kashmir. This relationship allows TRF to benefit from LeT’s extensive resources, training, and logistical support. Additionally, TRF’s emergence is part of a broader strategy by Pakistan-based militant groups to rebrand and diversify their presence in the region.

TRF also reportedly receives financial and material support from various sources, including international networks sympathetic to its cause. This support enables the group to sustain its operations, procure weapons, and execute complex attacks. The backing from external actors underscores the transnational dimensions of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, complicating efforts to combat such groups.

The Indian government and security forces have intensified their efforts to counter the threat posed by TRF. This includes enhanced intelligence gathering, targeted operations to neutralize TRF operatives, and measures to disrupt the group’s financial and logistical networks. In several successful operations, key TRF leaders have been killed or captured, dealing significant blows to the organization.

In January 2023, TRF was banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) by the Indian government. This action designated its leader, Sheikh Sajjad Gul, as a militant. The ban was imposed due to the Indian government’s suspicions of TRF’s involvement in a conspiracy to assassinate Kashmiri journalist Shujaat Bukhari in June 2018

Moreover, the Indian government has sought to address the underlying issues that fuel militancy, such as economic deprivation and political disenfranchisement. Initiatives aimed at promoting development, creating job opportunities, and engaging with the local populace are crucial for undermining TRF’s appeal and recruitment efforts.

The Resistance Front represents a significant and evolving threat to peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir. Its ability to carry out deadly attacks, coupled with its sophisticated propaganda and recruitment strategies, poses a formidable challenge to security forces and policymakers. Addressing the threat of TRF requires a multifaceted approach, combining robust counter-terrorism measures with efforts to address the socio-economic and political factors that drive militancy.

As TRF continues its campaign of violence and fear, the need for a comprehensive strategy to counter its influence becomes ever more urgent. Only through sustained and coordinated efforts can the cycle of violence be broken, paving the way for lasting peace and security in Jammu and Kashmir.

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