A wave of terror attacks early into 2016 in Punjab and J&K set the tone for a long and difficult battle that lay ahead for the country. The attacks tested the nation’s patience in the face of colossal adversity. And now, as the year draws to an end, it is turning out to be one of the deadliest for security forces in recent years.
In Jammu and Kashmir alone, at least 84 jawans have been killed till November, accounting for over 80 percent jump in fatalities in the state compared to the toll in 2015, which is the highest since 2008.
The year also saw a spike in deadly attacks in the Northeast, where 15 jawans were killed, after a lull of several years, according to an estimate by the South Asia Terrorism Portal, a think-tank.
In Punjab, seven security personnel were killed compared to four in 2015. The data also showed there have been fewer civilian casualties this year.
But Pathankot, Pampore, Uri and Nagrota attacks raised more public outcry than any other place due to the sheer audacity of the terrorists and galvanised Indians to rally behind the security forces.
Just three days into the New Year, terrorists sprung a major surprise by targeting a heavily fortified Air Force Base in Punjab’s Pathankot city.
Before breaching the perimeter wall of the base they slit the throat of a taxi driver who gave them a ride and abducted a police officer so they could use his official car as getaway vehicle.
They then used the officer’s phone to call their handlers in Bhawalpur, Pakistan.
And after they reached the base, one of the terrorists was gunned down while trying to scale a wall. His accomplices, however, managed to enter the complex and mount a fire assault.
By the time the dust settled on January 3, four of our brave officers were martyred, including a Lt. Colonel of NSG. The toll later rose to 7 after 3 more succumbed to injuries.
The search-and-kill ops continued for five days during which all six terrorists were killed.
Weeks after the Pathankot carnage, militants struck again - this time in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pampore. Two Army soldiers, two CRPF jawans and one civilian were killed in the attack.
One of the martyred Army soldiers was a young Captain Pawan Kumar of 10 Paras.
The attack demonstrated the terrorists’ nutty resolve to hit back with whatever they have.
After shooting dead two CRPF jawans in a bus on February 20, the militants fled the scene only to be cornered next day at the Jammu and Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute following a dramatic chase.
At daybreak, from the safety of the building, the three heavily armed militants started shooting at the security forces that had surrounded the building.
The dramatic gun battle lasted for more than 48 hours. The security forces had to use heavy artillery and other weapons to eliminate the threat.
It was later revealed that the militants had come from across the border.
In the attack, nearly a dozen security personnel were also injured. The deceased civilian was a gardener at JKEDI.
Interestingly, the institute had witnessed another terror attack later in the year.
The Uri attack was the deadliest in nearly two decades. It killed 17 Indian soldiers in a single strike and left 19 others critically injured.
The pre-dawn attack on September 18 jolted India to the core that aroused huge public condemnation and the government vowed to avenge the deaths with a military response.
The soldiers of the Dogra regiment were resting at a camp close to the 12th brigade headquarters in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir’s Baramulla district when the militants struck.
After opening fire on the tents in the complex, the four militants lobbed grenades at random targets.
The blasts set off a cascading effect with the fire spreading to the fuel storage and the camps where the soldiers were sleeping. The fire proved to be a lethal blow which dramatically increased the toll.
The high number of casualties in the attack drew sharp global condemnation with the US, Britain, Germany and France describing it as appalling and calling for strict action against the terror handlers.
All four terrorists were killed in a gunfight with security forces which had locked down the complex.
This was another major attack on the security forces in Jammu and Kashmir. Seven soldiers were martyred, of whom two were commanding officers, in the November 29 attack.
This was the biggest terror strike since the September 18 Uri attack.
The heavily armed terrorists entered the residential quarters of the XVI Corps headquarters around 5 am after scaling a boundary wall and started firing indiscriminately.
An eight-hour long gunbattle ended after all three militants were killed.
Militants appeared to have bounced back in Northeast after a relative gap of several years, targeting security forces in Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur.
More than a dozen jawans were killed in the attacks.
The porous India-Myanmar border that straddles four northeastern states remained a challenge like Kashmir as the militants could easily drift away to the other side of the boundary.
Shock, confusion, grief, fear and anger overwhelmed us after every terror attack, but it also strengthened our resolve to fight the enemy. If Pathankot and Pampore attacks had stunned the nation, Uri and Nagrota massacres jolted the country into action.
Sadly, there is no sign of pause and terror attacks will continue to dominate conversation in India until a long-term solution is found to the menace of terrorism.