For the men on the ground the eight-day drama that started in the skies and ended in the war-torn, desolate landscape of Kandahar wasn’t just a cause of anger and anguish-it was the proverbial last straw. For the security forces operating in the counter-insurgency theatre of Jammu and Kashmir, the release of three hardcore militants-two of them leading figures-in exchange for the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines Airbus is nothing short of a body-blow to their efforts to combat terrorism. “It takes months, if not years to apprehend important militants. In the process, we lose several men and officers. It is therefore very galling to see these militants walk free after we have sacrificed our men,” says a divisional commander in the Valley.
At the junior level, the anger is much more palpable. Says a company commander, “It is very difficult to motivate my boys when they realise that all their efforts in capturing a militant might come to naught one day.” And it is not only the army which is unhappy with the swap, even senior officers in the Border Security Force (BSF) are resentful. “We understand that the government was left with no choice in this particular episode, but for the men on the ground no amount of logic will suffice to explain the need to free the militants. The jawan will simply wonder about the futility of his job in these circumstances,” says a senior BSF official.