A somber incident unfolded as an encounter with terrorists claimed the lives of two esteemed army officers and a deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in Jammu and Kashmir’s Anantnag district. This tragic event shattered the relative calm that had prevailed in the valley, where terrorist attacks had significantly decreased over the past five years.
The officers who made the ultimate sacrifice were identified as Colonel Manpreet Singh, the commanding officer of 19 Rashtriya Rifles, and Major Aashish Dhonchak, also hailing from the same battalion. DSP Humayun Muzamil Bhat, who had recently been assigned to the area, also lost his life in the line of duty.
The last instance of a commanding officer losing their life in action in Jammu and Kashmir dates back three years when Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, along with Major Anuj Sood, two army jawans, and a sub-inspector, fell to the bullets of terrorists in Kashmir’s Handwara region.
The tragic encounter occurred following a joint operation initiated by the army and the police after receiving intelligence regarding terrorist movement and a potential hideout in the forested area of Garol in Anantnag. Highly trained counterterrorism teams, closing in on the unspecified number of terrorists, faced heavy automatic gunfire that resulted in severe injuries to the officers involved.
Subsequently, all three men succumbed to their injuries while undergoing treatment at the army’s base hospital in Srinagar. The possibility that the anti-terror squads were lured into the area has not been ruled out, with officials speculating that up to four terrorists were involved in the attack.
The official statement from the army, posted on social media, provided limited details about the ongoing operation but confirmed the casualties, stating, “Operation Garol, #Anantnag. Based on specific intelligence on the presence of terrorists, a Joint Operation was launched by #IndianArmy & @JmuKmrPolice… Two Army personnel and one J&K Police personnel injured. Operation in progress.”
Both Colonel Singh and Major Dhonchak belonged to the Sikh Light Infantry and had garnered recognition for their valor in counterterrorism operations. Colonel Singh was awarded the Sena Medal on Independence Day in 2021, while Major Dhonchak received the same honor just a few weeks before this tragic incident, on August 15.
It is not uncommon for commanding officers of counterterrorism units to lead operations from the front, exposing themselves to heightened risks to ensure the safety of their teams.
After the officers sustained injuries, the army and police swiftly dispatched reinforcements to the encounter site, located in the forested Kokernag region of Anantnag, sealing off the entire area. Senior military and police officials, including Lieutenant General Rajiv Ghai, General Officer Commanding, HQs 15 Corps (Chinar Corps), and Jammu and Kashmir’s director general of police Dilbag Singh, converged at the scene.
This incident has cast a shadow over the returning calm in the valley, as indicated by government data presented in Parliament. The data revealed a significant decline in terrorist-initiated incidents and encounters in Jammu and Kashmir until July 31 this year compared to previous years. However, this tragic encounter serves as a poignant reminder of the enduring challenges faced by security forces in the region.
Sources By Agencies