Pulwama: Security forces have stepped up vigil in Kashmir, especially in the terror hotbeds of the southern parts of the state, following the attack by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) which killed at least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel.

A JeM suicide bomber, Aadil Ahmad Dar, had on 14 February rammed an SUV laden with explosives into a bus that was part of a CRPF convoy, killing the jawans.

The Indian Army had on Tuesday warned that those picking up guns would be shot. This was followed by extensive security checks and operations in Kashmir. There is no doubt that the “Pakistan Army and the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence" was involved in the attacks, Lt General K.J.S. Dhillon, corps commander of 15 Corps, the Chinar Corps (Kashmir), said in Srinagar. He also warned against any infiltration bid into Indian territory.

Militancy in the valley is now more lethal than it was in the 1990s to 2003, past strategies of cordon and search operations, and search and destroy operations, had been brought back in south Kashmir, after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani’s death in 2016. Now, however, with the Pulwama attack having established JeM’s grip in the region, the security forces are leaving nothing to chance.

Along the Jammu-Srinagar highway, which was witness to the deadliest attack in Kashmir in over three decades, the armed forces have put in place watertight security measures along the Jammu-Srinagar highway, to apprehend any vehicle or person of suspect, especially in the south Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Shopian and Awantipora.

“We are now stopping vehicles which come under suspicion along some arterial routes, especially the Jammu-Srinagar highway (where the attack happened) and checking each vehicle for explosives or other suspicious items, and frisking passengers, too," said a Jammu and Kashmir police special operations group (SOG) officer, asking not to be identified.

Forensics teams have demarcated the area where the road caved in due to the blast. Civilian houses in the adjoining areas also have been destroyed due to the impact of the blast.

With the route being connected to the nerve centres of militancy—Pulwama and Shopian—the forces, based on inputs, are now carrying out combing operations in the adjoining villages every night.

Patrolling convoys of the Indian Army’s Rashtriya Rifles have also been keeping strict vigil along the stretch of the highway leading to Udhampur and Jammu, and not allowing any moving civilian vehicle.

“We get inputs on the presence of terrorists in the adjoining villages. We (the Indian Army, CRPF and SOG) are carrying out combing operations because we know that there is heavy presence of overground workers of terrorist outfits, mainly the JeM, in these areas," said another SOG officer.

However, personnel who are involved in the security operations claim that there is heightened resistance from villagers against such security measures.

“The attack has given terrorists the courage to become more brazen. Because these terrorists are from nearby villages, it takes the villagers just five minutes to come even to the highway and aggressively start stone-pelting. This makes our security operations doubly difficult," said a CRPF officer who is part of the security exercise, in Pulwama.

On Wednesday, the National Investigation Agency re-registered a case in the Pulwama attack.