Role of Over Ground Workers for Terrorist Organizations & Measures to Neutralize their Influence

Updated July 19, 2022

Over Ground Workers has always been the core tools for an insurgency movement. They are the people, who helped the militants or terrorist in operating the insurgency or terrorist attacks in the different region. The banning of ‘Jamaat-e – Islami’ in Jammu and Kashmir brought into focus the role of over-ground workers (OGWs) in assisting terrorist organizations.

Although, the term OGW is extensively used in the Jammu and Kashmir region, it has also been used in the different region of India, where insurgents are still active like Naxalites- Maoists Insurgency and in Meghalaya for the Garo National Liberation Army. It provides the logistics support, cash, shelter and other required pieces of stuff with which militant groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen and Jaish-e-Muhammad can operate the attacks.

Previously, OGWs were primarily involved in logistics support and intelligence gathering. Now the distinction has blurred considerably and OGWs are also capable of carrying out small scale strikes while retaining the capability to mix rapidly with the populations.

It is common to see that educated and uneducated Kashmiri youth have continually joined the militancy. In the Kashmir valley, there is an adequate pool of disgruntled youth wherein some are sympathizers or others are against the government policy. Until now, almost 135 overground workers were arrested in Jammu and Kashmir by the Jammu and Kashmir Police under Public Safety Act.

Over Ground Workers (OGWs Militants): True Nature

Over Ground Workers act as the eyes and ears of the underground militants. They help in arranging their hideouts, transport weapons from safe havens to places where militants can plan to carry out strikes etc. Their major tasks also include levelling false allegations of sacrilege, molestation, beating of young and old citizens by security forces and propagating “virtues” and “righteousness” of the militant commanders.

For example, “… if militants are seen as fish, OGWs are the water that ensures their survival,”. They do not stop here, OGWs also keep an eye on the movement of security forces, distribute separatist literature to the civilians. So, they used to instil a negative sentiment among the so-called grey population or fence-sitters in an insurgency.

Militancy in Kashmir today is at a very critical juncture. The “Pulwama attack’ on 14 February 2019, on a CRPF convoy that led to the death of 46 personnel revealed that Kashmiri young Jihadi was involved. It clearly shows the most alarming indication of what lies in the future.

It is not the only case where the terrorist had got the support of Kashmiri Jihadi but the terrorists are always being helped in the insurgency movements by the Sympathisers or OGWs. The phenomenon of OGW was highlighted prominently with the arrest of various Jamaat-e-Islami’ OGWs for assisting terrorist organizations.

Categorization of OGWs

To fight against the terrorism and proxy war, it is very important to categorise the OGWs so that different response strategies can be taken for each category. So, they can be categorised in the following manner

(a) OGWs for Logistic Support (OGWLS) to Strike teams.
(b) OGWs managing Funding (OGWF).
(c) OGWs providing Ideological Support (OGWIS).
(d) OGWs providing Radicalisation Support (OGWRS).
(e) OGWs for Recruitment of Terrorists (OGWR).
(f) OGWs generating negative Perceptions and Sentiment amongst the Awaam (OWGWPS).

Recruitment of Over Ground Workers

A systematic entrapment is employed in recruitment in the militancy. Radicalisation seems to be the first step for gradually bringing the entrants into the militant groups. Then, individuals were being told to undertake operations that are progressively more serious in nature.

The objective of being told to undertake progressive operation has two-fold; one is to induce the inductees into the disobedience and violence and the second one is to slowly cut off these individuals from the mainstream of civil society. So that they have no other option rather than to remain with the militants.

In most cases, the step to be OGWs start with a standard pattern like, at first youth were being involved in targeting the security forces via stone pelting, progressing through more serious vandalism. And then, they will be a hardcore OGW where they will provide logistical support for strike teams.

The individuals who booked under Public Safety Act (PSA) of J&K and spend time in jails with hardcore militants, will provide an ideal breeding ground for potential recruitment in the militant groups.

Role Played by OGWs in Insurgency Movement  

Under the following subheadings you will be able to understand the role of these dastardly Militants.

Food and Place for Hiding

Food and Place are the substantial requirements of the terrorists who are planning to conduct large scale attack with defined time. They provide shelter to the militants and facilitate attacks on the various region.

Information Through Reconnaissance

Intelligence sharing and gathering is done by the OGWs as seen in the Pulwama attack on 14th February 2019. OGWs played an important role in reconnaissance the information for the militancy. They provide information to the terrorists about the daily activities of the military, geographical scenario of the target, path of the target etc.

Arms and Ammunition

They help terror organization to mobilise the resources and assets at the required location before conducting a coordinated attack. Even, they do the arrangement of arms and ammunition for the militants.

Recruitment of other OGWs

They help in the recruitment of children and youth, radicalising and brainwashing the youth and training them to perform various terror activities.

Financial Aid  

OGWs provide the required financial support to the militants to perform the insurgency movement. They aid financial support through the illegal linkages, activities and even through locals. They help in Hawala transactions and money laundering (for trading agencies).

Ideological Assertion by Over Ground Workers

They facilitate radicalisation of public and thus generate the required consensus to further their cause, thereby harnessing their support.

It can be said that the terror activities are pre-planned and to complete these incidences, OGWs remain indulged in these preparatory works. In order to exterminate these terror incidences, the OGWs must be taken in control. So, they can be controlled through various measures.

Measures to Counter the Over Ground Workers

(a) Strict measures to cut off the financial, logistic support system through intelligence and tracking activities of suspicious individuals. The government can use technology such as AI, facial recognition to check the illicit activities. So, effective intelligence gathering in the cyberspace could neutralise these OGWs.

(b) Black money generation is one of the sources of funding the terror organisation. So, these OGWs can be neutralised through curbing the black money generation.
(c) De-radicalisation camps, youth training about fighting the psychological war against these groups. Even by harnessing support and goodwill of the public will neutralise these OGWs.

(d) Sensitive and border areas should be made aware of these individuals and the point of contact provided to locals.
(e) Employment Generation in these sensitive areas so that these OGWs would be connected to the mainstream of the society and could not come in the trap of these terror groups.

(f) Building confidence and trust in the security system and government.
(g) People’s participation, NGOs, Government, Religious institutions, educational institutes should be brought to the forum for collective decisions, project formulations.

Above measures can help in neutralizing OGWs activities. It is quite to be noted that neutralizing OGWs is essential to effectively deal against terrorism. Therefore, capacity building of local police, community engagement is essential to deal with OGWs menace. Technology should be integrated with manual tasks like Spies Networks. Moreover, reintegration and reformist approach may provide long-lasting sustainability.

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