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Explainer: What’s happening in Kashmir?

There has been uncertainty about the situation in Kashmir wit the latest development of imposing Section 144 and curfew in the entire state.

TAS News Service

Monday, August 5, 2019

Srinagar: Last week, the Indian government gave an order to deploy 280 companies in Jammu and Kashmir over security measures.

And it was followed by curtailment of Amarnath Yatra and advisory issued by the state administration asking the Amarnath yatra pilgrims and the tourists to curtail their stay in Kashmir and leave as soon as possible.

Since then, with the chaos and confusion, there has been uncertainty about the situation in Kashmir wit the latest development of imposing Section 144 and curfew in the entire state.

The J&K administration was prompted to curtail the Amarnath yatra after the Indian Army said that Pakistan terrorists were plotting to carry out an attack on the ongoing pilgrimage and that the security forces had recovered a Pakistan Ordnance factory anti-personnel mine from a terror cache.

The threat turned out to be true with Pakistan’s notorious Border Action Team (BAT) which tried to infiltrate Kashmir and attack a forward post along the LoC in Keran sector. The Indian Army managed to foil the attempt to infiltrate, killing five to seven intruders.

Without giving an explanation as to why the government ordered the deployment of additional troops in the state, an atmosphere of fear and confusion was created.

This was followed by the state administration instructing the Amarnath pilgrims and the tourists o vacate the valley. They have cited “intelligence inputs” of terror threats especially targeting the Amarnath yatra pilgrims.

The advisory read, “Keeping in view the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats, with specific targeting of the Amarnath yatra, and given the prevailing security situation in the Kashmir Valley, in the interest of safety and security of the tourists and Amarnath Yatris, it is advised that they may curtail their stay in the Valley immediately and take necessary measures to return as soon as possible.”

Several political parties, including the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) reacted strongly to a security advisory which, the parties said, has triggered panic and confusion among the Kashmiri locals.

Further, the deployment of the troops and the security advisory gave rise to the speculations about some major decision in the offing regarding the J&K’s special status.

Section 144

The government imposed restrictions under Section 144 CrPC in Srinagar district with effect from midnight.

• As per the order, there will be no movement of public and all educational institutions shall also remain closed.

• There will be a complete bar on holding any kind of public meetings or rallies during the period of operation of this order.

• Restrictions and night curfews were also imposed in several districts as the Valley remained on edge with authorities stepping up security deployment.

“There shall be no movement of public and all educational institutions (in Srinagar district) shall remain closed,” according to an order.

It stated that there was a complete bar on holding any kind of public meeting or rally. “Identity cards of essential services officials will be treated as movement passes wherever required,” the order said.

The authorities imposed night curfew in Kishtwar and Rajouri districts and Banihal area of Ramban district, while restrictions were imposed in Jammu, Resai and Doda districts, besides Srinagar on Sunday, they said.

Controlling Situation 

Mobile Internet services have been suspended in the Kashmir Valley, officials said, adding that satellite phones are being provided to police officials and district magistrates.

Security deployment at vital installations and sensitive areas have been stepped up amid heightened terror threat and flare up of hostilities with Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC).

Barricades have been erected on many arterial roads, including the entry and exit points to Srinagar, the summer capital of the state.

Riot control vehicles have also been kept on standby in some areas where apprehension of law and order disturbances is more, the officials added.

Political Leaders 

Officials said restrictions on movement of people would come into force in Kashmir Valley at the crack of dawn.

The officials said former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti would not be allowed to move out of their respective house in view of the restrictions, while Congress leader Usman Majid and CPI(M) MLA M Y Tarigami claimed to have been arrested around midnight.

However, no official confirmation of the arrests was immediately available.

Reacting to the development, Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said, “How ironic that elected representatives like us who fought for peace are under house arrest. The world watches as people & their voices are being muzzled in J&K. The same Kashmir that chose a secular democratic India is facing oppression of unimaginable magnitude. Wake up India.”

Political parties in J&K had expressed apprehensions about such action after the Centre deployed additional troops and curtailed the Amarnath Yatra.

Real Threat? 

The Indian Army foiled an attack by Pakistan’s BAT on a forward post along the Line of Control (LoC) in Keran sector, killing five to seven intruders on the intervening night of July 31 and August 1.

The BAT generally comprises special forces personnel of the Pakistani Army and terrorists.

“At least four bodies, possibly of Pakistan Army’s Special Service Group (SSG) commandos or terrorists, were seen in close proximity of an Indian post in the sector,” the sources had said.

Read: Bodies of Keran infiltrators lie unclaimed as Pakistan disowns killed BAT personnel

The Indian Army has asked Pakistan to take back the bodies of its Border Action Team (BAT) personnel killed in Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said on Sunday.

According to sources, the Pakistan Army has been asked to approach the Indian Army by raising white flags and take possession of bodies which are lying on the Indian side of the LoC.

The sources said in the evening that there has been no response from the Pakistani side and the bodies are still out in the open on the Indian side of the Keran sector.

Students told to leave 

Classes at schools and colleges in several parts of Jammu and Kashmir are suspended for Monday and restrictions imposed in several districts as the Valley remained on edge with authorities stepping up security deployment.

Amid confusion and heightened security across Jammu and Kashmir, hundreds of students from Srinagar’s National Institute of Technology on Sunday left for their home states with local administration coming forward to facilitate their smooth journey.

Read: J&K crisis: Schools and colleges in Jammu to remain closed on Monday

The students, hailing from different parts of the country, reached the winter capital Jammu from Srinagar around midnight, hoping to return to their institute early.

“We were asked to get ready on Saturday morning after a notice by the management informed us that the classes have been suspended till further orders. We boarded buses arranged by the management and reached here around midnight,” said Amit Kumar, a student from Bihar.

The NIT issued the notice for suspension of classes on Friday evening and said the notice was issued in accordance with the instructions received from the Srinagar district administration.

“This is for the information of all students of the institute that the classes for all courses stand suspended till further orders,” read a notice issued by the NIT registrar.

Read: NIT Srinagar students leave for home states amid confusion

Opposition Stand

Congress has urged the government not to take any decision that would precipitate a crisis in J&K and asked it to ensure the constitutional guarantees given to the state are maintained.

“There was deep concern expressed at the continuous reports emanating from both the Union Home Ministry and the State Government which were creating an atmosphere of panic and apprehension about the intentions of the government,” an official statement said.

It said the “massive build-up” of security forces, curtailment of the Sri Amarnath Yatra, also the unprecedented advisories being issued to the tourists, yatris and other civilians, are all creating an atmosphere of heightened insecurity and fear.

Government Says 

While there has been no official statement from the government, some highly placed sources in the J&K administration told India Today TV that the annual Amarnath yatra has been called off in view of the latest intelligence inputs of terror threats.

The sources also said that the Amarnath yatra pilgrims have been advised to leave Kashmir without any wait. Top government sources in Centre also told India Today TV that the security advisory is serious. “The situation in Kashmir is extraordinary. The advisory is no ordinary advisory,” the sources said.

After the Jammu and Kashmir administration curtailed the Amarnath Yatra and asked pilgrims and tourists to leave the valley at the earliest on Friday, anxious residents continue to throng markets to stock on essentials and serpentine queues have been visible outside shops and fuel stations.

On the Ground 

Panic and confusion apparently gripped the Valley as the government issued orders to the Amarnath pilgrims and the tourists to curtail their stay in Kashmir immediately.

Read: Dal Lake deserted, hotels lying vacant: State of tourism after panic grips Kashmir Valley

Apprehending deterioration in the law and order situation, people were seen lining up at departmental stores in the city and elsewhere to stock up dry ration and essentials. Petrol pumps also witnessed a huge rush of customers.

Omar Abdullah also alleged that some of his friends in Gulmarg hotels were “forced to leave”.

He said, “Friends staying in hotels in Gulmarg are being forced to leave. State road transport Corpn buses are being deployed to bus people out from Pahalgam & Gulmarg. If there is a threat to the yatra why is Gulmarg being emptied?”

Governor Says

J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik on Friday met a delegation of political leaders including Mehbooba Mufti, Shah Faesal, Sajjad Lone and Imran Ansari. The Governor informed the delegation of credible inputs regarding terrorist attacks on the Amarnath Yatra and said that “it is the responsibility of the state to provide security to all its citizens”.

The J&K Governor said that a pure security measure is being mixed up with issues with which it has no connection. He also requested the political leaders to ask their supporters not to mix up matters, to maintain calm and not believe the “exaggerated” rumours.

SP Malik also dismissed speculations that the Centre might be planning to do away with Article 35A of the Constitution, which gives exclusive rights to the state’s residents in government jobs and land.

Meanwhile, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has put constraints on the leaves of its personnel in Kashmir. According to the sources, no fresh leaves would be granted to the CRPF personnel in the Valley. “Those on leaves can be called back,” Sources said.