The Border Security Force (BSF) was deployed on Monday in downtown Srinagar after over a decade, a move indicating a possible rejig of the security forces in the Valley. This follows the deployment of 4,000 additional army troops at hotspots in south Kashmir after the unrest triggered by the killing of Hizb militant Burhan Wani on July 8.
Thousands of people have been injured in clashes between security forces and protesters in the past 45 days. To review the situation, Army chief General Dalbir Singh will visit the troubled areas in Kashmir and the Line of Control (LoC) on Tuesday — his third trip to the state in a month.
The BSF’s deployment, however, may put the state administration in a quandary — its personnel are not issued riot control gear such as batons or body armour like their counterparts in the CRPF, who took over law and order duties from the BSF in 2004.
“Around 2,000 BSF personnel (24 companies) have been put at the disposal of the state government and their exact role will be finalised soon,” said a senior BSF official, hinting that the paramilitary force may be used for setting up barricades or road opening duties due to lack of riot control gear.
The BSF men were originally deployed in the state for providing security during the Amarnath Yatra that ended on August 18. Earlier, the BSF was involved in security duties at the airport and the governor’s residence.
Former Northern Army commander Lieutenant General BS Jaswal (retd) said, “The BSF appears to have been deployed as the troop-to-ground density in Srinagar had fallen. Its presence will deter protesters.”
A senior army officer said General Singh will review the security arrangements in Kashmir and visit posts along the LoC, which has witnessed a spike in infiltration attempts in recent weeks.
The army is focused on tightening its counter-infiltration posture as there are indications that Pakistan is pushing militants into the state to create more trouble, he said. Sectors such as Tangdhar, Keran and Gurez sit on major infiltration routes along LoC.
In an interview to HT last week, Northern Army commander Lieutenant General DS Hooda had said that the unrest was being deliberately kept alive by internal and external elements (separatists and Pakistan).