After the withdrawal of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) from a 64-km sensitive terrorist-infested border stretch between Jammu and Kashmir and Chamba district in Himachal, the state police have been compelled to scale down the number of posts along the border for an acute paucity of manpower and non-preparedness.
There are currently 24 posts along the border adjoining Doda and Kathua districts of Jammu and Kashmir. Of the total, nine were manned by the ITBP, while the rest were guarded by the states police's India Reserve Battalion. The Himachal police have proposed to bring down the numbers of posts from 24 to 12. The police had constituted 159 village defence committees, comprising 1437 members, along the Jammu and Kashmir border.
In the wake of a threat from militants, as many as 400 members from the village defence committees were issued arms for self-protection. Apart from these committees, the government had also recruited 468 special police officers (SPOs) to augment security arrangements in the border villages.
With the ITBP given the marching orders, the police have been left to continue with only the village defence committees and the SPOs to patrol the border areas. Three months ago the Central government had decided to recall the ITBP from the border areas in Chamba district. The state government would urge the union home ministry to review its decision that is likely to compromise the security of the sensitive inter-state border.
Himachal Pradesh shares about 224 kilometers of boundary with Jammu and Kashmir. The border remained tranquil till 1998, when Pakistan-trained militants massacred 35 labourers in two separate incidents in Satrundi and Kalaban in the Chamba district.
The state government had then realised the urgency of deploying some central security agency for manning the border. The state government had sought Central assistance for securing its borders in the Chamba district, adjoining the terrorist-infested regions of Jammu and Kashmir.
Since 1998 there has been no big untoward incident in the area, though there have been minor incursions of militants, who had opened fire at shepherds and nomadic cattle rearers. The army, along with the Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh Police forces, has been conducting joint operations in the region to instill confidence in the people of the area.
As the border has been peaceful for the past 14 years, the Central government had been long mulling to recall the ITBP battalion that mans the inter-state border.
The villagers are apprehensive over the withdrawal. The police urged the central force to leave behind the security infrastructure created for long range patrolling.