Hours after J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah combined a passionate appeal for peace with a tough message to protesters, Home Minister P. Chidambaram “endorsed every word” in the CM’s statement and pointed to attempts by anti-national elements to exploit the situation in the Valley.
Chidambaram said the incidents were “deeply regrettable”, reiterated his instructions to CRPF to exercise maximum restraint but also sent a clear signal that the CRPF — targeted by the state law minister — appeared to be in the clear.
“The Central government will support the J&K government in its efforts to put an end to violations of curfew, stone pelting and rioting,” he said, a clear message that there was no rift between the centre and the state leadership.
Home ministry officials said they were not surprised at the renewed round of violence in areas such as Sopore that had been a traditional stronghold of separatist leaders such as Syed Ali Shah Geelani.
It may be no coincidence that the protests escalated and people were out on the streets pelting stones as early as 5 am around the same time that the home minister was in Pakistan, a government official said.
In his statement, Chidambaram spoke of the possibility of militants having sneaked into the Valley to trigger violence as well as reliable reports that anti-national elements are trying to exploit the situation.
He also emphasised that the CRPF and J&K police carried out their assignments jointly and invariably acted under a state police officer. In many instances, a magistrate also accompanied them.
Suggesting that there was more to the protests than meets the eye, Chidambaram said 53 CRPF men had been injured by protesters in recent days including an inspector and a jawan sustaining bullet injuries.
“The people of J&K must therefore reflect on the nature of the challenge faced by the security forces,” he said.
On June 25 (at ChankhanBridge, Sopore) and on June 28 (at Kapra Cinema Hall, Sopore) the CRPF had to use force in self-defence.
On June 27 (at Muslimpeer, Sopore) the CRPF had to use force on stone-pelters.
In the other incidents, the CRPF and the J&K Police had acted jointly.
Home Ministry officials said they welcomed the inquiry ordered by the state government and the CRPF would present video footage to make their point that the security personnel did not use excessive force.