In the wake of the Vidhan Sabha elections in neighbouring Jammu and Kashmir, the election commission of India has directed the state government to intensify patrolling along the backward Chamba district which shares borders with Kathua, Doda and Kishtwar districts of Jammu and Kashmir, that were once infested with militancy.
Directions from the ECI came after a high-level review meeting in New Delhi. The election commission directed the government to be on high alert and to put police forces along its borders with Jammu and Kashmir. There are reports of the presence of militants in these districts who have been lying low for some time now.
Besides, the police have been asked to heighten vigil along the boundaries shared with Kishtwar district linked to Anantnag district.
"Though the chances of any kind of eventuality before the polls are remote, the police are on high alert," said director general of police Sanjay Kumar.
Himachal Pradesh shares nearly 215 km of border with Jammu and Kashmir. A sensitive border issue with Jammu and Kashmir was witnessed for the first time in a major terror strike in 1999 when Pakistan-trained militants gunned down 35 labourers in two separate incidents in Kalaban and Satrundi villages in Chamba district.
The Centre had immediately deployed Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) along Jammu and Kashmir borders. But forces have been asked to retract by the Centre since there have been no incidents of terror and violence since 1999.
The Centre had withdrawn companies of ITBP two years back. The borders are now being manned by Himachal Police Indian Reserve battalions (IRB). The state government has requested to deploy ITBP personnel but the home ministry has not yet paid any heed to the request.
Himachal Pradesh police troops have been manning the high altitude passes along the Jammu and Kashmir border which become inaccessible following snowfall. Recently, the police had conducted aerial reconnaissance to take stock of security arrangements at high altitude areas.
The ECI has directed the government to seal all borders with Jammu and Kashmir 24 hours ahead of polls in assembly segments in Kathua, Doda and Kishtwar districts. To scale up security, the police have deployed extra forces along the border areas in Chamba district.
Apart from that, they have provided satellite phones to check posts in the interior areas of Chamba district.