New bunkers, battalions and bulletproof ambulances part of Rajnath Singh’s J-K outreach
Union home minister Rajnath Singh did not say whether the government would continue its suspension of security operations in Kashmir beyond Ramzan, but announced several efforts to reach out to the people of the region during the last day of his two-day tour on Friday.
The suspension, or the unilateral cessation of operations, was put in place last month for the month of Ramzan that ends next week. The state’s top officials, including chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, have told Singh that the move had succeeded in bringing down violence within civilian areas, according to a functionary in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party who was aware of the deliberations between the home minister and state officials. The source asked not to be named since the discussions were classified.
“We will sit and after reviewing the situation, a decision about the ceasefire will be taken,” Singh said while visiting frontier villages in Kupwara.
The minister announced new plans to set up two border battalions and five Indian Reserve Battalions, in which 60% of the posts will be reserved for people who live in border areas.
Such regions will also be given several bulletproof ambulances and the government will build more than 14,000 bunkers for people to take shelter in during episodes of violence between India and Pakistan.
The minister also announced an increase in the financial compensation to Rs 5 lakh from Rs 1 lakh for persons killed during cross-border firing on the International Border and the Line of Control. The amount will be directly credited to the account of next of kin instead of being given in a fixed deposit account.
“Around 5,000 people will be selected in these battalions and 60% reservation will be given to people who live within 10 kilometres of the border,” Singh told a delegation of reporters while detailing the police recruitment plan.
The government’s efforts to strike a dialogue appeared to have drawn a positive reaction from the state’s separatists. The chairman of the Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, said on Friday that they would welcome a change in India’s policy of engaging with the separatist leadership and Pakistan.
“Time will tell us. If it is a change in their policy, we have welcomed it in the past and will do the same in future,” he said, purportedly in reference to reports that the government could open a channel of communications through its interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma.
HT had reported on June 6 that the ground was being laid for an ‘open’ meeting between Sharma and the separatist leadership, with a date possible after Eid.
The Mirwaiz was, however, expressed caution and said the Indian government “spoke in different voices in Delhi and in Kashmir”.
“We are not in a hurry and people should show unity. It’s our unity which has forced India to think that force can’t weaken the resolve the people,” he said.