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Centre takes tough stand in Jammu and Kashmir as Governor’s rule begins

Rajnath Singh warned terrorist groups against any misadventure in Jammu and Kashmir, which is under Governor’s rule after BJP ended its alliance with the PDP and Mehbooba Mufti resigned as chief minister.

india Updated: Jun 21, 2018 18:55 IST
Rajesh Ahuja and Mir Ehsan
Rajesh Ahuja and Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir,Governor's rule,NN Vohra
Security personnel stand guard at Lal Chowk in Srinagar, on June 19, 2018 – the day the BJP pulled out the jammu and Kashmir ruling alliance with Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). (PTI)

Security forces are preparing to resume counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the government is set to mount pressure on the leadership of the separatist Hurriyat Conference, officials said on Wednesday, as Kashmir governor NN Vohra took charge of the state administration and put the assembly under suspended animation.

As Jammu and Kashmir came under Governor’s Rule, a day after the state’s nearly 40-month-old coalition government collapsed, home minister Rajnath Singh said that the Centre will not tolerate terrorism any longer, after ending a month-long halt on counter-insurgency operations.

“Elimination of terrorism and restoration of peace in Kashmir is our biggest target,” Singh said on a visit to Lucknow, a constituency he represents in the Lok Sabha. He warned militant groups against any misadventure. “Our security forces are ready to foil any such activity,” said Singh.

President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to Governor’s Rule in the state on Wednesday, a day after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ended its alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), forcing chief
minister Mehbooba Mufti’s resignation.

Governor Vohra made the recommendation in a report he sent to the home ministry on Tuesday night.

On Sunday, the Centre ordered security forces to resume counter-insurgency operations in J&K, ending a month-long halt for the Islamic holy month of Ramzan.

In New Delhi, Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat said security forces had to end the so-called unilateral ceasefire in the state because terrorists had kept up their attacks.

“Operations were being carried out earlier as well. Then we saw a phase of suspension of operations because we wanted people to get a chance to offer their prayers during Ramzan without any kind of problem. Despite that, terrorists continued with their activity, which is why the suspension of operations was cancelled,” he said.

General Rawat also said the change in the political scenario will not have any effect on security forces, who he said have never faced any restrictions on their work.

“We don’t have any kind of political interference,” Rawat said about Governor’s Rule.

Security forces have strict rules of engagement and “take action” in accordance with them, Rawat said.

Officials familiar with the developments have said the Centre will follow a hardline security-centric policy with the scaling up of counter-insurgency operations, especially in the four districts of South Kashmir — Shopian, Kulgam, Anantnag and Pulwama — that have become the hotbed of militancy in the last two years.

Pressure is likely to mount on some leaders of the Hurriyat Conference. Officials in the federal counter-terror bureau National Investigation Agency said separatist leaders are likely to be questioned in connection with a suspected terror funding case.

“Investigation will gather pace in the next few days,” said a home ministry official familiar with the matter, requesting anonymity.

NIA chief YC Modi on Wednesday met Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba to discuss some of the ‘administrative’ issues of the agency, including investigations pending in J&K.“There is enough evidence on record to question some of the Hurriyat leaders in the terror funding probe. The agency is likely to call them for questioning in the case,” said a second home ministry official familiar with the matter.

Security for the Amarnath Yatra, the annual pilgrimage which starts later this month and passes through South Kashmir on its way to the cave shrine, was also a paramount concern when the government decided not to extend the halt on counter-insurgency operations.

Ensuring a safe pilgrimage is also one of the immediate challenges faced by governor Vohra, who will oversee the state’s administration for a fourth time. Direct federal rule over Kashmir is called Governor’s Rule, and not President’s Rule as other states, because J&K is governed by different constitutional provisions.

The 82-year-old Vohra’s second term as governor ends on June 27 but he is likely to get an extension in light of the Amarnath Yatra, which begins on June 28. Vohra, a veteran civil servant, was appointed the state’s 12th governor in 2008. The then United Progressive Alliance government gave him a a five-year extension in 2013.

“Jammu and Kashmir right now can’t afford to have a new governor who will need three to six months know the state,” said a bureaucrat.

Vohra held a series of meeting as he took charge.He held his first meeting with all the administrative secretaries and the senior-most police and forest service officers at the Civil Secretariat. He also met Lt Gen. Ranbir Singh, army commander, Northern Command.He reviewed security management issues relating to the state with senior civil, police, central police, army and intelligence.

Meanwhile, the Centre appointed B V R Subramanyam as J&K’s new chief secretary. BB Vyas, former chief secretary of J&K, and Vijay Kumar, a former chief of the Central Reserve Police Force who has had stints in the Kashmir region as an officer of the Border Security Force, were appointed as advisors to Governor.

Subrahmanyam has had two stints in the Prime Minister’s Office. He served as private secretary to then PM Manmohan Singh in the UPA-1 regime and later again joined the PMO in 2011 as joint secretary. He remained in the PMO till March 2015.

First Published: Jun 20, 2018 23:22 IST