Shah takes stock of security situation on 3-day J&K visit
On his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir since the nullification of Article 370 and at a time when civilian killings have hit the region, Union home minister Amit Shah on Saturday directed the chiefs of intelligence and investigative agencies, and security forces to make rigorous efforts to wipe out terror from the Valley, people familiar with the development said.
Shah began his three-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday amid tight security by chairing a security review meeting in Srinagar and inaugurating an international flight between Srinagar and Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.
He asked the country’s top police officers, present in a nearly four-hour-long meeting, about why, despite the heavy presence of troops in the Valley and the available resources, incidents of prolonged encounters with terrorists and radicalisation of local youth were taking place.
A person aware of the matter said Shah specifically told the officials that the incidents of targeted killings of civilians were counter-productive when the government wants peace in the Valley and is looking to increase development activities.
Among those present at the meeting were Dilbag Singh, director general of Jammu and Kashmir Police, Kuldiep Singh, chief of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and National Investigation Agency (NIA), director general of National Security Guard (NSG) MA Ganapathy, chief of the Border Security Force (BSF) Pankaj Kumar Singh, Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief Arvinda Kumar, Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla, and other police and army officers. Lt Governor Manoj Sinha was also present at the meeting.
Shah asked the forces to work in coordination with each other so that the civilian population doesn’t suffer, said an official, asking not to be named. At least 32 civilians have been shot dead by terrorists in Kashmir this year. Of these, 11 have been killed this month alone.
After the meeting, Shah said in a tweet: “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we are committed to completely root out the terrorism and infiltration for the overall development of Jammu and Kashmir”. NIA has already been asked to put behind bars the terrorists and overground workers of various terror organisations.
The security forces have stepped up operations after the targeted killings recently. J&K Police has said 17 terrorists have been “neutralised” in various encounters in the Valley in the last 22 days amid a spate of attacks on civilians. Five migrant workers were among the 11 civilians killed in the region this month.
The government had the interests of the youth in Kashmir in mind when it imposed curfew and blocked access to the Internet after nullifying Article 370 of the Constitution that conferred special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and then bifurcating the state into two Union Territories in 2019, Shah told members of youth clubs in a speech.
“That time, a plot was made to trigger the passions of people. Some foreign forces were also part of that ploy,” Shah told people at the Raj Bhawan in Srinagar. “Had we not imposed curfew, we don’t know how many parents would have had to give shoulder to coffins of their young children. Only youth of Kashmir got saved by imposing the curfew. Internet was snapped, only youth of Kashmir got saved.”
“We have initiated a new era in J&K under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I was thinking that only two and half years ago we used to hear news about stone pelting and violence from here,” Shah said. “Today youth of J&K are discussing development, employment and scholarship for their education. This is a big change that has taken place here.”
“Delimitation will happen, followed by elections and then restoration of statehood so that the youth of Kashmir get opportunities. I had said that in the parliament also. And, this is the roadmap. I came here to make friends with the Kashmiri youth,” Shah said.
Some 70% of Kashmir’s population is younger than 35 years, he pointed out. They will be given all encouragement towards education, development and employment so that they can become brand ambassadors of Kashmir, the home minister said.
Nobody can stop this change from happening, even by using force, he said. “This is the beginning of new era in Kashmir.”
The situation in Kashmir is normal now, he said. “Everybody is seeking employment, they (youth) are studying, industry is coming,” Shah said. “Tourism is flourishing, there is no curfew now.”
This is Shah’s first visit to the Union territory after the central government revoked Article 370, which bestowed special status to Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019. He had last visited J&K in June 2019 after the Bharatiya Janata Party led National Democratic Alliance swept to power at the Centre for a second term.
Shah’s latest visit is part of the Centre’s outreach campaign in the region. He is expected to also review the implementation of development schemes. Last month, he held a review meeting on J&K with Sinha and security officials in New Delhi.
Security was tightened in Srinagar ahead of Shah’s visit. Roads to Raj Bhawan and adjoining areas were closed to traffic. Drone cameras were deployed to increase surveillance.
Shah also visited the house of police sub-inspector Parvez Ahmad, who was killed outside his house while he was on the way to attend evening prayers. “Visited the house of martyred Parvez Ahmad and paid tributes to him. The whole country and I are proud of his bravery. I met his family members,” Shah tweeted. Ahmad’s wife has been given a government job, Shah said.