Troops’ movement, yatra cancellation: How the tensions unfolded in Kashmir
The Centre’s move to send 100 companies of securitymen set off wild speculations in the Valley. The cancellation of Amarnath yatra in view of terror threats added fuel to the fire. Here’s how events unfolded in Kashmir over the past few days.
July 27, Saturday: News came in that an additional 100 companies of the Central Armed Police Forces will be deployed in Jammu and Kashmir for counter-insurgency operations and to maintain law and order. The Union home ministry wrote to the state chief secretary, home secretary and the director general of police (DGP) to this effect late on Thursday. One company comprises around 120 men. Of the 100 companies, 50 will be from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), 10 from the Border Security Force (BSF), 30 from the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) and 10 from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), according to the letter.
July 28, Sunday: The government move set off speculation in the Kashmir Valley. In a charged political atmosphere, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti warned the central government that any attempt to tinker with the special status of Jammu and Kashmir would blow up in its face. The state is currently under President’s Rule. Over the past few days, every government order is being seen as a precursor to revoking Article 35A of the Constitution that gives special privileges to the state’s domiciled residents. The revocation of Article 35A and Article 370 (the latter gives autonomous status to Jammu & Kashmir) is one of the promises listed in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) manifesto for the April-May parliamentary elections.
July 29, Monday: An order by the Jammu and Kashmir Police seeking details on mosques and their management committees that went viral on social media gave an impetus to the buzz about the possibility of the Centre soon moving to revoke Article 35A. The order was issued on July 28 by Senior Superintendent of Police, Srinagar, Haseeb Mughal, who described it as “routine police activity.”
July 30, Tuesday: Jammu and Kashmir governor Satya Pal Malik asked people not to pay any heed to rumours of an impending major decision on the special status of the state. Malik did not mention a Railway Police Officer’s order on stockpiling rations but presumably referred to it when he said such orders were invalid. For their part, separatists in the Kashmir Valley accused the Centre of deliberately vitiating the situation by issuing “daily orders”.
July 31, Wednesday: Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti launched an awareness campaign regarding the Constitution’s Article 35A. Mufti travelled to three districts of south Kashmir — Kulgam, Shopian and Pulwama — and held meetings with PDP activists to promote awareness about Article 35A. For his part, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav blamed mainstream political parties for spreading fear in the Valley. Addressing a press conference in Srinagar, Ram Madhav said the BJP will take a decision which will be in the interest of the people. “The movement of forces personnel in Kashmir is a routine affair,” he said.
August 1, Thursday: A National Conference (NC) delegation led by party president Farooq Abdullah met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi and apprised him of the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The National Conference chief reportedly told PM Modi that any move to revoke Article 35A could worsen the situation in the state. Separately, there were speculations that over 280 companies of security forces were in the process of being deployed in the Kashmir valley. The Union home ministry later denied reports of additional paramilitary troops being moved to the state.
August 2, Friday: The Amarnath yatra ended 14 days ahead of its scheduled close on August 15 and the counter-insurgency grid in Jammu and Kashmir was strengthened with the additional deployment of security forces following the recovery of a large cache of ammunition, a Pakistan-made anti-personnel mine, and a US-made sniper rifle along the route of the yatra. Also, intelligence reports highlighted the increased possibility of suicide bombing attacks in the Valley. The cutting short of the yatra to one of Hinduism’s holiest shrines, and an alert issued to pilgrims and tourists to return home, resulted in panic and a scramble for air tickets — the road from Srinagar to Jammu is closed on account of landslides — even as it unsettled residents of the Valley and intensified speculation of a big move in the offing.
August 3, Saturday: The army said it repelled an attempt by a mixed group of Pakistani soldiers and terrorists to attack an army post along the Line of Control (LoC), inflicting heavy casualties. Critically, the army said that “in the last 36 hours Pakistan has desperately tried to revive terrorism and push terrorists” into Kashmir. NC leader and former CM Omar Abdullah met governor Malik on Saturday and urged the central government to clear the air about what was going on in the Valley even as thousands of tourists and Amarnath worshippers left Kashmir. Around 1,400 non-local students from National Institute of Technology (NIT), Srinagar, left the Valley in special buses arranged by the administration, after a notice came up on Friday evening saying that classes were being suspended till further orders.
August 4, Sunday: Union home minister Amit Shah met senior officials in New Delhi as the security infrastructure informed the government that at least one attempt by terrorists to breach LoC was successful. Those who attended the meeting included the national security advisor Ajit Doval and Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba, among others. In Kashmir, an all-party meeting was held at the residence of Farooq Abdullah.